• Mathura Hawley

betty

Updated: Aug 2, 2021


She was surprised one day, in first grade, when I shyly tapped her on the shoulder and asked if she could help me to find my teeth retainer, which I knew she had thrown away in a napkin after a class birthday celebration. "

Betty Stewart shared the responsibility of “grade mother” with my own mom, the two of them taking turns baking cupcakes for elementary school Halloween parties and chaperoning the class to zoos and museums. Betty looked like Doris Day, soft spoken with a kind smile. She was surprised one day, in first grade, when I shyly tapped her on the shoulder and asked if she could help me to find my teeth retainer, which I knew she had thrown away in a napkin after a class birthday celebration. “Oh, Scotty, I’m so sorry,” she said, with remorse and sincerity, before tipping over the trash pail to rummage through the candles and crumb debris. Betty later became my father’s companion after my mother died. For ten years, she was the female presence in my dad’s otherwise lonely existence, dancing to Big Band revivals, boating with him on Cayuga Lake or just sitting across an aging wooden kitchen table to chat about the weather. This was a very private friendship for my dad, and I never once saw them together. Now, forty years later, she stood in front of me at his funeral, same soft voice and kind smile, her eyes once again filled with remorse and sincerity. “Oh, Scotty, I’m so sorry,” she said.


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