Bringing Betty Boop home with me

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My grandmother passed away when I was nine—a tragic death on Halloween eve.  My favorite uncle, her son, passed away before my son could meet him—another terrible death with reverberating consequences.  I think of Grandmom and Uncle Danny all the time—the succession of paintings (the girl with the braid) up the stairwell of her Philadelphia row home, the unending parade of absurd gifts and fanciful tales that traveled always with him.  I never questioned their love for me.  I always felt safe when they were near.

And so I miss them.

My name is Beth Ellen Kephart.  No Elizabeth.  Nothing to shorten to Liz, Lizzie, Libby, Eliza, Betta.  Just Beth, and then the Ellen, but my grandmother and my uncle called me Betty Boop.  They called me Betsy, too, and other things, but what took hold in me was Betty Boop.  When I go somewhere and Betty Boop is there, I bring her home with me.  Look, I say, to the clouds above.  You are still alive to me.

Today, in Jim Thorpe, I found this one, sitting on a swing.


KFP said...

Reverberating consequences. So true, how deaths can affect us through time, causing such trauma.

But then, there is the good that reverberates, such as as the comfort that can be drawn from a special name, as you mentioned. My maternal grandfather called me "Cassie." No one else in the world did. When in my memory I hear him calling me that, the love comes flooding back to me, also the feeling of specialness.

When my patenal grandmother died, a grieving cousin said "Nana loved me best." At first we thought he was saying he was her favorite, Then we realized what he meant was no one's love made him feel as loved and special as hers did. And Nana did that for each of us, for all of us grandchildren, and there were a lot of us. The way she loved was all-enveloping and safe, and made you feel like the best person in the world. Like her hugs, you wanted to stay in her embrace forever. I can still call upon the memory of them, and feel them again, when I need them. That doesn't die.

Serena said...

What a beautiful post. I miss my nana everyday, and so silly of me, but I miss my best friend Charlee, my dog everyday since he passed in August...he was with me for nearly 14 years.

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