Shared memories of a shared mother so I can know her, too

Blogging this from my Facebook today:

Many of you saw my post Wednesday about my late biological mother Betty’s 99th birthday. As most of you know, I have three older full-blooded birth family siblings — brothers Crys and Robin and sister Terry — whom I found 15 years ago. We lost dear Robin, a smart, sensitive, devoted father, grandfather and husband, in January 2009 when he was only 61 years old. Crys, Terry and I keep an open group text going and stay in close contact, although we don’t get to talk or see one another nearly as often as I wish. They’ve both lived in the Denver area for over 45 years.

Yesterday as we shared texts about Betty’s birthday and I texted several photos of her, I asked Crys and Terry to do me a special favor: Would they please take a minute to text me one lasting memory of Betty in her honor so I could share it on Facebook and on my blog?

And they did. Lord knows, over the past 15 years I have barraged them with so many questions about Betty and our father Bob, they’re certainly accustomed to it. And being the loving, kindhearted people they are, they’ve never told me, “Enough with the questions! What are you, some kind of reporter?” 

I’m so sorry I’m a day late with these, Betty. Newspaper deadlines got in the way, as they often do.

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My brother Crys, the oldest of my three birth family full siblings, with our mother Betty in 1988 during a visit Betty and her second husband Ronnie made to Colorado. She passed away from lung cancer in December 1992 at age 71.

A sweet memory from Crys, who was born 2-28-44 (we share a birthday, 17 years apart). He joined the Air Force in September 1962 after having graduated that year from East HS in Huntington, West Virginia. After getting out of the service, he lived briefly with Betty and almost-teenage Terry in an apartment on Third Avenue before getting his own place, enrolling in Marshall University and going to work at WSAZ-TV:

“When I returned to Huntington (in 1966) after the Air Force stint, I was learning to play the electric guitar I had bought. There was a song, ‘The Shadow of Your Smile,’ that I was intrigued by and I was surprised that our mother knew it (I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised). I turned on my amp and started playing as she sang. It was a beautiful moment that I will always remember.”

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My late birth mother Betty with my sister Terry the day before Terry married in Denver in October 1980.

Poignant memories from Terry (Teresa), who was born 12-19-54, graduated from East HS in 1973 and moved to Colorado about a year later after getting pregnant — and, at age 19 like our mother did as she was months from turning 40, placing her son for adoption. (Terry reunited with her son when he was 18.) Terry had always been the baby of the family — until she and our brothers were discovered by their long-lost sibling:

“Well, I have lots of little memories of Mother that were special to me! Number one was always holding my arms around her waist and her singing to me and we dancing in a circle is probably the most precious. And also, that at least once in the summer, maybe twice, we went to Dreamland, the swimming pool in the West end of town and we had to take two or three buses to go down there coming and going … and she did that just for my pleasure! Love you Mother for always thinking of my happiness!   I have a lot more to say but that’s just a few right now.”

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Betty never had a driver’s license, never drove a car, so that’s why she and Terry had to take those buses to Dreamland, a crazy-popular Olympic-size swimming pool in the Huntington suburb of Kenova. It also had a pavilion where big bands — and big names — started performing in the 1930s. (I’m talking Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and the like.) Betty herself sang at Dreamland with a dance band fronted by a drummer named Hal “Scotty” Scott a number of times in the early 1960s.

Terry has told me before about how she often danced with Betty at home when Terry was growing up. That visual touches my heart like no other — Betty twirling gracefully, gently with her young brown-haired, brown-eyed daughter through their rented house, then later their apartment, serenading her with that remarkable singing voice. The chills and tears come as I type. I wish that just once, I could have been that brown-haired, brown-eyed dance partner.

Thank you, Sister and Brother, for sharing such sentimental memories of our mother, and for always showing me how much you loved her. Thank you for loving me, too. 

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