For the Love of Betty Jean

This morning, at 6:45am, Betty Jean Tisdale Daubenmire, age 84, took her final breath on this earth.

Most of the world will not have noticed this event but it is one that took my breath away.

For several reasons…

One, this woman gave birth to the man I married in December 1971, William E. Daubenmire, Jr. He was her oldest son and my husband from 1971 until 1994. Somewhere around 23 years or so.

My husband and I had 3 children… twin sons, William, III and Dennis Bradley (called Billy and Brad) – Billy, of course, was named after his dad as well as his grandfather (Betty Jean’s husband.)  Brad was named for Betty Jean’s father, Dennis Tisdale. But Betty’s dad “Denny” was a real rascal… and his middle name just happened to be William, so he claimed both of my boys as his namesake! (Of course he did!) But my father-in-law knew what was what and never minded. A couple years later I had my daughter Ellyn – also one of the best days of my life.

Second, Betty Jean was one firecracker of a gal. She was the oldest child in her family, followed by – count ’em – FIVE younger brothers. Her momma and daddy made a worker out of her and that was what she was for the entire rest of her life.

When I met Betty back in 1971, she was an experienced mother of five, with children ranging from age 22 to 5. Yep… her oldest daughter was grown. Then there were 3 boys and another daughter just barely into kindergarten.

I was soon to marry her 20-yr-old son Bill and she was thrilled about it. Betty loved me on sight – I have no idea why, but that is really how she was – and she was one whirlwind of a person. My boyfriend, Bill would drag me out to his mother and dad’s house on BIS Road and Betty would usher me in with open arms. “Sit down at the bar and talk to me while I cook!”

I was shy and had no idea what to say but that was never a problem. Once Betty got started talking there was no stopping her. And when it was time to say goodbye… that’s when Betty really sprang into action…

“Do you need some mixing bowls?” she would ask.

I’d look at her a bit dumbfounded and not reply.

“Well, I have all these mixing bowls I can’t use so you might as well take some home with you.”

And so we would load them in the back of my vintage 60s VW and then Betty would say, “Wait! I just thought of something else!”

Back in the house she would go and come out with dish towels, serving trays, soap, paper products and even a couple boxes of cereal for good measure. I truly did not know what to think. And it took me 10 trips into the house when I got home to unload it all!

THAT… was Betty Jean. For the whole time I ever knew her.

I can honestly say she was my mother-in-law for over 20 years and I NEVER left her house empty-handed. Ever.

But as they say on those infamous late-night commercials… “Wait! There’s more!”

With Betty, there was ALWAYS more.

More, more, more.

She was the most generous woman ever born on Planet Earth.

When Betty started her own private party business in 1973 I was the first one she hired and trained to help her. She taught me to waitress, bartend and be an all-around hospitality specialist. I was glad for the work, but I was never as enthusiastic as she was to make people happy. Me? I wanted to get the job done and go home. Betty? She wanted everyone to have a wonderful experience and she made sure it happened. Which was an awfully nice thing. Except I was a young punk who didn’t appreciate her at the time and I wanted to slug her in the face at times.

No matter. Betty knew her customers and she took care of them. In spades. She also knew her employees (including me) and took care of them, too. Betty was so wildly generous she would pay me for more hours than I worked! She would even pay me when I didn’t work at all!! She loved her family so much that she would donate her own pay to make sure that her grandchildren had the nicest clothes, the best shoes and the latest toys on the market.

Was it Paradise? Heck, no…

There were times when Betty and I drove each other crazy. Absolutely Bat-$hit Crazy.

Betty had a heart of gold but a notoriously short temper. She was known to let loose a raw opinion or two. And I was sometimes the target.

So we fought. And made up. And fought. And made up again.

After all, I was the first daughter-in-law in the family. We both needed someone to practice on…

Then… finally… her other boys got married.

And their wives were not nearly as shy as I had been.

All hell broke loose. Betty ran rampage over the new DILs and took no prisoners. I sat back and enjoyed the show. After all, I was looking pretty spectacular at this point…

But soon, we all settled down and got along. Betty loved her family above all else and that was what ruled. And like a big ole fat cat, I took on the role of Number 1 DIL… I was “Her Highness in Waiting” right behind the woman known as Betty Jean… (or to the family as “Queenie.”) And I LOVED it.

Hey, I had paid my dues to the well-known MIL terrorist. Now everybody else could just stand back and kiss my ring!

Things went along smoothly for years and years until the mid 90s. My husband Bill moved our family away from the sacred nest to a location about 100 miles south. The kids and I didn’t want to go but we did. And it turned out to be a good move after all.

Sadly, my husband and I divorced a couple years after that move but that didn’t matter to Bill and Betty. We remained close in all those years since.

Time passed.

Betty developed Alzheimer’s Disease. The entire family was thrown into a downward spiral…

At first she could no longer tell Billy and Brad apart. She would look at Ellyn and wonder if she knew her from somewhere. She would talk to me about getting divorced and ask, “what happened?” It was like she was my teen-aged girlfriend, not my second mother…

Down, down, down she went. Into an endless black hole that there was no escape from.

Betty’s husband Bill took excellent care of her. He tended to her every need at home for as long as he could. When that was no longer possible, he put her in constant care but went and helped every single day. For years.

A couple days ago it became obvious that Betty would not survive much longer. My FIL Bill was told this news and went home to begin his grieving process. He called me and told me about it. We cried together on the phone.

When Hospice was called in, everyone was notified. Betty was at the last stop on the train station of life. Our heartbreak was about to materialize.

Betty Jean’s husband Bill is no coward. He took the situation in hand. He tried to feed her until the very last moment when she could no longer take in sustenance. He never – ever – gave up.

At the end, Hospice advised Bill to get into bed with Betty and hold her as she gasped for her final breaths. With no qualms at all, this brave soldier of a man threw back the covers and climbed in beside her. He had loved her dearly for every day of their 67 year marriage and he would not leave her alone now. No way. No way.

And that’s how Bill and Betty Jean spent the last night of their lives together on this earth God has blessed us with. At 6:45 am this morning, Betty Jean took her last breath with her husband’s arms tight around her.

I am so happy that he was there for her. It is a love story like you will never see in a Hollywood movie. It was true. It was real. It was a lasting tribute to 67 years together.

How privileged I am to be a very small part of their lives. My children and I knew them for well over 40 years. Through good times and bad. Through thick and thin. And they never wavered. They faced everything life dealt them head on.

One of the best things I ever did for my children was marry into this family. My father-in-law – and his lifetime wife – have given my children a legacy I could never create if I tried. I love them so much. I will love them for eternity.

This post is for the Love of Betty Jean. I was stupid enough not to appreciate her in the beginning but God gave me enough time to love her with all my heart.

And… here is a postscript….

Back in 1994, I was working on portraits of Bill and Betty as a gift for my husband. Then life happened and the project was never finished. I already had Betty’s done and put it away for another time. Now… 21 years later, here is the colored pencil  rendition of Betty from 1994.

Betty Jean

I’d like for someone in the family to have it, so we’ll figure that out.

Thank you for reading today about my love of Betty Jean. She was so special. Very special indeed.

Betty Jean Tisdale Daubenmire – July 19, 1930 – June 16, 2015 – sadly missed by a very large, loving family who owe their own existence to her. We will always love you, Betty Jean.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Kling
    Jun 16, 2015 @ 23:02:43

    That was a beautiful tribute Starr! Gods blessings to you !


  2. Bonnie (Boyd Wallace) Cook
    Jun 16, 2015 @ 23:09:22

    Beautiful potrait & story. Thanks for sharing, Starr.So sorry for your loss.


  3. scoopcoop69
    Jun 16, 2015 @ 23:24:15

    Starr…just finished reading this tribute and I must say, you made Betty Jean someone I wish I knew. You made her very real and endearing, even to me who never knew her. Now, knowing you this very brief time, I know she has made a great impact on your life, and she loved you, in spite of the circumstances, because she was truly a genuine gem of a woman! My sincerest sorrow to your and to those you love. ~ Patti


  4. scoopcoop69
    Jun 16, 2015 @ 23:25:34

    P.S. The portrait is beautiful as well.


  5. Diane Guisinger Maguire
    Jun 17, 2015 @ 14:53:51

    I think Bill would cherish this portrait, Starr. I would frame it and give it to him.


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