Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Where's Betty

by Pa Rock
Disoriented Traveler

Gail and I left Fayetteville this morning with our day carefully planned.  After a quick breakfast at McDonald's we headed off to Seneca, Missouri, a small border town on the Missouri-Oklahoma line, to check on our dad's widowed and elderly sister, Betty Lankford.  Neither of us had heard from her since Dad's funeral - which was nearly two years ago.

Betty's husband, Cecil, died several years ago and her kids are grown and gone with kids and grandkids of their own.  She has lived alone since Cecil died.   Betty is very timid and imagines all sorts of dangers lurking just outside of her door, and regularly has her phone number changed.  We planned to give her a treat by taking her to lunch in Neosho, thinking that she is cooped up, alone, and scared to get out.

Betty lives in a small frame house that had been hauled to Seneca from Camp Crowder when that military facility closed after World War II.   Gail and I had both been to her house before, and I thought that I would easily recognize it.    I remembered the house as being within spitting distance of the Seneca Elementary School and next to a church.

Unfortunately most of the homes in that area were originally structures on Camp Crowder and they looked alarmingly similar to one another.  After cruising most of the streets and finding one church - the wrong one - we gave up and went to a quick stop to see if anyone there knew Betty and where she lived.  The lady at the register couldn't help, but she sent us to a neighboring Gas-and-Git that happened to be owned by a lady who used to teach for me at Noel.  The lady manning the register there didn't know Betty either, but she called my friend, who was busy teaching at the Seneca Intermediate.   My friend and I had a nice visit, after which she gave me step-by-step directions to Betty's house.

When we eventually pulled into Betty's driveway, our first observation was that her car was gone - not a good sign because she has no garage and parks outside.  After banging on the door for awhile, we gave up and went to town to look for her.  There is one grocery store in Seneca, so we pulled in there and walked the aisles looking for out wayward aunt.  But she wasn't there.

By the time we got back to her place to leave a note, Betty's car was in the driveway and she was unloading her shopping bags.  She had been out, on her own, shopping in Neosho - and had even taken herself out to lunch!  And the days of never opening her door to anyone seemed to be over as well, because some of her shopping bags contained Halloween candy.  "You wouldn't believe how many trick-or-treaters I get."  She chirped happily.

We had a nice visit and talked about several things.  One of her more interesting stories was about a drive she took through the most damaged part of Joplin just after last May's massive tornado.

I'm not sure what our sweet old aunt has been pouring on her Post Toasties, but she certainly seems to have become more adventuresome in the past two years!

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