"What d'ya say, dear? I can't hear ya; speak louder!" the pudgy and grumpy old man was hard of hearing yelled obnoxiously from the back bedroom of the apartment. "Oh don't worry about it, Alfred, I've got it covered." Alfred's wife of fifty years, Betty-Lou had again felt herself rolling her eyes in her typical Bette Boop fashion. It was Bet's way of relieving stress. Certainly Alf could cause much stress. Bets as Alfred called her had been at Alfred's side through thick and thin for many thin years. Highschool sweethearts, Alf and Bet had been an item for forty-five years, years which had changed them into total strangers. It was apparent in Alf and Bet's relationship if absence makes the heart grow fonder, chronic attachment made the heart grow bitter.
Bet knew that Alfred would go "off the handle" at any moment if he wanted Bet to stay by his side night and day. Bet could not get a thing done. "It is worse than having a two year old!" Bet would say to herself. Alf grew frustrated with his limitations wrought from his recent stroke. It was much harder for Bet as Alf had become so much work lately. Bet loved Alf dearly, and always would love Alf. This was not the issue, Bet felt trapped in a lonely lifestyle she did not choose. Life was not being kind to Bet. Bet found a way to fight back and to reclaim her man that the stroke had so cruelly had taken from her. Laughter, Imagination and Dream machine. Bet had a plan. As Bet would say "It's a good one!".
Bet was aware that Alf was taking advantage of her, making her do too many things for him at once, demanding impossible requests, frustrating Bet deliberately because he was bored "stiff". Alf had becomve very self-centered lately, wanting the gas heat turned up when Bet was obviously going having a late stage "hot flash". Much worse than this, Alf was bored. Bet knew Alf's boredom could get dangerous, as he would become more and more agitated, yelling, screaming and demanding. Bet was worn thin. Bet wanted to put her foot down, but did not know how to do this very well, she had tried to no avail to corral Alf's wild stallion days. Bet took Alf's tirades in stride and was actually happy being his chief cook, bottle washer and sole source of entertainment. Although Bet thought the sole entertainer probably not a good or wise thing.
The only problem was the Alf-ian form of entertainment was to watch Bet take her ninty-ninth nervous breakdown from Alf's undue daily torment. Bet could have her own angry moments yelling to herself in the kitchen, uncharacteristically cursing the creator or some other person besides Alf. She knew it was not his fault he had a stroke. It was bound to happen. Alf had been putting on weight since confined to his bed after a bad fall which had broken his leg in three places. Other prior medical conditions made Alf's physical deteroiation that much worse. Alf was going down hill fast and Bet did not know what to do. She had tried everything in the book and outside the box to help heal her husband. She had only one more idea that might finally work this time.
"Bet could you get me another glass of water. Make sure it is fresh, run the water for five minutes, thanks" or, "Could you wash my hair now, I want to go out soon" or "What's for dessert" Every few minutes, Alf requested something, or wanted something, usually very trivial and always every ten minutes. Bet was getting uncomfortably use to the "mutchest" demands. She felt that it was not good for herself or Alf that he stay in bed too much, or other unhealthy habits Alf was demonstrating lately. Bet needed more help, but since volunteers were hard to get living out in the country, Bet was on her own. She did not know how long she would last. She prayer a lot. Bet was determined though, and her plan was just know starting to focus in her life. It had been something she had been working on for quite a few months now. Now things would take shape. Things were going to get a lot better for both of them. Bet could feel this in her deepest most soul.
Bet was feeling run quite ragged. It was making her feel old all the running around for Alf, and Alf not appreciating her. Bet had more gray eyebrow hair to pluck today. As she plucked the newest errant eyebrow hair, she felt more anxious to take her "plan" into effect. She knew that all those tell-tale hairs were becoming her, making her feel old. As old as an old worn out shoe. Bet did not want to feel old! She had not begun to live yet. Time would not run out for Bet. "No way!" Bet would say to herself when she felt herself aging rapidly. Bet was determined not to let a day go by where she felt she was not appreciated by Alf.
Alf and she would have a meeting. Alf would more than likely not agree to any of her conditions. At this point Bet knew what to do. She would have her bagged pack by the front door. Whenever Alf got difficult, she would place her luggage by the bedroom door. Alf would ask "What's that for?" and Bet would say "I'm going to visit my mother". Alf would then say "Like hell you are". And then Bet would issue her demands. So far, this luggage drama worked. But for how long? Bet was working on a new plan, this one would definitely work and everybody, including Alf would be happy!
Bet put up with the incessant badgering from her significant other because she felt obligation to Alf. Mainly, Bet told herself, her unobstructed obligation to Alf is due to the fact she was pledged to him through marriage and they were literally, not only figuratively, "One flesh". "One Flesh sounds like the porn movie!" Bet joked to herself. The joking made Bet feel younger, and probably did make her twenty again, in her mind, anyway.
"And two shall become one" or "one flesh". Bett memorized her Bible and thought about the significance of the odd words. Words she had never truly understood til this insightful moment. All those years with Alf were not all bad. He was a good husband and provider. He loved his children. He wasn't rich, but neither was she, she could cope with that fact. All those times when she dreamed big, she had Alf there to bring her back down to reality. "We can't afford it" or "nobody goes to Paris in the spring" or "how do will you find the time to get your degree?". Alf always wanted things to be straight forward and simple. Bet was a dreamer, an artist and much more liberal minded than Alf. Yet the two stayed together for forty-five years! Something can be said about that. Even in the most difficult of times, when Bet could not stand it any longer and she felt like running away, she remembered "One Flesh" and stayed with her man like their favourite song by Tammy Wynette. "Stand By Your Man". Bette stood by Alf, now it was his turn to stand by her. Would he be up to the task? The plan was a-go for launch!
During the tough times Bet would let the words envelope her soul; "you are loved". Bet had study Tibetan Buddhism and other eastern religions. She knew her Bible from becoming a born again Christian in the 80's as well as being raised a Roman Catholic. No matter what life dished or did not dish Bet she was able to see through the situation, far beyond the other side, thanks to her wise teachers and effective training. Bet was a very positive person and even though Alf's personality had morphed and changed into what Bet liked to describe as "Ogre-ism".
Alf had so radically changed lately and this was a great change from his old ways of being very gentle and kind. Through all the lean years Bet always had relied on Alf for support emotionally. Unfortunately, Alf was no longer able to communicate very effectively and although Bet had many professionals helping Alf, they did not have to live with Alf on a day-by-day basis. Nobody knew the silent pain Bet had felt after loosing the man she loved for years. Bet wanted this change to happen. The sooner the better. The change was coming!
Bet knew this was her allocated role in life; her sainthood or martyrdom role to uphold. "If life were meant to be perfect we'd be in paradise" Bet kept telling herself during the tough days. There were many tough days. Too tough. Too rough. Bet's plan would shock Alf. It was for the best. Nobody would feel disadvantaged, it would be wonderful to wake up in the morning, truly looking forward to the sunrise and a new day dawning! Bet was going to surprise Alf in a good way. She could not wait to see the look on Alf's face when dreams became real. Bet meant "real" real, no smoke and mirrors. Especially not the old mirror on the ceiling of their bedroom that just looked like they were kinky! Now was the time to "unveil" the new. Would Alf's heart be ready for it?
Bet had given all her energies to looking after Alf day after day. All Alf's daily needs were met by Bet. She bathed him with a sitz bath on the bed, she washed his hair in a bucket by the bed, she washed his feet that he could not reach, she dressed him and tried to cheer his spirits even though he was often in a foul mood and tempermental. There was no doubt Alf was needy but that was ok. That was not the problem. Bet liked looking after Alf. She finally felt wanted and needed by someone. All her old boyfriends of the ancient past did not need her. They passed her up for other younger, cuter smarter models. that was the past and Bet left those memory locked up like her buffet drawer full of old photo albums and forgotten dreams.
Bet felt let down in life too She could relate one hundred and ten percent to Alf's affliction, because Bet was afflicted too. Her past was "imperfect" as she would often say to herself. She knew that reality was important to grasp to be successful in life. "No airs" "no pretend" Bet took most of her failures and perceived failures in life as just that; failures because life is not perfect. How could it be? Why would it be? We are given problems to solve in life. Without problems to solve in life, where would any of us be. We all must experience a bit of pain in our life". Lately, life was much more than unfair to Bet.
Bet had the old Irish fighter spirit to "not give up hope". The dream would soon be realized, miracles do happen. Life can change for the better, if you make it happen! You must affirm and make it happen. Don't sit on those bad feelings! Do something! Bet was so much more than determined to make her affirmations real that she could taste the sweet taste of victory. That and her required chocolate bar once a week to stave off those chocolate cravings. Chocolate gave Bet the needed cocoa kick as well as a reprieve from her often unrecognized and unqualified personal assistant to her husband. "One day wives as personal assistance and caregivers will get recognized and paid". If men were the ones doing the housework all caregivers would be given a professional salary!" One day the dream was realized, Bet knew this and hers would be coming true soon as well. "Sail on, sail on, sailor" Bet said as she kissed the sleeping Alf softly on the forehead and turned over and went to sleep.
Alf was sick. Alf was difficult again. But who, would care for Bet's needs? Alf was no longer able to emotionally or psychologically support her. He was distance and remote. Never carrying to hug or touch Bet. Bet would have to ask Alf to hug her. Often times Alf would complain about hugging her saying, "my shoulders hurt, I can't hug you", or he would be angry at Bet for whatever insignificant reason and say "I'm not hugging you, you made me made yesterday". Alf had always held grudges, but now in his old age grudges would be metted out in extremes, and held for a very long time. Poor Bet felt this lifestyle would last until either one of them died. She had hoped it was going to be herself. Bet felt she could not cover her depressed feelings any longer. She could no longer hide behind silly jokes that were used as her defence to get Alf into a better mood. She could make Alf laugh from time to time by pretending to be mad at him and escalating the ante. Alf would love the friction, it seemed to stimulate his blood. Bet thought this would be good for him.
Although Alf's laughter was often sarcastic in nature, mostly, he could laugh like the big kid Bet remembered. Yet it was laughter none-the-less and it was wonderful for Bet to hear and remember the good times she use to have with Alf before Alf's stroke had stolen his personality and his physical abilities. Alf's laughter to live, love, laugh was so important to Bet. She hugged and kissed him each day,knowing that she may not get another day with him and who knows how long she would last?
The more positive feelings and ways of being were important to Bet. She had wished Alf could relax and enjoy life more, but he could not because of his many physical ailments. He had a serious nervous condition which would make him agitated, and become the most difficult of person at times. Other times, Alf was his old softy self, kind and generous to a fault. with w and he could not handle the everyday pressures of life very well. Bet was there to pick up the pieces, actually emotionally and sometimes physically supporting her man Alf. Did Alf truly appreciate this? Bet insisted he would appreciate her many loving gestures. She would remind him to call her "Bet, not she or her" and to say "please and thank-you to her when called upon to do various tasks above and beyond the regular non-paid work Bet did for Alf on a daily basis.
Bet repeated "yes, we are always together so much we might as well be one flesh". Bet laughed to herself at the idea. Siamese twins! Bet laughed out loud finally. "What are you laughing at?" Alf could be heard from the bedroom. Bet had always had a great sense of humour when her spirits were lifted by Alf way back in the dark ages. She had to make jokes on her blog to remind herself the importance to laugh and be funny, to enjoy life. She would try to garden outside for five minutes before Alf would invariably yell out loud "Bet, where are you?". If Bet ignored Alf for more than five minutes all hell would break loose. She would hear clanking dishes or wooden crutches on walls and windows. Worried she'd hurt himself she rushed to his side to say, "hey, I'm just stepped outside for a minute; I'm not going away, you know". Alf seemed satisfied with the answer and all was back to normal; for the moment or until the next disaster; which ever came first.
Bet had to tolerate Alfie for those many years, and many had wondered why she had stayed with him for so long. Why did she not leave him for some other "greener pasture". Bet knew the answer but she did feel greatly discouraged some days. Today Bet felt different, like her life was being snuffed out, she knew this feeling, like she was at the bottom of the barrel, like her heart was on the ground and being stepped on with heavy clown shoes. It felt to Bet that someone had stolen her youth, her soul. She had not felt this frustrated in years. Bet had a plan to turn it around to make her difficult husband renewed with youthful zeal, vigour and zest for life. What could it be? Bet would say jokingly "Bet you gotta wait!".
Bet sighed a sad and frustrating sigh which seem to sink to the bottom of a new low.
Alf was acting up today. Bet had to be careful not to ask Alf too many things at once which would greatly confuse him, She kept her conversations, loving, but very brief. "I've got to get to the mailbox sometime today, hon" Bet said to Alfred as she entered their bedroom. A large king size bed with a gigantic mirror revealing a prior Alf and Bet life. The mirror on the ceiling was all that remained of their once rocking relationship. Now the mirror was used for Alf's use of the television angles when he was sitting on the edge of the bed in his usual back turned to Bet. It bothered her to have to talk to him through the mirror, and she slightly recalled the past when she would view other parts of Alf not wholly boring. "Watching tv again?" Something Alf did each day for far too many hours a day thought Bet. Bet would change his little routines soon enough, and in a good way.
Alf could be described as an cranky old man by many who would momentarily sum him up upon first impression. Alf did not care one iota of what people thought about him. He had been through some very hard times and had learned to swing tough. Sometimes when he felt Bet was ignoring him too much, getting too involved baking or cleaning house, or reading, he would start to take mini-tantrums. That's what Bet called them.
"Where's my Queen Anne chair doilies?" Alf yelled again at Bet. Bet had just been to the back room and felt tired and wanted to do the dishes. Bet answered Alf in a semi-sarcastic manner; "Alf, I dont have your doilies, for the last time". Whenever Alf wanted more attention he would become very agitated about some seemingly insignificant missing item. Always the item would be found within minutes of it being reported missing. Bet was beginning to catch onto Alf's game. She knew exactly what he was doing, and so she decided to forgo her reading for the evening and to go back to the bedroom and watch some tv.
"You know Alf, you really shouldn't stay in bed all day!" Alf looked at Bet from behind his aviator glasses which had slid half-way down his nose. "Look Bets, I am here because I am looking for those doilies which somebody took". Bet caught herself rolling her eyes again. "Alf, who do you think has come into this room today to take your precious doilies? I know you are blaming me, and I didn't take them. What would I want with your doilies. I really don't like your dang-gum doilies!". Bet was starting to feel her heart race and knew what the doctor said. It is time to take it easy, and forget arguing with Alf. She could never win. Alf always had the last word. It wasn't always like this she thought pensively.
"Paris in the springtime, the muse's hope to find her lover". Bet read the beginning words in her favourite novel by Victoria Angou "Bejewelled Muse of Paris". Bet was an avid reader of romance novels and found herself more and more drawn into the writer's world. Bet had been trying in her spare time to write her own romantic novel. Bet had a vivid imagination, and more than once as a child teachers would invariably call her the class dreamer. Although Bet was in her late 70's she felt every ounce a child at heart. Now shw would reclaim her child's heart, no matter who got in the way. Bet was determined to find her voice for the first time in her life "Her Story" was a masterpiece looking out at her from the mirror on the ceiling of her four poster bed.
"The neat thing about imagination" Bet continued conversing with herself, is that there are no limitations, no boundaries, anything is possible, and possibilities are endless". Bet always knew how to lift her own spirits. After Alf's stroke, Bet had struggled with depression. She found great comfort in reading books, watching movies, mostly chick flicks, and basically finding escape anyway possible. Alf had change three-sixty. His mood was the most upsetting, and Bet could only try to console his many moods. If she dared speak up she would be in for a long tirade of how horrible everything is in life, what she liked to call Alf's rants. Bet wanted more out of life but knew how important her duty to her man, she would never let anyone down, except, maybe herself.
She would only ever get as far as the first chapter and then life called her back into stark day to day reality. A reality which never changed like porridge, but at the least it was consolidatingly consistent. Completing the work Bet would be some place else. Neverland, not the ranch but similar thought Bet. "Michael Jackson has nothing om me! I can do the moonwalk!" Bet tripped over her big feet as she tried to mimic the "gloved one". "Back to the Alf reality show thought Bet". Something was creatively edging Bet into a new place, a new way of thinking, doing, becoming, being. A big donut hole? No more! Now the hollow woman would fill that void. Bet was going places, that was a sure bet! It may take longer than most, but like the old commercials it isnt important how you get there it is the fact that youfinally got there!
However, her spare time was as rare as nearly never and ever not, these places she knew too well.. Bet sat down in the bed beside Alf, getting sleepy after cooking and cleaning the dishes this evening. How many times had Bet remembered those old feelings, those old feeling which she felt were always just out of reach of her plain life with Alf. Tonight she would remember those times, her youthful forays into feeling love, and being completely happy in a life which was so much more than a dream.
Of her life prior to Alf; perchance to dream. "Ah yes, I was young once, and I can be again...I can be forever young!" Bet snickered at this Forever Young statement as Forever Young was an over 50's newspaper that came to her door each week. Bet would dream about all the vacations she would take with Alf on the Tartar bus tours. She'd see Elvis' Nashville mansion, and go to Branson Missouri, and a trip to Florida and New England. Maybe even Holland Michigan and Amish Pennysylvania. Bet wanted to go to Chicago, and then take the gold rush trail to California. Bet had dreams and she never would let them die, as long as she was living her dreams, like her babies "would be" thanks to Robert Munsch the prolific children's writer and author of Bet's favourite children's book, "Love You Forever".
A time when Bet almost did find herself on the arm of a young paramour, whisking her from her drudgery and broken dreams and chinaware. Alf, never a push-over held a third degree black belt in his early years. He also had tremendous talent as a musician, playing guitar. Alf was injured during the war and was confined to a power-lift chair. Since life had not been kind to him, Alf found it was his duty to create unhappiness in those who mocked him. Alf had a second sense about who accepted him immediately and who would did not. Alf could make life a literal hell for the bad asses. Alf was a student from the school of hard knocks and billy clubs. Although he managed to maintain his humour when Bet pushed his buttons, he remembered her as sexy.
The next morning there was a knock upon the door. Bet had made sure that Alf would be in his favourite Queen Anne chair with the doilies. When Bet opened the door to Gene Simmons from KISS. You should have seen the look on Alf's face. He had a smile on his face for a very long time!Needless to say the mirror had the old moon face back onboard! "Bet, you finally won!" whispered Alf in his dear wife's ear. Bette Boop rolled her eyes in the back of her head and went back to sleep.
jajo 9 Jun 09