Sunday, August 23, 2009

Me with Bettye

I was admittedly reluctant to have this conversation with Bettye. Aunt Bettye. Bettye Davis. Mostly because I was intimidated. I didn't know what I would ask her or if she would take the time to have a conversation with me. I wanted to include her in the blog and was surprised to find out that she had been reading the postings. She had.

Before we could begin, I knew I had to clear my own air and story that I had made up about her. I acknowledge that the story was completely mine, not hers. My story, fueled by my own insecurities.

B* And what story is that?

J* I made up this story a long time ago and let my ego and insecurities provide proof enough for me to run with it. I made up that you don't like me. Again, I admit I made it up.

B* I know that, because I've never said anything to you or about you that said I didn't like you.

J* I had a story going on that you don't like me because I didn't finish college.

B* Really?

J* Yeah. That you like Roshann and Angela, but not me. I know it sounds young, but then, maybe we're all just fifth graders.

Funny thing about communication. Once I put air behind the thoughts I had been holding in, I got to see how small it all is. But once we got that out, that pink elephant I held between us, we were able to move forward. I could hear her. Really hear her without that voice in the background of my brain. I grew my conversation up. I could listen to her and be with her as an adult in this conversation. Not an insecure child. And so we began. Again.

For most of the conversations I've posted on this blog I would type as we talked so that I could get every word. Word. For. Word. But then Bettye has that Jamisina Earl Jones voice that doesn't command. Doesn't demand. But you just know to be still and take it in. And so I did. Prayerfully another time, another conversation perhaps I can get it all on tape. I have known Bettye my whole life yet to me, this was our first time...talking.

So, you will find, if you have not already, that this post will be more a narrative notes of our conversation.

After my…breakthrough, I didn’t know where to begin. I had plenty of questions. I’ve always had plenty of questions for her. But then, I had to keep reminding myself, is a blog, not her biography. Although I did ask her if she was writing her story, more on that later.

I asked her about Troy’s mother. I was always curious about who and where she was. She told me that her name was Lucy and that she and Granddaddy were together. Together together, like boyfriend and girlfriend. I didn’t know that. I had never heard any stories about her and I just made up that she…that she…come to think of it, I didn’t make up any story about her. She was just…Uncle Troy’s mother. But in fact, Grandmommy knew her. They were all in Louisiana. Lucy was older than Grandmommy.

I also found out that Lucy did not have other children. So the only siblings Uncle Troy had were his brothers and sisters from Grandmommy and Granddaddy. Revalation to me.

But back to Bettye. Senator Bettye Davis. I was grateful for this conversation with her because I got the opportunity to acknowledge her for being such a powerful, strong, self-assured, amazing woman. She has held such powerful positions in her political career but none of those positions make her who she is.

J* Have you always been so confident?

B* (Slight pause) Yes. I was raised that way.

J* You seem to have that kind of confidence that, I know that you would be the same Bettye if you were the store clerk at the local grocery store. I can see you now at the cash register makin’ sure people were lined up right, with that…voice.

(We laugh. Slightly. At least I do.)

About school:

B* You know, a degree opens a lot of doors for you, but it’s not everything. I went to school (Grambling State University), then stopped and went back. I remember when you were there. Then you left and got married. You went on and did your own thing.


B* I mean, how could I look down on you for not finishing. Look at my own children. People go and stop and sometimes go back.

We talked more about the degreed and undegreed. I recognize her, out loud, as being my aunt not because she married my uncle. They were never separate to me.

Troy and Bettye were married in 1959. Troy was in the service and traveled and she traveled with him. As I stated earlier, Bettye did go back to college and graduated in 1967.

Other facts:

-Bettye is 71 years old. Now, I’m not sure about what I think 71 is supposed to look and be like, but she sure is not it.

-She is from a large family and has a brother and sister alive in Texas.

-Bettye and Troy were married for 47 years and this year would have been their 50th.

-Uncle Namon married Bettye and Troy. I had to pause when she told me that because, well, remembering Uncle Namon, I can only imagine the ceremony. Surely he said something that had Bettye, Troy and all the guest rollin’.

J* What’s next for you?

B* I don’t know.

J* How did you get into politics?

B* Growing up in the south, politics was the furthest thing from my mind. My degree is in social work. I got appointed for a seat as a school board member. People said I should run for a state office and I said ‘Why not? I could do a whole lot better than the folks in the position. I ran for the House of Representatives.

Bettye Davis has done so much in the world of politics and I would love for the world to know her story. Her complete story (as completely as she would like to tell it.)

J* Are you writing your biography?

B* Not officially. I do have a lot of notes though. My granddaughter, Alicia is helping me put some things together.

I’m looking forward to it.

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