Betty Jo Wood – Our Mimi

 

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Yesterday, as my son Noah and I drove a round trip in one sitting to Minden, Louisiana to pick up my youngest Keaton, we stopped to get gas.  As I was exiting the car to pump, I grabbed my phone.  I had two texts, one that said “Mimi is gone.”  The other read, “Mimi passed away at 5:25.”  The time was 6:15pm.  My heart sank immediately. My stomach was in knots.  Here I was standing in the middle of nowhere and just wanted to drop to my knees.  My world has grown darker.

Let me say, my Mimi, or should I say, our Mimi because she was Mimi to everyone in Tulsa, OK., was a God-fearing, Christian woman who taught those she came in contact with what being faithful and truthful, and honest and loving was all about.  I know she is with the Lord.  I know that she is in a better place.  But for us, we are mourning the loss of one of the greatest women we will ever know.

She was the kind of woman, when her feet hit the floor, the devil said, “oh shit, she’s up!”

Mimi was the of woman who had 4 children and when her husband that she devoted so much love and time and energy to abandoned his family, she raised them all and raised them well.  She never took a time out.  She didn’t go to the bars  at night and leave them home with a nanny.  She didn’t use her divorce as a reason to lose her class and cool, she held her head high and showed grace in such an ungraceful time in her life.  Although I grew up knowing her heart was broken, she never said an ill word about my grandfather that chose to walk away and never look back.  In fact, she took the time to go to the funeral to support her children when he passed.  And even though the new family didn’t make room for her, she stood in the back to say her final goodbye, and support the kids.

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Mimi was the kind of woman who traveled near and far to every kids and grand-kids baseball games, dance recitals, beauty pageants, swim meets, foot ball games, you name it, she was there.  She put off a much needed surgery because my cousin Parker was pitching in a huge tournament in high school.  She just told the Dr no, I can’t miss this game.

Mimi was the kind of woman who never looked undone. Her hair was always fixed, her make up was always done.  She had her jewelry on and looked sharp 100% of the time.  I remember watching her curl her hair, and then tease it out.  She would tell me that her little hairs on her hair were getting so thin in her last years.

Mimi was the kind of woman who knew how to run a business.  I grew up watching her run our athletic stores.  She was an amazing business woman, who earned the respect of her employees and family.  A member of the Rotary club and the Pilots club when women weren’t usually inducted.  Mimi would sit behind her typewriter on her desk, with her daily vocabulary pad in front of her.  She taught me how to use white-out to make new copies of paperwork and how to type on a typewriter.  I can literally see her now walking out of her back office, down the aisle of the store, checking on the retail and up to the front.  She would greet customers, and check the receipts from the cash register.  occasionally telling a young employee to tuck in his shirt.  She and I would head to Piccadilly Cafe to get lunch.  We would talk about life and love and family.

I remember when I was little, we would sit in the restaurant of whatever hotel she would stay at when visiting me, and she would quiz me on which fork to use.  How to cut my meat.  How to set a table.  When I would come to her house over the summer, my birthday was in April, but we would go to the Doo-Wop Diner in Tulsa and she would tell them it was my birthday so they would sing “Happy Birthday Baby” to me.  It always made my day!  When I would arrive in Tulsa, at her what I called the Big Yellow House, all my Aunts and cousins would sit on the floor and play Candyland and Uno for hours.  I have never seen a grandparent that was so involved, so focused on family, so aware of what life was really like for her children’s children.

Then on of my yearly summer visits when I was 12, my relationship with my Mimi changed.  I was told that I would not be returning home.  I was going to stay there and live with her.  My parents had their own issues going on and couldn’t deal with my acting out.  I was going to stay there, go to an uptight Catholic school and I was just going to have to accept it.  As I sat on my bed in my room at Mimi’s and cried, she held my hand.  She and I talked about what was really going on in my life and home and we decided I was going to be just fine.  She later told me she could hear me at night when I would think I was muffling the noises of my crying as I showered.  She knew I was in pain.  She knew I was a scared little girl who felt abandoned.  She kept my secrets to her grave.  She supported me when I was 19 and found out I was pregnant. When everyone else was encouraging me to give up my baby and telling me I wouldn’t be able to raise him, she said, “That is YOUR baby.  Don’t let anyone tell you what to do with YOUR baby!”  Then again, when I decided my marriage wasn’t working and I left my husband, I was terrified to tell her.  I was so afraid of disappointing her and letting her down.  But she called me, and said, “well what took you so long?”  The woman never ceased to amaze me.  She was so strong, so tough.  At times, I felt cruel with her words.  But she always had the best intentions at heart.  She was stronger than I could ever be.

When I was 13, we sat in the movie theater and I asked her about the purple ring she had on.  She told me her sister gave it to her on her death-bed and that it was a real amethyst. It changed colors like a natural mood ring.  She then placed it on my finger and said, “its yours.”

The year I lived with my Mimi was a difficult year, i and there were more difficult years to come for me in my childhood.  She and I had a bond that no one will ever understand.  She and I shared secrets and stories, dreams and fears.  She would tell me “now if you come home from school and I am not here, it’s because Prince Charming came through the back yard and I have run off with him.”  How I wanted her to find love again.  But she was a devoted mother and grandmother and all of her time and energy was spent on us.

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Those of us in the Wood family know we are better because she was the monarch of our family.  She taught us what it meant to have class, grace, style, intelligence, morals, and gumption.  She was the strongest woman I have ever met.  She was the most devoted woman who spent her life running a sporting goods empire, helping her children and supporting her grand children.  From her, I think I would like to inherit her wisdom, her grace under pressure, her will power and her style.  I would love to think that now her body doesn’t hurt, her heart is whole, and her mind is clear.  I hope that she looks down and knows that all of us that are not only surviving but thriving, she had a first hand in creating a legacy.  She used to tell me, “all these kids and grand kids and great grand kids, and I don’t have a little Betty yet!”  I promised when I had a girl I would use her middle name Jo, but as we know God only blessed me with boys.

 

So to my Mimi, Betty Jo Smith Wood – you were the most wonder grandmother a girl could ask for.  You went over and beyond the call of duty.  You showed me what it meant to be a mother and a friend.  You showed me what unconditional love was really like.  You taught me to value your family and yourself.  And you taught me that I was going to be just fine, no matter what.  I love you and miss you so much.

 

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