Featurette Friday: Friday, March 14, 2014

Every other Friday I introduce you to someone who exhibits kindness in their everyday life. 

But why Jenn?

Because we see negativity every day and I think it is important to focus on the positive and remind ourselves that there are wonderful people in this world. No matter a persons background, status, or creed I believe they have been shown kindness in their life and have shownothers kindness as well.

And I believe everyone has a story to tell.

Today, I would like to introduce you to Bobbie.

I met Bobbie for the first time today at Four Points Center for Successful Aging. It was a lively facility full of seniors laughing, playing bingo and pool, doing arts and crafts in an open and happy atmosphere with the friendliest staff and volunteers.

My friend pointed out Bobbie to me. She was wearing a lime green sweatshirt, kind eyes and getting ready to eat her lunch. I didn't want to interrupt her while eating but made a quick introduction. She was aware I was coming to speak with her today as my lovely friend informed her. She threw me off by grasping my meaty paw with both of her soft delicate hands and telling me, "Jenn, I'll be glad to know you".

How beautifully optimistic to be, especially to a person who interrupted her lunch and was going to be asking annoying questions shortly.

I went back to the kitchen spied Bobbie while she continued  to eat her lunch. She took her time eating and talked to those who sat at her table.  When they left, she continued at her own pace eating alone with what can only be described as a rarely seen air of contentment- that exuded confidence and inspired a little jealousy.

I already liked Bobbie and I had only heard seven words from her at this point.

After she was done eating we went across the hall to a small conference room.

I followed her in her wheelchair which she pulled forward with her little feet. Once in the room Bobbie pushed away the chair between us to put her stuff on it and to sit closer to me. She told me she was hard of hearing and I would have to talk loudly.

And my loud needs to be worked on for the record.

There are people you meet, my friends, who you have to draw the story out of them. You have to ask complex questions and beg words off their lips.

Bobbie is not one of those people.

I did not have to ask a single question and yet Bobbie answered all my questions.  I recorded over an hour of interview and filled five pages of my journal. There are some people you just cannot capture solely on paper because they have such a great personality. I hope to do her justice.

Sometimes you need an outline for life with all the questions you want to ask.  Sometimes you get lucky and just get live life and enjoy the conversation, like what I did with Bobbie today.

Name: Roberta "Bobbie" Burke

Age: 95, will be 96 on July 24

Favorite motto/quotes: Eliminate the negative friends in your life, and you eliminate the negative.

There is no hill too steep for a climber.

If anyone doesn't know what they want to do, they should experience everything they can, that will help them decide.

Favorite memory: Excursion boats on the Mississippi river. You could hear the music playing all the time. It was wonderful.

Any regrets: No. I don't think I have any regrets. I learned so much from growing up on a farm. We made do with what we had.

I was born in Iowa. I graduated high school on June 5th and starting working July 5th. My first job I ever had I earned 50 dollars a month as a secretary. I was married May 14th, 1941 I had my first child on August 8th, 1942, Marilee. I can't remember when I left that bank I ended up going to another bank. I worked there until I got married. Women who were unmarried worked. It was the rule, they wanted the job to go to unmarried women or people who needed the job. I went to work for a secretary pool until I was five months pregnant with my daughter. I've had 6 children. I have Bob, Jim, Chris, Michelle, and Patti and Marilee. Marilee recently passed away her memorial will be in June.

I worked at the Bank of LaGrange Park. All my customers became friends because they liked the way I treated them. I still wake up glad that I was entitled to work for the bankers I did. They were always encouraging. Fine people that gave me a break.

I filed for divorce at age 47 after 27 years of marriage. My husband was the kind of guy who could break his arm patting himself on the back. He could sell anyone anything, including me. But if I didn't stay with him for as long as I did, I wouldn't have had my six children.

I love music. I love dance and musicals. I was involved in all sorts of dance classes. Always was around costumes and make up and dance. My mother was someone who could always make anything. We would see a dress in the department store and she would say "I could make that", and she did. Music has always been in my veins. I still tap dance. I have no cartilage in my ankles but I just love dancing so I wheel myself in put on my shoes and dance away in my chair.

Regrets? No. I'll tell you my biggest present in life though-having my parents. My mom and dad never had an argument.

Honey weren't you supposed to ask me questions.

Indeed Bobbie I was.

Do you think we're too involved in our technology:

No. I don't think so. Our technology is good.  Best thing I ever did for myself was learn how to type. I used to practice my dance steps while practicing my typing. I do think parents expect too much from teachers and not enough from their kids.

A lady who came into help me with had her son with her. He was playing with one of this handheld things. He was watching television and playing on the thing. There's too much game and entertainment for these kids. They need to focus on one thing at a time. Think if we got the parents educated on the technology and broke down that barrier.  We'd be killing two birds with one stone.

Craziest thing you've ever done: I got a tattoo at age 90.

What did you get? A bluebird! I went with my sons. Jim has a lot of tattoos. It hurt, but it's my bluebird.

-Bobbie then fought with her sweatshirt pulling it downwards to show me her bluebird. We then spent a few minutes comparing tattoos. Possibly, one of the greatest moments of my life to compare and talk about tattoos with a 95 year old woman.-

Best act of kindness you've ever witnessed: We have a group of special needs kids due to different disabilities who come in and knit. The teachers are amazing. It's amazing, amazing how everyone in the community works to help them learn and get a job. Everyone in this community is with them, they support them. Jennifer, I am telling you I am 95 and I have never seen anything so inspiring. I have a very good friend who I met through this program, Reika, who says that they want people to know they are just like everyone else, they are human too. I want people to know about them and how they overcome so much and they're no different from us.

And then somehow I was being questioned:

Bobbie: You know its the year of the woman?

Me: What do you mean by that Bobbie?

Bobbie: Don't you work with women?

Me: Yes.

Bobbie: Don't you learn a lot from them?

Me: Yes, I answered. I thought for a minute and realized I really did.

Bobbie: Everybodys gotta story honey, we can all learn from stories from our mothers, sisters, girls you work with, you just have to listen.

What do you want to do?

Me: Oh, I have a job.

Bobbie: But you didn't say you are doing what you want to do...

Me: Write. I've always wanted to write.

Bobbie: Did you like English class?

Me: Absolutely loved it.

Bobbie: I didn't do well in English. If I didn't know how to spell a word I would change the sentence. Ever think of writing a book?

Me: Every waking moment.

Bobbie: Write then. Tell stories.

We then conversed for a few minutes. She told me her family would be coming to visit and she would like me to meet with them. While I was tearing off a piece of paper to give her my address and phone number Bobbie whipped out a business card with her name, contact info and of course a bluebird.

So today, l took her advice and shared a little of her story.

l believe this is not the last you've heard about Bobbie my friends.


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