Chateau Retirement’s “Reflections” series highlights the rich life experiences of our residents. This month, Bette Gregory tells her motivational life story.
Growing up there was a picture that hung in our dining room titled, “Grandpa’s Recollections”. The painting is of a young boy, about eight years old standing next to an elderly gentleman who is sitting in a chair. The gentleman is wearing a kilt, a statement of his ancestry and on the dirt floor in front of the two is a fire.
The elderly man has his arm around the young boy holding him close as he talks to him. My father was very fond of the painting and in the evenings as we gathered around the dinner table, my father would say, “What is Grandpa telling his grandson”? It became a game and we told happy things we had seen and if we couldn’t think of anything happy, we made something up. It taught us to identify positive and funny things during our day.
I had an inherited “wandering eye” from childhood and while I was not particularly self-conscious early on, that began to change as I got older with high school on the horizon. My father was very perceptive and sensing my self-conscious state, he invited me to go downtown with him. Reaching our destination, he instructed me to walk the length of the city block as I usually walked, with my head down and no eye contact. “When you reach the end of the block, turn around and walk the same block back to me with your head up and smile at everyone”, he said.
I did as I was told and to my delight, as I turned around and looked people in the eye and flashed a generous smile, I found people looking me in the eye and responding with their own smile. Standing once again in front of my father, I was ready for what was next. He said, “What happened?” and I told him. He put one hand on each of my shoulders and looking me squarely in the eye said, “That is going to be your choice in life, to keep your head down and troubled or greet life with a smile and be happy.”
He taught me to look for the good and while I didn’t know it at the time, it shaped my life. Eventually a treatment was developed for wandering eye and at the age of 25, I had my eye corrected. These many years later, my mind wanders back to the lessons my father taught me about happiness; the game at the table and the exercise on the city block, and I am grateful.
My grandfather was the caretaker of Protection Island, an island protecting the city of Nanaimo Harbour in the Canadian San Juan Islands. My mother had an exceptional singing career and when she came to visit the island, she always entertained her friends from Nanaimo. She was the local girl who made good. During these times she dressed me up in starched clothes and curled my hair like Shirley Temple, much to the humor and teasing of my cousins.
My grandparents invited me to stay on the island with them in the summer. My seven cousins also lived on the island and together we spent our days on the beach, in bathing suits, often sleeping in them.
During the summers on the island, I learned to be helpful, contributing to household chores and running errands. I gathered coal and wood for the fire, chopped the wood, cleaned the cabin, pumped water and rowed 4 miles to Nanaimo for groceries. It was a way of showing gratitude to my grandparents for inviting me into their lives, teaching me the love of the great outdoors and instructing me in the art of fishing for food.
They needed me and I needed them. I learned skiing, scuba diving, hunting and swimming while living in the cabin. When I had children of my own, I introduced them to this same lifestyle which they still enjoy today. I never met anyone who had a better childhood than mine!
As I got older, I continued to enjoy three months every summer with my grandparents till I was twelve. On the island, I discovered boys and boats. I could enjoy both, but the rule was, I had to stay in the harbor where grandma could see me. This began my love affair with sailing and a desire to see the world. My parents and I only ventured on one trip together, and I wanted to change that for my children. I dreamed of going to explore the world in a sailboat.
One day a boy came to give me a sailboat ride. His mother had made us a lunch and we sailed out the gap and around the back of the island to a nice warm bay. I had disobeyed the rule of not going out of my grandmother’s sight and the next morning, I was on my way home, never to get back to Protection Island without my mother.
On returning home to Seattle, I found work, finished high school and graduated from the University of Washington as a Home Economics teacher. After a marriage and two children, the $477/mo. from teaching was not enough money so I became a real estate agent when my husband was transferred to California. The change was very profitable both in knowledge and experiences.
We bought a motorhome and “never looked back”, traveling for years all over Canada, the U.S. and Baja, Mexico, fishing, clamming, exploring and making friends all over the world.
Eventually we settled in our cabin on Protection Island but after only 6 years, my husband, Loch died unexpectedly. I sold the cabin, moved to the Seattle area and into the Chateau 2013 where I have been happy for the last many years.
Chateau Retirement Communities are based in the Seattle, WA area. Chateau Retirement offers Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care living options. Contact us today to learn more about our family owned and operated communities, or schedule a tour.
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