Today is the sixth anniversary of my mom’s death. Betty Lou Bucklin was born in Hathaway, Louisiana, on May 20, 1933. She died in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on January 19, 2017. My dad was not far behind. Robert Joseph Landry, Jr. was born on January 31, 1929, in Lake Charles, and died there on January 24, 2017. Yes, it was only five days apart from natural causes. They liked to do things together, so it was appropriate that they had a joint funeral on the 28th of that month. They had 64 good years together. Toward the end they were growing much more dependent on one another. We always thought that when one of them went, the other wouldn’t be far behind. I never thought that it would be that close.
When I think about it, I always thought that my dad would be the first to go. He was the one with the heart problems on his side of the family. His dad (RJL, Sr.) died at the age of 64 from a heart attack in 1957. His mom (Germaine Erie Patureau) died at the age of 78 in 1973 – also from a heart attack. He had open-heart surgery and that’s probably what extended his life so much. That and the healthy food my mom always cooked.
But that didn’t stop us from worrying. Most of the time when I would get a call from home, I would wonder if it was the news that the end was near or had already happened. I did that for years – probably decades. I know my sister Karen used to do the same thing. I remember talking about it before. Even toward the end we were thinking the same thing. There was talk about moving my mom to Texas when my dad died. She could be closer to my younger sister Jamie for a while.
At the end we were still thinking that. I got a call on the 18th about Daddy going into hospice and that he only had a few days left. Later in the night I got a call that Mama had fallen out of bed and hit her head on the floor. Something similar had happened before, but it was nothing too serious. So the next morning it was my dad who had the Last Rites performed on him, but it was my mom who died. She didn’t want to be left alone.
Ok, that’s enough sad talk. I wanted to talk about Bob and Betty the Round Dancers. They had so much fun dancing with each other through the years. When my dad retired in the mid 1980s, he had hobbies like golf, barbershop singing, and genealogy. Those are fine hobbies (especially the genealogy!), but they aren’t ones that included my mom. So mom insisted that they come up with an activity that they could do together, and round dancing was the answer. Most people don’t know what round dancing is, but it was perfect for them.
Now most people know what square dancing is. Couples form a square and dance around, following the directions of someone giving them calls for specific steps to complete. Sometimes the couples dance with other couples’ partners. In round dancing it is more like ballroom dancing. The person giving the instructions is a cuer (he gives cues, not calls). The couples dance in a large circle and they stay with their partner.
My mom and dad did this for years. They loved it. They would go to dances all over the South. Every year the big one they went to was in Dallas at Thanksgiving. My mom was able to incorporate another of her talents with the dancing. She made all of the dresses that she would wear for the dances. They had to be made from comfortable material that had a nice design to it and it flowed well when she’d twirl. I saw them dance in their house, but never saw them dance at any of their dances they went to. But I got to see the videos that they made at many of the dances. My dad got to be a cuer and he would make up dances for some of his favorite songs. So it helped to record the dances. That way he could show the video when he’d teach people the dances.
Now that I’m talking about it, round dancing was also another thing that helped to extend my dad’s life. That’s probably true for both of them. It was such a good activity that they both really enjoyed doing together. It also helped that they loved each other and enjoyed each other’s company. Their love for each other and their family is a legacy they left for us. The dancing was just one way of many of demonstrating that.