Hello, My Name Is Bonnie
Why, What, How
Most of the senior citizens I’ve met yearn to be an example of success and happiness. They don’t relish the idea of anyone making their same mistakes. Often times, they don’t always know WHY they made a certain choice, but they almost always know WHAT they would do differently given the chance, and they always know HOW they want to be remembered.
There isn’t a single manual on How to Live Life that will work for each person or culture within this seven billion+ human population. But we can hear firsthand accounts—Vitality Stories—and walk away with awareness about another person’s choices and results, and we can contemplate how those same choices might impact our own lives, especially if we have a similar choice to make in the future. Education and informed decisions, regardless of the topic, start with curiosity, a question. To learn from someone’s experience, we only need to ask them, and that’s what I’ll be doing with Vitality Stories Interviews.
And on this note, I’d like to share a Vitality Stories Interview with my mother, Bonnie.
Q: What one word best describes you?
A: Of service, helpful, or caring. Since I have moved into assisted living, I think I’m about serving and helping people in distress. There are a lot of good things that happen here, and there are sad things that happen, too. I’d like to contribute to the good things and I’d like to console the people who have the sad things. There are so many people here who need somebody to speak for them and need somebody to care, and that’s the person I’ve become. I try to speak for them.
Q: Do you know what your purpose or passion is in life today? When and did you recognize it?
A: Today, my purpose in life is to stay healthy. I’ve put in quite a few good years. When you get to my age—80 in April—you think about mortality more. I want everyone to know that I’m hoping to have a good bunch of years ahead. I’ve outlived my dad, my mother, and my grandpa, and of course, my grandma died in her eighties so I hope I live longer than her, too. I’m ready to hang in here!
Also, I LOVE being able to write. I’m thankful I have Teri to type and Ken here to take care of the equipment for me. I’m almost ready to start my second book, and it’s definitely going to be about living in an assisted living home like I am now. My mother, Leona, used to write little, short stores. I wish I would have saved them, but somewhere along the line they got lost. She wrote them for my oldest sons, Ken and Steve, and then she’d sit the boys on her lap and read the stories to them. So I guess caring, and writing has been in my family for a long time, and I just didn’t know it. Ken even wrote a story, but I don’t have that either. Gee, how sad it is when you don’t keep track of stuff. I remember it was about his dad’s surprise birthday party and Ken was about five years old. He got to serve his dad a whiskey sour. (Laughing.) I often wonder what his teacher at school thought of that story. He was so proud of himself that he got to serve the whiskey sour and write about it.
Q: To date, what accomplishment are you most proud of in your life?
A: As far as what I’m proudest of to date, it’s being the mother of nine children. I love my kids. I haven’t always been the perfect mother, that’s for sure. I’ve made my mistakes. And I have gracious kids because they all seem to have forgiven me for any mistakes I made.
Oh, I’m reading Teri’s selfie-interview while I do this interview and she wrote that she likes who she is. Reminds me that my grandma used to stand me in front of the bathroom mirror and she’d ask me, “Who are you?”
“Bonnie,” I said.
“Yeah, but who are you?” She pushed.
“I’m a nice girl,” I said.
“Yes you are and you remember that.”
Grandma used to tell me that when God passed out egos, he gave two to me. I never had bad feelings about myself, I’ll put it that way.
But my nine kids are the greatest things I have ever had. I talk to the young staff girls here, who, to me, look too young to have children though they have three or four each, and I tell them, “Try to find work where you an be home a lot.” Some of them work day and night to feed their kids and that’s not right. Please, if you’re going to have kids, just try to find a way to be at home. I wish I would have. A lot of my kids would have had a better life had I been able to stay home.
Q: What has been your biggest lesson in life?
A: Well, the biggest lesson in life is just that—life is a lesson. When I learn something in life and if I think it is good and I think it will help me, or if I can teach one of my kids something, that’s the biggest lesson. For example, my choices were very limited as far as raising kids, but I know now that I should’ve made it an issue and act on and improve my circumstances.
Q: Do you have a sliding door moment in life where you had the option to take two or more paths? What is the scenario? How do you feel about your decision?
A: One time some of my kids did an intervention with me. It was my four youngest. I really didn’t listen to them. I didn’t hear their heartbreak. I didn’t see the tears in their eyes. I tried not to make the choice that I ended up making anyway, and later I knew it was the wrong choice. That particular night when I came home and they were waiting for me, I should have listened and told them they were right because they were right. They were 100% right about what they asked me to do, and isn’t it terrible that a fifteen, twelve, nine, and six year old should have to tell their mother the best thing to do for them? I should have known and it bothers me to this day. In bed at night, I think about this fact that I didn’t take care of my kids properly. I didn’t understand me. I don’t think my children know—they will now and Teri will because she is typing this—how many times I have said to myself, I didn’t know what to do about that. I wish I could go back and redo that night. It sits with me all the time. I wish I would have known what I know now. The person I was involved with was no good. I don’t even know why I was involved with him. It was just a crazy, crazy moment, and it certainly wasn’t any good for anybody. I never again did that too my kids.
Q: If you could change something about your past, whether your actions or someone else’s that impacted you, what would it be?
A: I wish I had made better choices in picking people to be with—I’m talking about male companionship. I sure didn’t make good choices. I never did. I would now. I don’t know why I didn’t then.
I never wanted to travel except before I had children. I had this bucket list of places I wanted to go and what kind of jobs I wanted. So I would change that—I would have taken a risk on some of these jobs. Before I had Ken, my oldest, I would have gone somewhere and done something that I had really planned on doing. My girlfriend, Joanne, and I had all these plans. And they were good plans.
Q: Have you ever felt stuck, or polarized by fear of change? Have you changed this? If so, how?
A: I don’t know if I’ve ever felt polarized by fear or change. I think even when I felt stuck I knew I didn’t have to be stuck. I knew I could get out of it. Sometimes I just thought it was easier to not get out. There are some things in my mind I can still see. First of all, my divorce from my first husband, and not going about it in the proper way, gave my first four kids an awful beginning. I didn’t even discuss it with anybody and I should have. Their father should’ve had more of a say in my choice to move them away. He wasn’t a bad man, and maybe I turned him into a monster and he wasn’t one. I will say this though, I seemed to pick men who needed to be taken care of and what I wanted was someone capable of taking care of me.
Q: Do you regret anything, big or small, that keeps popping up in your life? Any plans to do anything about it? Is it correctible?
A: Not all of my kids come to me for advice or confide in me. But I’d like to be someone my kids can come to when they have problems. Some of them do, some of them don’t. I’ve learned to accept the past and try not to bring up anything they don’t offer to discuss. One of my sons is mentally ill, and he comes to me quite often. I like to think I help him when he needs me. He will always be the one I need to help. And we’ve lived together for so long and we know each other so well, from time to time, I need him as bad as he needs me. I don’t know if that is good or not.
We interrupt this interview to share: “Oh, by the way, I’m the domino champion at the house!”
Q: If you could travel back in time and speak to your twenty-year old self, what would you say?
A: Oh my. This is quite a question. I had a baby at twenty years old. I didn’t think I wanted to be a mother, but when they put Ken in my arms I thought, this is what I want. I don’t want my old bucket list. I don’t want my trip to NYC. I do not want to go to CBS Radio in NYC. I want my child. I want another child.
So there is what started the ‘large family thinking,’ I guess. I loved being a mother. I really did. If you read my memoirs, you know my first husband was an okay father but both he and my second husband were not men I could always count on. I would tell my twenty year-old self to ask, Can this man take care of me? Will this man take care of your kids? And I’d tell myself to find the answers before I hook up with them.
When I was twenty, I walked in the door of our ramshackle house with my first baby and my black Labrador was so happy to see us and greeted us when we came home. That was home. Now I would say to twenty year-old me, “This is what life is. Please Lord, let me have some more of this kind of life.”
Q: What is the best advice you ever received?
A: The best advice I ever received came from my dad, who I went to for all of the advice, but it’s kind of gross. He said, “Bonnie, it’s up to you to handle this. You either shit or get off the pot.” So you either take care of it, or you leave, that’s what he was saying. He used that graphic term. And I thought about making it nicer by saying, “Pee or get off the pot.” But that’s not what he said. And he meant what he said. He would’ve done anything for me, but he said I had to take care of it and that I was the only one who would know how. And that was true.
Q: What advice do you tend to dish out?
A: I don’t know, but I hope it’s good advice. I hope it’s true advice.
Q: What is one of the best things that happened to you?
A: One of the best things that has happened to me, even though I’m here in assisted living, is my kids have set me up with a Kindle, a TV, my headset, cell phone, and my computer. I have all these things. I can read. I can watch TV. I call lifetime friends. I’m on Facebook. My youngest just gave me a CD Walkman so I have my music I like to listen to. I have everything I want in this world. No, I cannot walk, but I can still talk, think, and breathe in and out, and for that I’m thankful.
Q: What is the best compliment anyone has given you?
A: I have my high school graduation picture hanging on the wall with my kids’ pictures. And my house-mates say that I look as pretty now as I did then. I don’t believe them, of course, because I don’t think it’s true. But these are people who are my age and they look at the picture and they give me that compliment and it makes me feel good. I smile and I think, I’m glad. I’m so glad.
Q: How would your mom and/or dad describe you?
A: With my dad I could do no wrong and with my mom I always could do wrong. I was Daddy’s Little Girl. My brother was Mama’s Boy. My mother and I never got to be friends until after I was married. Marriage was a good thing there.
Q: How would your siblings describe you? Do you agree?
A: I only have one sibling, my brother. I’m sure he gets mad at me sometimes. I have PTSD and I’ve put things in his path, saying they were his fault, but of course, they weren’t. The PTSD does something to me.
Q: What is something about you that you assume everyone knows about you, but can be surprised to learn someone doesn’t?
A: Hmm. I need to think about that.
Q: When did you realize things/special powers/uniqueness/quirks/etc. about yourself?
A: I don’t know if I have any special powers. If I could pick, they would be powers that enabled me to understand my kids and know if their feelings were hurt. I always wanted to know what was going on in their heads and their lives. Some of my girls and boys and I talk now, and we have good talks about what happened and what I could have done to stop things, and lots of times they say, “You couldn’t have done anything, Mom. Just the way it was.” But I should have done more to protect my kids. In my later years, I know that. At the time, it seemed to me I tried, but I guess I probably didn’t do so all the time.
We interrupt this interview to say: Teri, I hope this dictation is working or I’m in a lot of trouble!
Q: What is the next dream you want to act on?
A: I have written one book, Bonnie Beck Zutter Case in the Fast Lane With a Few Speed Bumps. That was very much a lot of fun for me to write it. It took me six months to get it written, but it was so much fun for me. So my next dream is to write a book about this place, but I won’t be using anybody’s name. Assisted Living On A Full Moon is the title I have in mind.
Q: Who would play you in the movie of your life?
A: When I was a kid we’d go to the movies and afterwards, we’d act them out. There was an actress, Veronica Lake, who wore her blonde hair down and over one eye and she looked real sexy to me. I remember thinking, That’s the way I want to look. Still do. So Veronica Lake would play me in the movie of my life.
That wraps up my mom’s Vitality Stories Interview for 2015. As you know, she plans on having a “good bunch of years ahead,” so I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from her.
Feel free to borrow these questions and ask your family, friends, or mentor. Heck, interview yourself. I personally plan to share my annual selfie-interview with subscribers because if I’m living the life I want to live, my Bests will only get better.
As always, thank you for joining me! Have a wonderful day.
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