This is my first Blog post about Bettina, which I plan to become a series of stories about someone who inspires me every day. Bettina is the reason that I came into this career in 1996 after 24 years in the Army. Who is Bettina? She is a 26 year old woman who has a Learning Disability and Autism and copes with Epilepsy. She also happens to be my youngest daughter (by the way I have 2 awesome daughters!)
During this series of ‘Being Bettina’s Dad’ I will be writing about why she inspires me, how she has developed me as a person – and how she has helped me to see the world. Teaching me valuable leadership lessons, some of which are included in this piece. I hope these stories will inspire you.
Every other Saturday it is ‘my turn’ to spend the morning with Bettina. Bettina has a Personal Assistant (PA) who is with Bettina on the other Saturdays and Bettina rotates her time between me and her PA – although each of us is put out when the other gets to spend time with Bettina! (Honestly we sulk).
It was my turn last week! What Bettina loves doing most with me is going to one of her favourite places which is Frinton on Sea. If you are not acquainted with the place, it is in Essex on the East Coast between Clacton and Walton and couldn’t be more different from either seaside resort. Frinton is from another time (probably the 1950s or 1960s) it is quiet and the greensward and beach are clean, tidy and spacious. Frinton does not have a High Street! It has Connaught Avenue and, until the 1990s, didn’t have a Pub or a Chip Shop (and still only has one of each).
Bettina likes her routine (and I quite like it too) of going to her favourite second hand book shop where she purchases lots of books, the newsagent for her magazine, the bakery and a café for her hot chocolate before we go for a walk on the greensward which takes us on to the beach where she throws pebbles into the sea – she has both an incredible reach and aim!
We have been doing this together for the last 20 years and I look forward to our time together in the same way for each visit. No matter what is happening in my work life – whatever the crisis, whatever the adversity I am facing, I enjoy just being with Bettina (my wife, Joyce, and I think she has healing powers). How?
- She helps me to get things into perspective. Bettina has complex communication issues so every day (every minute!) is a challenge for her to understand her world – “is my current problem really that challenging??”
- Bettina is very vulnerable, she needs me to be a 100% present – so I can’t afford the luxury of thinking about my issues – I need to completely focus on Bettina. I can’t describe the happy feeling inside this gives me.
- Bettina has innocence in the way she sees the world. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, there are no ‘isms’ in Bettina’s world and she doesn’t get sarcasm. She does get people who are confident and positive around her.
- Bettina loves life. She is funny and makes me laugh, she smiles throughout her morning in Frinton – smiling and enthusiasm really is infectious! You would be amazed how many people smile back at us when we are walking through Frinton – initially I wondered why, until I looked at Bettina – who was smiling at them.
What I most love about our trips together is that Bettina truly is part of her community! If for any reason we have missed a few trips, people notice she is not there. When we go again, shop assistants look relieved to see her and often comment to her asking where she has been. She doesn’t just make a difference in her family’s lives, she makes a difference to people within her community.