Clean enough to be healthy. Dirty enough to be happy.

by Mary Helen Darah

Betty Tario, who proudly served her country in WWII with the Royal Canadian Air Force, and granddaughter Gillian Beadle enjoy a moment.

I recently headed to our family home in Canada to spend some time with my childhood friend Pete and his family, full of faces that are “home” to me. They recently had to say goodbye to his mom, Betty, the matriarch of the Tario family who filled 98 years of life to the brim. In fact, the widow Betty had a companion for the last few decades–a younger man to boot–who lived in the states. The 96-year-old Clarence from Detroit and our gal would meet on a regular basis until the weather got too dicey. In true soul mate fashion, Clarence died a week and a day after she passed.
The celebration of life was a beautiful send off to a woman who improved the disposition of anyone who came into her path. It is only fitting that following the hymns ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ the pallbearers would carry the woman with the infectious chuckle out of church while the organist belted out, ‘I’m Back in the Saddle Again.’
There were many memorable moments of her sendoff but one in particular hit a chord or, more accurately, a dust bunny with me. While sharing impactful, unfiltered memories of times spent with her grandmother, her granddaughter Cassie related her favorite saying from her Nana. In regards to housekeeping, and for that matter in life, “Keep things clean enough to be healthy but dirty enough to be happy.” Knowing Betty for all of my five plus decades, I took that to mean find the perfect in the imperfect.
When I was a kid, her cabin was the place to watch sunsets. Of course, you had to move a few items to find a seat and pitching in to fold clothes while watching the sun go to bed was pretty much a given. There was only one way to be in her presence-authentic. She was far from ever becoming a Martha Stewart. Unlike Martha she would never be one to gather eggs from a coop while waiting for the dough to rise for stone-ground wheat bread, or squeeze oranges between her thighs for fresh juice all while perfectly attired. Heading to Betty’s you could expect a Pop Tart and a Canada Dry until you reached maturity. Then a Molson accompanied anything handed to you.

Jim and Dorothy McQuillian, good friends of Betty and her husband, Lloyd Tario, enjoy their healthy, slightly messy and happy Cutler Lake properties that were bought after WWII. Jim, Betty, and Lloyd served with the RCAF.

I loved her perfectly imperfect life. It gave me permission to vent to her about my own messes that made Martha Stewart’s cleaning issues seem amateurish. My cleaning crises went far beyond Windex and elbow grease. Did Martha ever have to get red hot candies and hardened frosting out of collie fur or contend with a trickle-down DNA moment? My poor mother had to figure out how to contend with my brother as a toddler who decided to decorate his private anatomy with a black Sharpie. Like her, I had to contend with a young daughter who decorated her sister’s face with permanent markers before our Christmas photoshoot. Betty informed me that one day I would look back at that moment with laughter. She also told me that Soft Scrub with Bleach and hairspray would most likely remove the full-size rendering in black ink pen, done by the creative middle child of yours truly, of a pretty princess gown and dangly earrings on our white leather couch. Her words of wisdom have been road tested and proven to be correct. Some of the messiest moments in life somehow end up being the most memorable.
So Betty, thank you for showing this woman how to let go of the need to be perfect and embrace the happiness that can be found in this messy, dusty, unfolded world. Like you, I will never have decorative towels hanging unscathed like protected museum pieces in my home. In fact, the average lifespan of a “pretty towel” in my home is 3.5 hours. However, I will have perfectly imperfect people hanging around my table, ignoring the dust, and sharing stories of your incredible life as the sun meets the horizon.

4 thoughts on “Clean enough to be healthy. Dirty enough to be happy.

  1. Such a great story, thanks for sharing Mary, I have so many happy memories of Aunt Betts, she was an inspiration to us all.

  2. What a wonderful view of my Mom. Great job from the heart to the pen.

    Thanks, The Tario’s

  3. A beautiful message of life to the fullest. So sorry to hear of Clarence passing He could no longer live without his soul mate Betty. God bless them . Always together

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