Betsy Whitt

I read. I write. I think. I live.

The Day Job

I don’t talk much about my day job these days. That is in part because I’m wary about saying things online that can be traced to real life. It is in part because a lot of the time there’s not much worth saying, because I tend to work rather mundane jobs that allow me to spend my real brain power in other areas, like writing. And, to be frank, sometimes I’m in a mood to complain and day jobs just cry out for that sort of thing, whether they deserve it or not–but I try to keep the outright complaining to a minimum. Finally, there are subjects that I’ve always been taught to be very careful discussing in polite company (like religion and politics) and my jobs of late have been with religious institutions. So I try to tread softly.

I do things like refer obliquely to my job and whether or not it’s going well, but most people who just read my blog don’t know what I actually do. And I know I mentioned that I was switching jobs a few months ago, but again, I gave very few details.

But I’m having such a great time that I want to tell you about it.

I work for a gentleman, Dr. Grounds, who is 94 years old. He still comes into the office every day to meet with people and mentor students at the school where he has worked for the last 57 years. He usually arrives, picked up by a friend, by 7:30 in the morning, and we leave at around three in the afternoon, when I drive him home to the retirement community where he and his wife of over 70 years have lived for almost as long as I’ve been alive.

My job, essentially, is to make it as easy as possible for Dr. Grounds to come in and meet with people. I make appointments and serve as his hands and feet for quick errands around campus, make sure he eats lunch, and generally make sure he’s okay. Most of the time, when he doesn’t have a visitor, he reads or prays in his office; on a particularly sunny afternoon, he’s likely to doze off in his chair. Quite often, he encourages me to work on whatever writing I’m currently in the middle of.

“Is the genius burning?” he’ll ask. Thanks to him, it often is these days.

His office is in the back of the seminary library, through the Reading Room that is named for him and holds his personal library, which he has donated to the school–I don’t know for certain, but at a rough estimate I’d guess there are eight to ten thousand books in that room. It’s quiet back here, and sometimes Dr. Grounds sings to himself in his office; old hymns or popular songs from sixty or seventy years ago. His voice is strong, but roughened and a bit gravelly with age. He reminds me, in the best possible way, of a strange mix between my husband’s grandmother and Yoda. And he has a vivid imagination and dry, razor-sharp wit that regularly makes me laugh.

Last week, the library had a fire drill. We took the rear emergency exit and, as Dr. Grounds made his way with his walker around the building, he asked where we were headed. I told him we needed to meet up with the rest of the library staff, and he said, “Ah, is that so they know not to look for our charred corpses?”

“That’s exactly it, Dr. Grounds.”

I’m still chuckling about it more than a week later.



  1. Dr. Grounds sounds so wonderful. I’ll bet you can get so many ideas for future characters. I’m happy he encourages your genius.

  2. Aw, shucks. I’m not sure I’d call it genius, but his steady expectation that I’m making progress is certainly a good incentive to follow through. I’m probably getting more benefit out of being here than he is from having me. :)

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