TAMPA HEIGHTS — Bobby Boutwell is 69 years old. She has two daughters, two sons and five grandchildren.
She hates washing dishes, eating Lima beans and being around people who curse.
She loves drinking chocolate milk for breakfast, doing the crossword puzzles in the paper and listening to her priest.
She also loves owls. She is so fascinated by this nocturnal, solitary bird of prey that she has a small blue owl tattooed on her right ankle. It was her 69th birthday gift from her grandson Keith.
On a recent Wednesday morning, she woke up in her Lowry Park area home at 6:30, just as she always does. Outside, the sun would not rise for another half an hour, but Boutwell had a mission: to visit a friend.
At 6:30 that same balmy morning, Dorothy Klein still slept in her house in Tampa Heights, where she has lived for the past 25 years.
Klein is 82. She was a bookkeeper at Walgreens for 26 years, before retiring in 1987. She has a daughter, two sons, seven grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Klein loves watering her plants, smoking Salem cigarettes and sitting on the porch. Her favorite flower is the rose.
She hates losing at scratch-off lottery tickets, eating sweets and needing a wheelchair.
She has read the Bible three times in the past year to ward off boredom, she says.
Both women have lost their husbands. Both survived breast cancer. And both don't see their families much.
On that morning, like every Monday and Wednesday, Boutwell drove the 4 miles to Klein's house for a couple of hours of companionship and laughter.
They met through Seniors in Service, a nonprofit organization that recruits seniors to volunteer in the community. Boutwell has been a volunteer for one year. Her job is to visit Klein and other seniors each week. The companionship, Klein says, is helping her overcome the death of her husband about a year ago.
In celebration of National Grandparent's Day this Sunday, Boutwell and other volunteers for Seniors in Service will participate in the Grandparent Fashion Show Benefit at the Rusty Pelican on Saturday. She will be one of the models at the event sponsored by the Vein Center of Tampa Bay.
It was almost 10 a.m. when Boutwell stepped on the porch and walked into the house decorated with teddy bears, stuffed dolls and family pictures.
Klein sat in her wheelchair at the round dining table, her back to the kitchen. Her icy-blue eyes were framed by a soft cloud of sandy hair.
She wore a pink slipper on her left foot. Her right leg was amputated above the knee because of an aneurysm three years ago. A bowl of oatmeal sat in front of her. "I can't eat anymore," she said bringing her hands to her head.
Klein, who has blood pressure problems, has lost her appetite. She now weighs 90 pounds.
These days, she looks forward to Boutwell's visits.
Sitting on a chair next to her, Boutwell pulled out the scratch-off lottery tickets from her purse. The two speculated who would win the most money. Each usually plays $25 worth of tickets a week.
With a coin in one hand and a Salem cigarette in the other, each scratched off a series of tickets.
"No quickies," said Boutwell.
She once won $3,000 back in 1991. "I'd like to see that figure again," she said.
The phone rang.
It was one of Klein's granddaughters. She couldn't come to see her that afternoon, but would swing by the next day.
Boutwell and Klein finished scratching the last two tickets.
In all, Klein won $7.
"I got $17," said Boutwell.
"Okay, rub it in," Klein replied.
Soon it was noon and the two-hour visit was over.
Boutwell kissed Klein goodbye.
"Behave yourself," she said.
"I can't do anything else but that," Klein replied.
Alessandra Da Pra can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3434.