Pat, Bailey, Wes. I am obviously the tallest person in my family.
I’ve resolved to be more prolific, like the old days when writing every day wasn’t such a chore. Hard to say what that looks like, but I think sticking to some sort of posting schedule is probably the way to go.
This year has been hard in more ways than one and getting myself to work has sometimes been impossible. Despite what my therapist says, I don’t want to use the pandemic as an excuse to not write. 2020 will not crush me, I won’t allow it.
That being said, let’s not get it twisted: 2020 has been a real bitch, and I need to talk about it.
In October, my grandmother passed away after a long, nasty bout with bladder cancer that spread to her bones. The infection was deep, invasive, unresponsive to care. And I knew last year would be her last Thanksgiving, so I went home to be with her and to be with my mother. My mother, who has softer at heart than many would believe, was already taking Grandma Pat’s sickness hard, and I knew that my being there would help shore her up.
More than that, I wanted to do something that my mother would appreciate later, and the best idea I came up with was to give her my grandmother’s voice. My grandmother had a unique voice: an English accent eroded by five decades of living in the States, those holes patched with a weird Southern affect taken on by four decades of living on the Gulf Coast. She also had this habit of getting huffy over literally anything because she had absolutely zero patience. It was priceless.
Wes and Pat in the long-long ago
During my week-long visit to the family homestead in Missouri, it took three days of gentle (okay, aggressive) prodding to Grandma to tell me about her life. My grandmother was a private person, and I’d never heard the full story before, but my insistence got her to talk. I learned about how much she loved her father (and that he had lost a leg in a motorcycle accident during a WWII blackout), that she met my grandfather at a Halloween party, that she had to live in trailer on my great-grandmother’s property with 2 children while my grandfather was deployed abroad during Vietnam. At 19, she left England to go on an adventure that led them across the United States, across Europe, making lifelong friends, living in a way that most people can hope. She made the raddest sausage rolls and bought all of her grandchildren an advent calendar every year. She kept a gorgeous garden and made she the hummingbirds were always fed.
When she went, she was at home with my grandfather nearby. Her breaths became further apart until they stopped altogether. Her death came as no surprise to anyone, and I knew better than most that this would be the dance that took her to that next place. My heart is relieved that she’s no longer in pain. I have her story recorded. My mom isn’t ready to hear it, but she will be. Maybe in a year.
Lillian Patrician Lemon Stephens traveled the world, raised three kids, worked hard, and was the epitome of English affection (i.e., emotionally distant but would make you a snack if you were sad).
My grandmother was a remarkable woman. I miss her.