(My Granny and Grandpa, Vera Opal Agan and William K. Agan)
William “Bill” Kaywood Agan
Everyone loved Grandpa Bill. The ladies adored him and all the men in Carthage Missouri counted him as the best guy around for a good story and a fair shake. Bill was a flirt with the ladies and could make anyone’s day a little brighter with his smile and good natured optimism. Everyone who knew him has told me that I am just like my Grandpa.
I loved him of course, and as a little boy I could twist him around my little finger because I was his special boy “Lanier has the sun and the stars in him.” He used to say. The day he died I was 9 years old and for some reason I played sick that day and stayed home watching old movies on channel 13. I can still hear Granny screaming as she ran the half block from her house to ours and Mother’s face when she heard her. I followed down the street in my pajamas and Roy Rogers cowboy hat. I saw Granny collapse in the yard. She couldn’t go back in to the house where he had fallen dead from a heart attack in the kitchen. Mother went in as the neighbors pulled me away.
Ten years latter when I was 19 it was a low point in my life. I was coming out of the closet and madly in love with a boy who didn’t care. I was in Jr. College and at night between one A.M. and four I delivered the L.A. Times to the University neighborhood in Riverside California. I was so beaten down by my struggle to just be me, the one and only me. It was the very year of Judy’s death in London and Stonewall that very night in New York. I was so down I was trying to figure out how to kill myself. If I drove fast enough and then swerved for the concrete streetlamps in the center of Central Avenue it would all be over.
The speedometer was at 65 when I suddenly realized someone was sitting in the empty seat next to me. I slammed on the breaks and skidded to the side of the road. I turned to look at the passenger seat. Grandpa Bill was sitting next to me smiling. He didn’t say a word as he faded into nothing. I knew at once why he was there.
Each night for the next month he rode with me until I found the courage to move forward and embrace who I was with pride.
Vera Opal Eden Agan
Granny always reminded me of Bette Davis, She had those big blue eyes the same mouth and that wonderful laugh that Bette had, even more so in old age. I loved to make Granny laugh. And it was fun having my very own Bette Davis when I was growing up. The funny thing is that everyone in my family looked like a movie star. Mother looked like Rosalind Russell, Aunt Betty, her sister looked like Linda Darnell, Uncle Bud looked like John Wayne with a bit of Bob Hope around the nose …and my father looked like Clark Gable.
Anyway back to Granny, she was also tough like Bette, no nonsense. Once after her shift in the ship yards during World War II in Long Beach some guy pinched her bottom on the way down the gangplank. Granny whirled around and slapped him just like Bette slapped Errol Flynn in “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex” and then said. “Do that again buster and you will be scratching your head with a hook wondering what the hell happened.”
During the early part of the Depression Grandpa was shot in the leg after putting a stop to some drunk and over zealous boys who got fresh with his wife at a barn dance, Well sir, Granny ran the farm and did all the plowing, took care of the kids, nursed Grandpa back to health and drove the truck to market. She kept the family going and when it was time and the farm was lost she said “California here we come”. She never looked back, always forward, always to the West.
My best memory of Granny was when I was in my twenties. Granny lived up in Windsor a small town near the Russian River and Santa Rosa. I was up at the river with some friends at a bar along Guerneville Road. I called granny to say hi. She asked where I was. “I’ll be right there.” I told her it was a gay bar. “So what? I like happy people. I’ll be right there.”
Ten minutes later the door opened into the bar and with the low slung sun backlighting her tiny five foot two frame she strode in like Margo Channing. She smiled and nodded to a couple of lesbians playing pool. I half expected her to say “Enchanté to you too!” but she didn’t. Instead she came to my table to meet my friends and as I stood, like always she gave me the biggest hug and kiss.
“Just like your grandpa, I find you surrounded by the best looking people in the room. And just like him I bet you are filling their heads with all kinds of wild stories. Don’t believe a thing Lanier tells you… He is Irish just like my Bill. ”
(At the Agan Turkey Farm in Fontana where I killed all the turkeys with the Chicken Pox. Granny never let me forget that!)
VERA AND BILL ~ FIVE PLATINUM STARS