A LIMITED ENGAGEMENT ~ For Vickie Lester

(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

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30 Comments

  1. A beautiful post!

  2. Thank you for sharing, Lanier.

  3. Thanks for sharing your memories of those two very dear people, still with you in your heart…it reminds me to be grateful to all my relatives ♡

    • Grateful is always a good way to be when it comes to your family.

  4. Great post. It’s nice to have memories like that.

  5. Tears before breakfast – but cathartic ones. If you wrote your memoirs I would buy the first 100 copies. This is some powerful stuff. I have to let it sink in and check back later 🙂

    • You are so sweet to say that Vickie! Have a cup of coffee and get back to me later. Hugs from up here…

      Oh we just had a big fire at the Squat and Gobble restaurant this morning. They are already calling it the Great Squat and Gobble Fire of 2012!

  6. […] A LIMITED ENGAGEMENT ~ For Vickie Lester. Share this:TwitterFacebookStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

    • Oh…now that was really nice to put me on your blog.

      • I just read your piece for the fourth time and it’s still resonating. You write with bell like clarity and use cultural references that immediately evoke the strongest images. I LOVE THIS. I have a feeling pretty soon I’ll be printing all you posts and putting them in a binder so I can carry them around and read them whenever I want. Hugs and more hugs from here, V

      • Next thing you know I might be sending you my play to read and my crappy screenplays. seriously Vickie…. thank you. For you who I admire so much for your talent and style this means the world to me.
        Okay, now we have to do the last line from “Casablanca”…. You know how it goes.

      • Lanier, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

        Bon nuit!

  7. Lanier, this is a freaking amazing post. Beautiful, sad, haunting (literally), and so sweet. Your grandparents were obviously wonderful people. And I love your comparison of your Granny to Margo Channing. I can totally picture it.

    • Merci Madame! It just makes me so happy that you and everyone else took to this thing I dashed off as an afterthought for the picture Miss Vickie wanted to see. Love and Hugs from San Francisco.

  8. What a blessing to have such a family! A beautiful read, indeed! 🙂

    • My one and only Cleopatra! Thank you so much. Hugs and Love always.

  9. Lanier, you are a master storyteller. This is right up there with the Christmas perfume post.

  10. Poignant!

  11. Lanier – how wonderful. You are a lucky man to have had such love surrounding you. Thanks for sharing your memories!

    • Thank YOU for taking the time to read them. Cheers to my favorite hound!

  12. What a lovely story, Lanier! Thank you for sharing these beautiful remembrances with us. How fortunate to have been blessed with such amazing grandparents! (Love your vintage photos!)

    • My dear Marie, thank you so much… I thought you might like the photos.

  13. […] A LIMITED ENGAGEMENT ~ For Vickie Lester | SCENTS MEMORY. […]

  14. Aww….simply lovely.

  15. I am really grateful to Vickie for reprinting this and very grateful to you for your honesty and just exceptional writing. This was so beautiful and very moving to see your Grandparents so clearly.
    Bisous.


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