i was getting ready for a lunch engagement in north austin when i got called in on “family” duty. not my family by blood, and not my family by marriage (having never been married and starting to get the feeling i’ll never BE married, that would have been quite a feat)…no, it was my OTHER family; the one who’s phone number is saved in my star tac as “FAMILY II” (as it has been in every mobile i’ve ever owned). and our matriarch had just left the building for the last time to go take her place running the smoking section of that big chunk o’ sky i call “Liz’s Lounge” (named after my mother, the first of the mighty females in my life to head that way).

when i showed up, i saw something that any member of “la familia” would recognize, for we see it at every major holiday at b.d. and red’s…white plastic patio furniture, arranged in a circle. between the chairs were scattered the usual tiki torches and citronella candles (the latter of the two being a rather futile effort given all the rain we’ve had, but it’s the thought that counts). in the center was a steel bucket with two inches of water in it (and about half a dozen kinds of cigarette butts..which was what it was for) and then the requisite two coolers: the smaller one for type “a” beverages (aka NOT beer) and the much larger one for type “b” (aka BEER). the only thing different was it was in gram’s front yard instead of b.d. and beth’s back yard. you could look at the setup and tell it had been that way for days; but this was not a vigil or a “dead woman walking” theme; it didn’t have that vibe. this was family tradition. this was gram’s last party. and it was FAR from over.

at about one in the afternoon, she left her house for THE last time, and went out the way she would want it to be, friends and family out in the yard, with a cold beer and/or lit cigarette in hand as she rode off into the sunset in a cadillac..the two only differences being it wasn’t her white sedan de ville but rather a black hurse…and of course, she wasn’t driving.

she was a well decorated marine (excuse me, “IS” a well decorated…for once a marine, ALWAYS a marine) and the indisputable, lovable matriarch of this family for most of the seventeen years i’ve known them (and it’s only “most” because within that time HER mom passed away, too). she taught us all that in this era where we’re supposed to watch what we eat, not drink, not smoke, etc, etc, that that is all essentially BULLSHIT because whether you exist on tall boy cans of “the beast”, rib eyes and dorals or you jog, eat sprouts, and drink ozarka, eventually you’re gonna DIE anyway.

this was the woman that showed me it was possible to drink, smoke, and curse yet still be one HELL of a lady while doing it. in her fine tradition, the flag that has flown outside of her house uninterrupted for the last five years (NOTE to most of you: that was four full years before you found your post 9-11 patriotism) was pulled down, and then re-raised at half mast by her kids at b.d. & beth’s and will remain as such until her services on wednesday. then the rest of the family traditions kicked in: drinking, smoking, and bar-b-quing…and after two good cigars, most of a liter of crown, and a belly full of fajitas, i came home and passed out…pretty much like every other family gathering.

gram, (i don’t know her real name, and never need to, ’cause even if i did, she’d still be “gram” to me) you spent seventy-nine years on this planet yet somehow squeezed in 180 years of influence. we miss you, we salute you, and we love you. take care in your new place away from this earth, and realize that when we see an orangish colored star, way, way off in the distance, we’ll know you found someone to give you a light up there (you left your lighter down here…i saw it on the coffee table) and that you’re watching over us, as per usual.

Replies: 1 Comment

Hey Sean –

nice job on Stevie’s Story!! You captured her and her loving family to a “T”! I know Beth, BD, and all really appreciate your take on Stevie and the whole family!

take care~

stephanie riggin said @ 07/09/2002 07:33 PM GMT

1 comment… add one

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *