February 15, 2017
“Rest well, Gran. Give Grady a hug.”
Above the message, posted only fifty-one minutes earlier by Beeg’s daughter-in-law, Brandy, was a picture of BeeGee and her son, Grady, who had preceded her in death scarcely a year earlier.
Dumbstruck, I was staring at the picture and trying to process the news when my husband came down the stairs.
“What’s the matter, babe?”
I looked up at him, eyes glassy.
“BeeGee passed away,” I said in a voice I didn’t recognize as my own.
A day or two later, we arranged a quick trip down to Port Aransas to attend BeeGee’s memorial.
As surreal as the news seemed, it explained why I hadn’t heard from Beeg during the past two weeks. A lot had happened to both of us, during that short span of time. I had recently undergone surgery to repair a fracture in my humerus, including the implantation of a metal plate and nine screws. I had sent her pictures that Jeff had taken with my cell phone camera on January 10. Two days later, I received a text message from her:
“Having a rough spell here. Been pretty much bed-bound…hoping to get back some stamina…check in when you are up to it”. On January 16, my last piece of correspondence from her, came another message: “How did you fare over the weekend? Hope the pain meds did the trick.”
In the days to follow, I called her. Texted her. Left her one voicemail after another. Although I knew that cancer had once again knocked her under, I prayed that she would rally, as she had so many other times before.
“Hey, Cuz, I’m worried about you. Call me when you feel like it. Okay?”
On February 2, I just happened to go on Brandy’s Facebook page and saw the news: that my cousin had passed away only fifty-one minutes earlier.
One week later, Jeff and I arranged with our neighbor to watch our dog for five days and headed down to Port Aransas on February 9, after my first two weeks of physical therapy on my arm and Jeff’s first twenty days of therapy on his heart.
On our way down, I regaled Jeff with tales of the fun Beeg and I had at Nannie and Granddad’s house in Lamesa, Texas. We were about nine or ten years old at the time.
“Eeew! You’ve got the bogies!” BeeGee said, pointing at me and giggling.
“No I don’t,” I said. “You do.”
“Don’t neither,” she retorted. “You.”
The bogies. They were more than just a cousin thing. They were our thing, as much as playing dress-up in Nannie’s clothing, pretending the butterscotch disks she always kept around were “diet pills”, and surprising Granddad McBride when we managed to sleep outside in our homemade tent in the back yard for the entire night.
Born three months apart — BeeGee’s birthday in August and mine in November — we were the two oldest McBride cousins between my mother and her brother, Bill. Joining us, every summer, were Beeg’s younger sister LouLou and little brothers Mack and Indian, and our cousins, Marcia, Janie, Kathie, and Barbara Sue, daughters of my mother’s other brother, “Oke”. As our three sets of parents visited with each other and Nannie and Granddad, we cousins would run around in the yard and play before putting on a “talent show” in the living room, in front of Nannie and Granddad watching proudly from their recliners. The McBride troupe, directed by my drama-teacher mother, Lois McBride Terry, rivaled The Ed Sullivan Show. Everyone took part. We sang. We put on skits. We did “schtick”.
The following few days, after Beeg’s parents took the boys home, Nannie and Granddad would take us girls to the variety store in Lamesa’s town square and buy us one one-dollar toy apiece. Now, keep in mind that, in the mid-1950s, one whole dollar was enough to buy a package of paper dolls, remnants to make doll clothes which my mother would sew for our dolls, and a variety of other goodies which we would happily tote home.
That night, we McBride girls slept on a pallet in front of the television in Granddad’s undershirts until around 1959 when we became self-conscious about our blossoming bodies and slipped into our jammies or gowns.
Years later, when BeeGee and I were marrying and having our first babies, we got busy with our own lives and saw each other sporadically until early January, 2009, when she sent me an email about The Laughing Gull Writers’ Workshop meeting in Port Aransas, that weekend.
“This doesn’t appeal to me, but it has your name written all over it,” Beeg said. “Why don’t you plan to come down, that weekend. I’d love to see you, again.”
It just so happened that I had the funds to book a flight and, because my semester hadn’t started yet, I was able to fly down to Corpus Christi where Beeg met my plane. That night, I met some of her friends whom she had invited to meet her “Cousin Kim”.
Four years later, after a taxing semester, I screwed up the courage to drive down to Port Aransas all by my big, grown-up self. The next year, I introduced Jeff, my bridegroom of two months, to BeeGee who let us stay in the unit next door to hers. For us, it was a delayed honeymoon, as in March, I was focused on school.
The last time Jeff and I visited her, BeeGee took me over to the unit she had reserved for us when we went down for her son Grady’s memorial service.
“What exactly were the bogies?” I asked.
“Why don’t you know? The ‘bogies’ were stinky feet.”
As we pulled into the driveway outside the Yellow Fin, she nudged me, “And, Cousin Kim, you won that prize, hands-down.”