Photo credit: National Education Association
BY MATTY LAYNE GLASGOW
For Peggy “Nanny” Laney
I wake with my partner in an adequate hotel room in Clovis, New Mexico and turn on the television. The television tells us the Supreme Court has released its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, and we are now allowed to marry. My partner turns to me as we put on our dress shirts and tie our bowties and says Who knew monogamy was back in now? I laugh and say, I love you. We both smile. There is joy to be had in this thought of gay weddings not our own, and that is good because we are in New Mexico to bury my maternal grandmother. It is June 26, 2015. Years later, I will remember the date because of the decision, but today I just say Gay weddings and a funeral—what a Friday! My brother and father stayed the night in a separate hotel room. When we meet them in the lobby, they have a look of congratulations on their faces. One of them says Congratulations! as though we are already married. Seven years later, we will still not be wed, but we will be moving closer to that idea, that union. When I say to my brother and father, On behalf of all the gays, I thank you, I am realizing this day is already so difficult for some of my grandmother’s children and grandchildren, and it has now likely become much more solemn. As the four of us drive the twenty-five miles from Clovis to the Melrose Church of Christ, I read my grandmother’s obituary from my phone. The obituary reminds us that my grandfather is dead and my grandmother’s second husband is dead and my mother is dead, too. Nanny will be laid to rest next to my grandfather, and that makes sense to me since her second husband had already been laid to rest next to his first wife. Marriage seems plentiful and complicated. Death, less so. I read a line about my grandmother’s career and tell my father I didn’t know Nanny worked at the doctor’s office for more than thirty years. He says that the doctors provided reproductive healthcare. He says some of the family felt a certain way about that. Really? I say. I didn’t know I could love my grandmother more than I already did. Learning this, I do. When we arrive at Melrose Church of Christ, we park behind my aunt’s second husband’s minivan. Among the bumper stickers littering the vehicle’s green ass is one reading Build a Wall! I turn to my partner and say I am so sorry. He laughs. He just laughs and opens the door, and we walk toward the church together.
I ride with them to the clinic just off 59 on a Monday. We skip seventh period or we go just before dismissal; the time does not so much matter other than that it is our own, that we share it for fifteen miles each direction. They ask me to come because we are close, but not too close. They ask me to come because I can drive a stick shift. They ask me to come because they know I can keep a secret, that I have my own. In the waiting room, there are many people waiting. Some children laugh as they run up and down the aisles flanked by rows of chairs; others stand looking at their adult and cry. We are all here together sharing the space. The only thing that binds us is need. Many people in the waiting room need to see a healthcare provider; others need to be here with them—a beloved, a child, a friend. I sit next to them and we talk about summer and their plans. They will graduate soon, and they are very excited. I will graduate next year, so I am less excited. We both think this is a kind of freedom and that things improve with time and age. When the nurse calls their name and walks over to us, the nurse asks if they’d like me to join them. They laugh and say God, no. I exhale and say Thank, God. The nurse’s eyes widen and she says Okay then. I can take you back. And she does; she takes them back behind a closed door. When they emerge again alone through the same door, they give me a thumbs up and we walk out of the clinic together. Outside I ask if they’d like me to drive. I say Hey, you want me to drive us back? They think for a moment, pretending to survey the cars in the parking lot, catching their reflection in the driver’s side window. No, I’m good, they say. I nod and plop myself into the passenger seat for the ride back to campus. When we pull into the student parking lot, the football team is finally wrapping up their practice. Their lifted trucks peel out of the lot one by one, as though this is their final play, a synchronized departure leading to their weekly defeat. When we’ve made it through the pick-up parade, we park next to my car and both get out. I wrap my arms around them and give them an awkward squeeze that lasts longer than we are accustomed to. Neither of us lets go and they say something, so I say something, too.
I sit in the backseat of my grandmother’s car because I am too young to sit in the empty passenger seat. My mother turns off Rankin Highway onto the feeder for I-20 and we glide along the interstate for what seems like a very long time, but, in reality, is only twenty miles or so. When we drive from Midland to Odessa, I always count any pumpjacks I see along the way. They lift their thirsty bullet heads and bow back down toward the brown dirt—divine machines engaged in their bountiful West Texas prayers. The ones that are not moving do not count. When I ask my dad why we don’t count them, he says Because they aren’t producing anything for us. My dad is not in the car today, so my mom says I can count them. There is something about their rusted heads and their stillness that intrigues me. Maybe I wonder if they’ll ever move again or if they’ve had enough Texas tea. The count is always different, and it is never correct. Years later, the enormity of the grid and its extraction will horrify me, but today I am young and blithe and mimicking my brother’s fascination with machinery. By the time we make it to Odessa’s city limits, the Permian Basin’s tumbleweeds and yellow grasses and square plots of dirt for wells new and old gives way to all manner of buildings with petrochemical names and big trucks parked in their lots. We turn onto a city street and pull into the parking lot of a doctor’s office with a single glass door too dark to see through. After a few minutes, my grandmother opens it and walks towards her car—her fiery red hair a striking complement to her teal scrubs. When she opens the door, I am so happy to see my grandmother, so I yell Hey Nanny! She smiles and says There’s my mouse. Let me give you some sugar. I unbuckle my seatbelt to give her a hug as she smears her lipstick on my cheek. As I sit back in my seat, my mother asks How was work, Mom? My grandmother says, It was good. It was really good, honey.