September, 2010

“Hurry up Diane or we’ll be late,” Mama said quietly as she pinned her black net hat.

“Do I have to go?”

“Yes, you mean a lot to Karen’s mother – ya’ll being about the same age and all. We’re going as a family.”

I knew the answer to that question before I asked. My family and I were going to church today. It was not a regular Sunday church service, nor an August revival, nor an all day singing, nor a dinner on the ground meeting – but a funeral, a funeral for a little girl, my friend Karen.

The friend I walked with down the church aisle each April. We put our money into a small white plastic church, birthday money collected to go to the Baptist Children’s Home. I was eight and I dropped eight coins – one at a time – into the church so that the congregation could count how old I was. Karen dropped seven coins into the church. She would never drop eight.

“Diane, get dressed.”

Preacher Cecil Johnson

Preacher Cecil Johnson

I ignored my mother as I reached for my bible. I opened it to the marked page, marked by a blue crocheted cross, a cross handmade for me by Karen’s mother. I remember the night she gave it to me. Mrs. Wiley squatted down low at the church steps and looked into my face and handed me the blue cross.

“I made it for you. It’s blue, the same color as your eyes. Let’s put it in your bible.” She opened my bible and placed it on the Twenty-Third Psalm. “There, that’s a good place for it. I hope you like it.” She smiled at me and then for some reason began to cry. She hugged me hard and suddenly walked away.

Karen and I both suffered heart disease. After medication and several periods of strict bed-rest, I was allowed up and about. Karen was not. I survived. Karen did not.

And now, this morning, I understood why Karen’s mother cried that night on the church steps. I did not want to see Mrs. Wiley today. I did not want to hear Preacher Johnson loudest voice tell us of the sins of pride, nor see his face turn redder than his hair. I could not bear the thoughts of a sermon today nor to see my friend lifeless. I hated this day.

“Diane, are you ready?” Mama called out.

“Yes ma’am, almost.” I hurried my dress over my head and brushed my hair.

It was a quiet ride to Pleasant Hill, and though it was not a regular go-to-meeting day, the parking lot was crowded, yet mysteriously quiet. The church was filled with flowers. There in the center of the alter area was a small coffin. We sat down and did not speak to anyone. The men who usually sit in the amen corner, sat with their families. A lady stood to sing a song. We listened. When the congregation was asked to sing, it was strangely strained. No one wanted to sing today.

Preacher Johnson stood, but did not greet us as usual. He seemed different today, as though someone had knocked the wind out of him. From time to time, he struggled to find words, but find them he did. He read from the Scriptures, emphasizing one verse – God is Love, so therefore, Love is God. Mama cried while Daddy held firm and gave his Baptist nod of agreement.

As Preacher Johnson spoke, I felt he spoke directly to me, just as Karen’s mother had when she gave me the blue cross. I opened my bible at the Twenty-Third Psalm and ran my fingers over the cross and thought about that night as I heard Preacher Johnson say:

“If you have your bibles with you and want to read along, please turn with me to the Twenty-Third Psalm,” Preacher Johnson blew his nose and pressed on with a quivering voice. “The Lord is my Shepherd – now think about that for a moment. If God is Love then it would be correct to say – Love is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Love makes me to lie down in green pastures. Love leads me beside the still waters. Love restores my soul. Love leads me in the path of righteousness for Love’s name sake. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for Love is with me. Love’s rod and Love’s staff – they comfort me. Love prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Love anoints my head with oil. My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of Love forever.”

Preacher Johnson paused for a moment and said, “I see your faces. And, I know your hearts. You may wonder – just who is God to allow a child to fall? That’s why I’m here today – to tell you who God is. So, I’ll tell you again, God is Love and Love is God. If you feel love in your heart for this child, you feel God.” He wiped his eyes and said it again, “Love is God – that is Love with a capital L.”

Preacher Cecil Johnson opened his heart that day. A man prayed and then several men rolled the small coffin down the aisle toward the double front doors. I sat on the inside aisle and though I looked down at the floor when they approached, I saw the wheels pass by. I saw her mother and father’s feet pass slowly after the wheels. I saw her sister and two brothers – pass by. I heard the double doors open. The cold winter air broke my stare at the floor and I looked up, but could not move until I felt my father’s hand on my shoulder.

I glanced about the sanctuary and saw all the people. The families stayed bunched up together. It reminded me of the stories my PaPa Story told about the days of old when families of Scotland gathered together in Clans – separate – yet together. And though we were all sad, it gave me a sense of unity and security. All was quiet except for an occasional cough. Every face was tear stained and every heart was broken. They all fell in line and passed by me as they left the church.

And finally, Daddy gave me the nudge and I knew it was time for the Story family to follow. As I walked through the big opening of the doorway onto the porch on that bitter cold January day in nineteen-fifty-eight, I looked to the left. My gaze fell on “our” old gnarly tree. It was a giant tree which stood firmly planted between the church and the cemetery, a boundary between life and death. Today, the old tree stood strong, yet defenseless as her limbs were stripped bare of any signs of life.

That tree had been an old friend, a welcoming sight before and after church, a place to play tag with my sisters, cousins and friends. Her overgrown roots refused to stay buried. We children tried to run around the tree on her surfaced roots. Whoever touched the ground was out.

Karen was a tiny child with long thick curly dark hair. She wore round glasses – the lens no bigger than two quarters. While playing the game, she had to hug the tree to get around it without touching the ground, and hold her head back away from the tree to avoid scratching her glasses. Karen loved to play that game. She was very good at it.

I passed by “our” tree and found myself standing at a newly dug grave. I could no longer bear to look. I closed my eyes tight and thought about those fun days when she went round and round that tree. I could hear her laugh. I could hear her mother call out, ‘Karen! Don’t scratch your glasses!’ I relived the day she got her long hair hung up in the bark and could go no further. We all jumped down, forfeiting our win to untangle her hair. She squealed with delight and kept going. Karen was a winner. And I know in my heart of hearts, she is a winner still today – for she passed in Love – that is Love with a capital L.

I was almost three years old when my Uncle Cabe passed away. He was thirty-five. Caleb Edward Story was the sixth child of Lawton, Sr. and Nancy Bentley Story. My father, Thomas Jonathan, was their eighth child. Daddy often said Cabe was the “strongest of us all.” He could swim faster and hit a ball out of sight. Others said he had a sweet heart and cared deeply for people, while others bragged of his intellect and good looks.

Caleb Edward Story

Caleb Edward Story

When Caleb was a young teenager, he sustained a hard lick on the head while playing football at school. In the following months, he gradually declined and starting dragging his left leg. He eventually lost use of his legs, and his wrists seemed to melt into his arms as his hands curved inward. He was diagnosed with spinal meningitis caused by the injury. It would be a long and slow process, but his spine would eventually curve backwards. And at age twenty, Caleb lost his mother to heart failure. All around, it was a difficult time for the Story family.

The doctors said to keep Caleb out of a wheelchair for as long as possible. Force him to keep going, keep him strong. He got around the house in a straight- back caned chair. He used his weight to rock it about. But before it was over, Caleb was in a wheelchair and then worse, bedridden.

He really was a handsome man with thick, almost black hair and blue eyes. And though he was bedridden, I never saw him in pajamas. He always wore a white long sleeved dress shirt. He enjoyed listening to a radio by his bed and drank from a glass straw. I sometimes wonder if I really remember him, or just remember the stories about him. But one story I know is real – because I was there.

Often we – the Story cousins – got together at PaPa Story’s house on Adrian in Tucker. Our parents visited often helping Uncle Cabe by massaging his arms and legs.

PaPa Story loved sitting on the front porch in his rocker. My grandfather was a very tall man, about six-five with beautiful thick silver hair. He had sky blue eyes. He took his time to speak and drew deep breaths due to asthma. He often wore a city looking dress hat that made him look like the movie stars in the forties. PaPa Story loved children. He had nine of his own and twenty-six grandchildren. He especially enjoyed “high spirited” children and did his best to encourage this behavior – even when it meant allowing the kids to run wild through his house playing hide and seek.

PaPa Story

PaPa Story

Home base was the mimosa tree in the front yard. PaPa Story’s rocker was lined up with that tree so he could enjoy the hummingbirds and watch which of his grandchildren could make it to home base first. His “say” was the final word and ended many arguments about who the real winner was. He was proud of his fast runners, but awe-struck by the children who won by the use of their wit. Before the game was over, it escalated to boys against the girls. Instead of one hunter, we had all the boys hunting and all the girls hiding.

This was too much for me as I was afraid of being trampled. When the thundering loud counting started from the boys, I ran for safety to Uncle Cabe’s room.

The house on Adrian Street was a four square house with no halls, no closets. The kitchen was connected in the very back which led to an enclosed back porch. When the boys started hunting, they ran in the house through the front door, making a couple of circles through the house, then out the backdoor, without slowing down. They sounded like a herd of elephants.

Uncle Cabe had the back bedroom. I felt safe there along with my sister, Patricia, who was almost five years old. My cousins Linda and Carol sometimes came too – they were four years old. They wanted to play and win like the big kids, but when that loud counting started – they became overwhelmed and ran to Uncle Cabe’s room too.

To my surprise one day, Uncle Cabe said, “Hurry Diane, open the wardrobe. Get in girls! Quickly! Get in before they stop counting!” They crawled in and then Uncle Cabe said, “Now Diane, close the door and move away from it!”

I did exactly what he told me. I slammed the door shut and ran to the far side of his bed out of the boy’s normal pathway and stood next to his radio – just in time. Here they came!

“Where are those girls? Are they in here?”

Uncle Cabe was suddenly cool and said, “I don’t see anybody, but Diane, and she’s not playing. She’s little. Don’t tag her.”

They circled around again, “Did the girls come in here?”

Uncle Cabe again answered coolly, “I don’t see anyone except for Diane, and she’s not playing. Did you look under the bed?”

“Not there either,” they shouted and ran through the dining room and out through the kitchen, back porch and down the back steps heading for the backyard. You could hear them hooting and hollering all the way.

“Diane! Open the wardrobe and let ‘em out! Hurry!”

I obeyed Uncle Cabe and ran over and opened the door.

Uncle Cabe was almost shouting, “Run girls, run! Double back and go out the front door! If you hurry, you can beat ‘em! Go! Go!”

The girls tumbled out one by one and hit the floor running as fast as their legs could carry them!

“Diane, close the door! So they won’t discover your hiding place!”

I did exactly what Uncle Cabe said and closed the door. I then ran out onto the front porch and stood near PaPa Story for further protection. I watched the three girls run to the mimosa tree all about the same time as the boys.

Caleb with a few of his nieces and nephews; also his father and step-mother.

Caleb with a handful of his nieces and nephews; also his father and step-mother.

PaPa Story was shocked by what he saw; he jumped to his feet and stretched his neck out to get a closer look. He got so excited and laughed so hard that he had a breathing spell. Quickly he took out his pocket asthma whistle and took a few deep breaths while sitting back down in his rocker. When he had recovered, with his first breath he declared the winners. PaPa Story had his “say.”

Patricia Story

Patricia Story

“It was close! But Petunia (Patricia) was the first one there and then Carol, and then Linda! Boys, they beat you fair and square!”

We played that game many times with Uncle Cabe. I don’t ever remember beating the boys again, but the playing field was leveled with the use of the wardrobe. Uncle Cabe kept our secret and loved playing the game with us. I remember his coolness and then sudden laughter.

One day, the laughter stopped and Uncle Cabe was no longer bedridden. His name can be found etched on a stone marker at the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church cemetery next to his mother.

Caleb Edward Story’s name is also forever etched in our hearts. Some of his brothers and sisters have lovingly borrowed his name. Sarah Story Graves has a son, Roy Edward and a grandson, Charles Edward. Robert Story has a son, Charles Edward. Miriam Story Sexton has a great-grandson, Caleb Parker. Thomas Story has a grandson, Jonathan Edward and a great-grandson, Jonathan Caleb.

Caleb Edward Story was a special person who knew how to make winners out of unlikely contenders, and he was very kind. I know, because I was there.

Caleb Edward Story b. October 24, 1918, d. December 7, 1952.


Annie Helen "Mama" Voyles- Story & Helen Diane Story - Just starting out in 1949

Dr. Hiba Tamim pointed at Mama lying in the hospital bed. Mama was sleeping so deeply her breath was hardly detectable. “Your mother is a strong person. Helen Story may look weak now, but she’s not. She is the one in charge here, not you or your sisters, not even your brother. I’m no longer in charge. Helen Story is still in charge of her life,” said Dr. Tamim as she held up some legal papers.

“That lady there is calling the shots, and I am going to do exactly what she has instructed me to do.”

Dr. Tamim took a deep breath and looked at us sweetly, “I so admire your mother’s courage.” She focused her eyes down at the papers in her hand and thought long and hard before she spoke. “And now – I’m going to move her to another room, one where her family will be more comfortable.”

The new room looked more like a nice hotel room except for the hospital bed and morphine drip. It had a suite with a kitchen, two televisions with lots of books and movies. There was no clock, no blood pressure equipment – just Mama sleeping peacefully.

As the morning turned to late afternoon, Mama slept deeper until her breath slowed to an almost stop. A single tear rolled down her cheek. Jim noticed it and jumped to gently wipe her face. Just when I believed it to be her last breath, I started to stand up to go to her. Instantly my nine year old niece, Kate, jumped onto my lap. I sat back down and held on to Katie with both arms, and knew that this is where Mama wanted me to be. Yes, Mama was still in charge. I watched Mama slowly slip away from us while holding her baby grandchild.

As Kate and I sat there at the foot of Mama’s bed, I thought about the past three weeks. While Mama was at herself, she asked for her lawyer, “Hand me that phone; I want to call Phil Bramlett. I need to talk to him. I need to tell him to bring his mother up here. I’m gonna need a notary.” Phil came with his mother, Lou Neil. Mama wanted her living will updated, all ‘T’s crossed and all ‘I’s dotted.

A few days later Mama started sleeping a lot. One evening after work, I hurried to visit her. When I arrived, she was already asleep. I did not want to disturb her, so I sat on a chair next to her bed and watched her sleep. After about an hour I decided to slip out and go home. As I stood up, the chair made a little sound and Mama woke up startled. She glared at me, as though she did not know who I was.

“Mama, it’s me. Mama, do you know who I am?”

Mama relaxed as she grinned at me and said, “Of course, I know ya. You are that little DIane STO-reee-teller!” She chuckled to herself and faded away not saying another word.

And here I sat today in Mama’s new hospital room watching her chest heave now and again; each time her breath became farther and fewer in between. I closed my eyes and thought about how vital she once was; how she hummed her favorite song, “Oh, Come, Angel Band.” I could almost hear her now.

Daddy played and sang the angel band song often for her. No matter how busy Mama was, when she heard him hit a few notes of that song on his Gibson – she stopped what she was doing, sat there and looked at him as though she had not seen him in a long time. Mama hummed “Oh, Come, Angel Band” as she cleaned house and cooked meals, while she carried a bucket and shovel to the woods to dig up sweet shrubs. She hummed it while caring for her sick children, while thinking as she shopped in stores. Mama loved that song.

In the last week or so, Mama didn’t feel like humming any song. But that song was on her mind, because she reminded my sister, Patricia, that she wanted that song sang at her funeral. She was not being morbid at all, since she has told us that at least a thousand times over the years. This was just one more time.

And though we thought we were prepared for Mama to leave us, we were not. We were stunned. When Mama’s spirit left her, we all stayed our ground in that hospital room and did not move. Our cousin, Pheobe (Elizabeth), came to our rescue along with her son, Michael Dickens. Michael, the singing preacher, ministered to us with prayer and asked – who ever wished – to share something about Aunt Helen. He said it helps with the healing process.  We shared little stories about Mama while waiting for Bill Head to send someone to take my mother to the funeral home. A few days later, Michael opened Mama’s funeral at Pleasant Hill Baptist, singing “Oh, Come, Angel Band.”

But today, we all sat or stood gathered around our mother, for the last time.

As I sat there waiting on the undertaker, I recalled a conversation with Mama a few years back. Her dear friend, and the only undertaker she’d dream of using, died. It took weeks for her to get over the fact that she had out lived her undertaker. She had counted on Ben McLane to take care of her and her family. Now he was gone and her children would have to rely on strangers.

A large man with dark hair arrived and yes, he was a stranger. He walked in and introduced himself and asked for our permission to embalm her. And now, I supposed it was time to leave her. But it did not seem right to leave her after all she had been through in the past three weeks. Pancreas cancer is a horrible disease and Mama had suffered, especially the last few days. I must not have been the only one who felt that way, because no one left the room. Helen Story’s whole family, children, grandchildren and in-laws stayed firmly planted to the floor. All was silent, and after a while the stranger stepped up and addressed the family.

“I did not know your mother. This is the first time I ever laid eyes on her, but I can tell you that I know she was loved by all of you. She must have been very important to her family. I can also tell you something else. In just a few hours, it will be Easter – the highest holiest celebration day in all of Heaven. And, this lady has been invited to attend that celebration. Helen Story must be loved and honored in Heaven as well.”

It was time to go home, Mama was in good hands. Mama and I had fifty-nine years together.


Oh, Come, Angel Band


My latest sun is sinking fast,

My race is nearly run;

My strongest trials now are past,

My triumph is begun.



Oh, come, angel band

Come and around me stand;

Oh, bear me away on your snowy wings

To my eternal home.


(modern refrain:)

Oh, come, angel band,

Come and around me stand;

Oh, bear me away on your snow white wings

To my immortal home.


I know I’m near the holy ranks

Of friends and kindred dear –

I hear the waves on Jordan’s banks,

The crossing must be near.


I’ve almost reached my heav’nly home,

My spirit loudly sings;

Thy holy ones, behold, they come!

I hear the noise of wings.


Oh bear my longing heart to Him,

Who bled and died for me;

Whose blood now cleanses from all sin,

And gives me victory.


Jefferson Hascall, pub. 1860 Massachusetts Methodist Minister

“I remember back when they paved Old Norcross,” Mama said with a gleam in her eyes.

“Oh yeah, when was that?” I asked.

Lonnnng time ago – I was nearly grown – so I thought. It was just before we moved to Idlewood Road. I had a pair of roller skates and about the only place I could skate was at Betty Ann Cofer’s house – that big house with the magnolias on Lawrenceville Highway. I remember it like it was yesterday, Ms. Belle Cofer was so nice to us. She let us skate inside her house. I ate a many a peanut butter sandwiches at the foot of that big ol’ staircase. But it was an exciting thing to see a road paved back then. Those old cars used to ease  down the dirt roads, but with the road paved, they moved on – but what a perfect place to roller skate.”

“I’m surprised Memi and PawPaw allowed you to skate on a highway.”

Mama could not hold back her chuckles, “Oh Diane, you have no idea how strict they were, but everybody skated on that road.”

“You wouldn’t let us skate past our property line on Morgan Road. We couldn’t even skate in front of Don and Joyce Chewning’s house.”

“Times were different back then, well, maybe not really,” laughed Mama.

“What’s so funny anyway?”

“Oh, I was just thinking about how I met your Daddy.”

“When they paved Old Norcross?”

“Soon there-after. I knew who the Story’s were – everybody around Tucker knew of the Storys – a bunch of young’uns – nine in all – they were all tall with a full head of hair and everyone of ‘em with blue eyes. They lived down on the Gwinnett end of Old Norcross – we lived on the DeKalb County end. The Story boys used to fly up and down that road,” laughed Mama, “and my mother warned me a many a time to stay away from those Story boys. She’d said, ‘Polly, those Story boys are too good looking and in too big a hurry even for their own good. You stay clear of them!”

Mama laughed as she went on, “…never seen people in such a hurry – especially Gene Story. My daddy used to say that Gene Story must want to be a race car driver. And he did drive that car fast. I used to think the poor car wouldn’t hold together if he keeps that up!”

Gene Story

Gene Story

Mama laughed as she continued, “Then, one day, Gene Story’s car came down Old Norcross real slow. I thought – uh-huh! He’s got car trouble! But when he passed me, I could see it wasn’t Gene at all, but another one of his brothers. Gene was sorta blondish – but this brother had a smaller head with dark hair. He waved at me, and was in no hurry at all. One day he passed me and then stopped. He asked me if I wanted a ride. I said – Noooo, I’m roller skating! He said, I know – hold on to my bumper and I’ll give you a ride. He promised to go slow. So, I said – Okay!”

“What?” I couldn’t believe my ears.

“Yeah, he rode me up and down Old Norcross – with me hanging on to his bumper! One day I skated up to his car window and talked to him.”

“What’d he say?” I asked.

“He said, ‘Hello, my name is Tom, Tom Story. What’s your name?’”

“I said, Helen Voyles, but everybody calls me Polly.”

“Go on Mama, I want to hear this.” And from what I heard from Mama that day, their conversation must have gone something like this:

“Well, you’re a good roller skater!” Tom said, “I’ve heard of ya family – Wade and Lois Voyles. Ya’ll live near the Johnsons.”

And Helen said, “That’s right. Is this your car now?”

Tom said, “No, it belongs to my brotha Gene. I do his chores and he lets me borrow it sometimes. I’ve been saving up for my own car – I’ll have one soon.”

“Why does he drive so fast? My Dad says Gene Story wants to be a race car driver…”

Tom grinned, “Gene is always in a hurry – especially when he’s going to see Mary Bramlett.”

“Mary Bramlett?”

“Yeah, Gene has a good singing voice and when he gets a new song down, he goes to Mary’s house and serenades her – sings to her outside her house until she comes out to talk to him.”

“Floyd and Junior’s sister?”

“Yeah, y’ know ‘em?”

“Yes, I’m related to them – on the Maddox side…”

“Really? Gene is crazy about Mary. I have eight brothas and sistas. Gene is numba seven and I’m numba eight, my baby sista, Nancy, is numba nine. Caleb’s still at home too, he’s numba six – the rest of ‘em are married and left home.”

Tom had a hard time pronouncing the second “R” in his words. He also had a habit of squinting his eyes up at the sun – as though he was searching for something.

Helen and Agnes Voyles

Helen and Agnes Voyles

Helen told him about her family, “Well, I have two sisters, Mary Frances and Agnes – I’m in the middle. Frances is married and Agnes is a lot younger than me. I had a brother, but he died on the same day he was born.’”

“Oh no.” Tom answered.

“Yeah, one day my Daddy told me to go to the Cain’s house,” Helen turned and pointed to the log house just over her shoulder, “and stay there until I was sent for. I heard hammering part of the day and wondered who was building what. I went home the next day and there was a tiny coffin in the living room. Come to find out, it was my Daddy building a coffin for my baby brother. My brother looked like a little doll – asleep.”

Helen wasn’t sure, but thought she saw tears in Tom’s eyes. The other Story boys were well known for their strength and boldness. But Tom was soft spoken and compassionate, often he looked away to avoid direct eye contact, a humbling quality that was all his.

“So who is number one?” asked Helen.

“What do ya mean?” asked Tom as he looked down at the ground.

“You know, in your family, if you’re number eight? Who’s number one?”

Tom laughed as he lifted his head, “That’d be Grace – she’s numba one, numba two is Beau – my brotha Lawton, numba three is Sarah, numba four is Robert, and numba five is Miriam,”  he said proudly of his family.

“I don’t know your brother Caleb…”

“Cabe doesn’t get out much. He’s crippled. He got hurt playing football when he was sixteen and took a bad lick on the head. Every year he gets worse.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry,” answered Helen.

“No, it’s all right. Cabe all right with it too. Nothing gets him down. PaPa wants to keep him out of a wheelchair for as long as possible. Cabe walks a straight back cane chair around in the house. If he wants to go outside, he just walks that chair over to the side of the porch and climbs onto Daisy.”


Tom Story, Helen Voyles and Daisy

Tom Story, Helen Voyles and Daisy

“Yeah, she’s our pet cow. She stop giving milk a long time ago, but we keep her on ‘cause we love her. And, she gets Cabe around in the yard anywhere he wants to go.”

Then Mama looked as though she had said enough, “…and… it wasn’t long before Mama and Daddy bought the house on Idlewood in Tucker. Daddy thought Old Norcross had become a busy road since it was paved, but soon found out that Idlewood was just as bad if not worse. He thought the world had gone crazy with fast cars. He decided to build a picket fence to make sure no cars ran up on our yard.”

Mama smiled, “He started building that fence early one morning and Tom Story stopped by and said, ‘Mr. Voyles, it looks like you could use an extra pair of hands.’ By evening they had that fence built, and Tom had my Daddy’s blessing for us to marry. Of course, Mama did not approve. She thought the eight year age difference between us was too much and said, ‘My Polly still has some growing to do.’ But my Daddy stood by his blessing. Wade Voyles got a son-in-law and a new best friend.”