Trend — Uber, Lyft services increase in college towns


Getting into a car with a stranger after a night of partying is one thing Moms everywhere probably never wanted their kids to do, but it’s becoming a safer trend in college towns across America.

For most college students, Uber and Lyft are a fast, safe way for them to get home from wherever they are. Other students without vehicles have a quick, easy way to get to Walmart for shopping or to a restaurant to meet with a friend.

“(Uber and Lyft) offer a safer opportunity for especially people who do drink a lot because you can’t always depend on the (designated driver) or you may not be able to find one,” said Cheyenne Wiley, a psychology junior at the University of Oklahoma who uses Uber or Lyft around three times a month. “ It’s safer than drinking and driving.”

Wiley doesn’t own a vehicle in Norman and said she’s increased using Uber and Lyft this year than during her first two years at OU because she goes out a lot more. Her friend group has gotten smaller, so she said she can’t always depend on them for rides like she can with reasonably-priced Uber.

Lili Escandon is another Uber rider who said she uses Uber around four times a month and a lot more around finals week when her friends are busy.

“I don’t have a car,” Escandon said. “Sometimes I have to go grocery shopping … and when I don’t have any friends to take me, the only option I do have is Uber. Because this is such a college town, it’s not too expensive.”

Escandon said she and some of her friends from freshman year didn’t bring their vehicles from their hometowns because parking is an issue on campus. She also said she appreciates having the services there to avoid drinking and driving in Norman.

In Norman, Uber and Lyft are on the rise as a main way of transportation students at the University of Oklahoma and other Norman citizens.

The concept of these companies is similar to taxis. However, services like Uber and Lyft are cost-reducing for riders and help people earn extra income.

“(Uber and Lyft) are reasonably-priced, so it’s easy, and you only have to pay for one way,” Wiley said. “If you have a friend who can take you back home, you don’t have to pay for a round-trip.”

Aili Johnson is a Lyft driver with an anxiety disorder. Driving with Lyft allows her to work in an environment she is comfortable in.

“It’s hard to find jobs,” Johnson said. “A lot of places that are hiring typically have stuff where you have to be doing 100 things at once … which would probably cause me to have a panic attack … It just took forever to find a job where it wouldn’t be so bad.”

Johnson also said one benefit to Uber and Lyft compared to taxis is having the destination already in place. She said this allows riders who are mute to avoid the hassle of communication with drivers.

Phil Rulls is an Uber driver who has been driving for almost a year and almost has 3,000 rides. With a 4.77 rating on the app, Rulls said driving for Uber is a great way for him to earn an income while he’s applying for physical therapy schools at OU and Langston University after graduating from both OU and Oklahoma City Community College.

Rulls also said he believes Uber and Lyft will push taxis out in the future due to Uber and Lyft being cheaper.

“Why pay $100 to go to the airport when you could get an Uber for $40 to get to the same place?” Rulls said.

In the years since Uber first arrived, its sales have increased. Uber alone has 3 millions drivers and 75 million riders, with about 15 million trips completed each day.

According to an Uber Newsroom article, a study found that “Uber is adding substantial (and measurable) value to people’s lives.” Uber contributes $17 billion to the U.S. economy. Uber saves time and money, and a report from Uber states 33 percent of Uber riders pay for car parking less often.

In 2013, Uber and Lyft began specifically targeting colleges and universities. Uber offered promotional deals and visited campuses such as MIT and Boston University during orientation week. The company also partnered with Chegg to place a new rider gift card in textbook shipments.

Lyft joined in on that movement, partnering with universities and greek organizations in Los Angeles and Boston to provide rides to students.

Although Uber and Lyft are competing companies, the two are on the rise and are making their riders safer. Both companies do background checks on drivers and have requirements on vehicles. The Uber app also has features to share location with a friend and, in the event of a crash, to make sure the rider is OK and gets help quickly.

Uber is a San Francisco-based company that launched in 2011. It came to Oklahoma City in 2013 and drew scrutiny from taxi and limo services. The controversy was Uber providing services without proper licensing.

With cars toting a pink mustache on the grill, Lyft, another San Francisco-based company, joined Uber in Oklahoma City in 2014.

In 2015, Uber and Lyft both received business licenses to operate in Oklahoma City. That same year, The Norman Transcript released an opinion article explaining why Norman should also welcome the companies.

“The current generation of college students are to be commended for having the wisdom to use Uber and Lyft to shuttle between their residences and the various venues they attend where drinking alcohol may be a part of the evening’s festivities,” the article said.

Norman Uber and Lyft drivers operate without a license. In November, City Hall Clerk Brenda Hall brought complaints about that to City Council Community Planning and Transportation Committee members, with the conclusion that a decision to take action will happen next year, according to a Norman Transcript article.

Despite the issues the companies faced, Uber and Lyft drivers in Norman like the opportunity to have a job where they make their own hours without a boss, and riders, especially college students, appreciate having a safe, inexpensive way to get home.

“Lyft and Uber are the future, for sure,” Johnson said.

Human Interest: OU Cross Village offers different atmosphere from dorms despite initial issues

By: Kelci McKendrick

Leaving her dorm room door open was something Torie Rogers always did so she could talk to girls on her floor passing by. At Cross Villages, the doors shut automatically and are too heavy to prop open, leaving the hallways utterly silent.

“I normally had my door open,” said Rogers, an engineering sophomore and Cross resident. “I was friends with a lot of girls in the hall, so they would stick their heads in and be like, ‘What’s up?’ I enjoyed that because I love talking to people, so I enjoyed people popping in.”

Despite this, Rogers and others in Cross appreciate the different atmosphere Cross provides as opposed to the dorms. Leaving behind the freshmen days of chatter, Cross provides a space where residents can be at peace.

“Being an upperclassmen, I don’t feel an obligation to have my door open,” said Lili Escandon, a biology pre-med sophomore and Cross resident. “I used to have my door open to meet people, but now I just don’t care.”

Wilds nights of partying are out, serious, quiet nights are in. Jared Gramza, a meteorology sophomore and Cross resident, said Cross feels like an apartment.

“People are getting work done,” Gramza said. “I think it’s just because we’re not freshmen anymore — we understand that we actually have to work in college. It just feels … It’s a lot better than the dorms.”

It wasn’t always peacefully quiet in the opening days of Cross. Residents were allowed to move in three days earlier than scheduled on Aug. 15, according to Rogers. However, construction was still ongoing in all four of the unfinished buildings.

“It was just annoying waking up early in the morning and hearing construction from the time  you wake up till you’re done with class,” Gramza said.

In addition to construction sounds, many residents were left with many other unfinished problems. Dining options promised to residents were not available for a month after opening, leaving many residents to rely on other food sources.

Gramza said he and others were annoyed they were paying for something that wasn’t even done yet, sparking a few residents to create a petition to get a percentage of their money back.

Residents did this to try to resolve their issues in a formal way. Residents also spoke on the issues with the building and with the management at an undergraduate student congress meeting Sept. 11, according to an OU Daily article.

The communal kitchen on each floor had issues with the stove not working at first. It works now, but waiting in lines to cook aren’t ideal for floor residents, said Rogers.

Laundry is also done in the same space as the communal kitchen, leaving a different mix of food and detergent in the air.

“Some girls on my floor cook twice a week,” said Escandon. “If they’re cooking and I’m doing laundry, then my clothes smell like their food.”

Escandon also talked of the frail stability in her room in Cross, which she said was a lot weaker than the dorms.

“The difference between the dorms and Cross is Cross is so fragile,” Escandon said. “Like, if you put a small piece of tape on the wall and take it off, a big blob of paint will come off. I somehow dented the floor in my bedroom … The chairs scratch the floor really bad.”

Hinges on cabinet doors in Escandon’s room have came off, leaving stray screws on the floor and having to carefully open cabinet doors. Rogers also stated that she didn’t have hot water in her room for a month.

Even though Cross is quiet enough to hear echoes, Escandon has said sometimes she can hear her neighbors through the walls. The walls in the dorms are better, she said.

Escandon and Rogers both expressed frustrations in the excessive scanning necessary to get to their rooms. In order to use the elevator, access floors and enter front doors, one has to scan their OU ID card.




Three months after the opening, following mid-semester management changes, things are looking up at Cross. Although a very different environment from the dorms, Cross is appreciated for its silence and ability to now meet students’ needs.

A typical Friday night in Cross is quiet, said Kaitlyn McIntosh, a social work sophomore and Cross resident.

“If people want to out, they’ll go out, but if they don’t … It’s not always wild crazy,” McIntosh said. “Every once in awhile, you’ll hear a stray scream, but I think it’s just one guy every time.”

McIntosh enjoys having a full fridge and a microwave she didn’t pay for. She said living in Cross makes her feel more independent, and she’s happy to not be in the dorms anymore.

Cross is still lacking the landscaping OU has kept up over the years. Dreams of green grass are nearing, but at the moment, dirt is the view in Cross.

“It’s just not pretty to look out your window and see a field of mud,” McIntosh said.

Despite the final obstacles in Cross, residents are becoming more positive about it. Escandon, Gramza and Rogers feel it is only getting better from here and would recommend living there to others.

Cross has its own parking garage, which residents are thankful for after having to deal with parking issues before. Being on campus also benefits people without vehicles, said Escandon.

“I like the close proximity to campus,” Escandon said. “I like accommodation because I don’t have a car, so this is really important for me.”




As of August 2018, Cross had a 28 percent occupancy rate. In the past, OU opened its Residential Colleges, Dunham and Headington, to freshmen to fill in rooms. If Cross does this, residents feel as though Cross will lose its quietness and will feel more like the dorms again.

“It could get a lot louder just because freshmen are freshmen,” Gramza said. “I just think this is better for people who are at least a year into schooling.”

Escandon also said she fears freshmen might miss out on getting the opportunity to meet new people in the dorms like she did. Being from Texas, Escandon didn’t know anyone, and the dorms offered a place for her to have the ability to meet people she is now friends with.

Cross is much different from the dorms, and despite the initial problems, residents are overall content with not being in the dorms anymore.

“(Being an upperclassmen), everything calms down because you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything,” Escandon said. “It’s like … ‘out of sight, out of mind.’”

Kelci McKendrick — Story Behind the Story

By Kelci McKendrick

At 25-years-old, Lizzie Johnson has interned at the Dallas Morning News, the Chicago Tribune, the Omaha World-Herald, her hometown newspaper, and abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Upon graduating from the University of Missouri in December 2014, she accepted an internship from the San Francisco Chronicle, which turned into a full-time position where she now covers California wildfires.

Johnson traveled abroad to Argentina to work for a news organization as part of a Mizzou program. She did all of her reporting in Spanish, which she said was difficult but made her realize she can do anything. It also instilled a love for traveling in her. Since then, she has traveled to about 30 countries, with Copenhagen being her favorite place so far.

Johnson began her career at the San Francisco Chronicle in the summer of 2015 after an internship at the Chicago Tribune, which she said was her favorite internship because she learned a lot about backgrounding, public records and crime reporting — skills she thinks are great to have as a backbone for all types of reporting. She received the call from the Chronicle offering her the position, and she received a call again from them hours later offering her a full-time job.

“It was just one of those dumb luck things,” Johnson said. “One of my college professors always told me, ‘Luck is when opportunity meets preparation,’ and this was one of those things that really just kind of panned out.”

She covered politics for two years and then transitioned to covering fires, which she said she likes more. The Chronicle actually created the position for her because wildfires have become such prevalent issue in California that they need someone to cover them specifically. She became “the fire girl.”

She spent a full year writing the “Out of the Fire” series, taking the time to really grasp the aftermath of losing one’s home to a fire.

“Out of the Fire” consists of four stories involving two couple. Astrid and Henry Granger had lived in Coffee Park in Santa Rosa, California, for 30 years, and Melissa and Cole Geissinger had moved there just two years before the fire and were expecting their first child. Johnson got the two couples to trust her by being honest about her view for the story.

I think it’s important to be really honest upfront about what you’re expectations are,” Johnson said. “I think it’s really important to make sure that your subjects know that from the get go, and then just let them know that you have certain needs and expectations from them to write a really good story.”

Johnson followed the Grangers and the Geissingers throughout their lives one year after they lost their homes — and also the personal challenges they each faced. The Geissingers spent many months in the hospital with their son Apollo after he was born with health issues, and the Grangers faced Henry having a heart attack and coming close to death.

“The fire made everything so much more intense,” Johnson said. “All of these things that would have been big challenges on their own suddenly felt insurmountable because the fire was layered on top of them, and that’s how it was for a lot of people.”

Johnson said following them throughout these difficult moments and asking them difficult questions was hard and sometimes uncomfortable, but as Johnson said, “if you aren’t feeling uncomfortable during an interview, it means you probably aren’t asking the right questions to get to the heart of what someone is going through.”

The series took a lot of organization, according to Johnson. She said she had over 200 pages of notes for each couple, and she would go through them with highlighters to organize her story and figure out what goes where. Editing it was simple, she said, because she and her editor had a really great idea of what they wanted the story to look like.

At only 25, Johnson has done incredible things and seen the world, and she still envisions an amazing future for herself. She is releasing two projects soon — one about firefighters and how few of them there are and one about suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge, and she hopes to do more stories like “Out of the Fire” in the future.

Johnson’s top goal in the news world is to become a war correspondent, and she said she thinks “Out of the Fire” has helped her prepare for that.

“It’s basically the same model as what I did with this story where I kind of parachute into a place and tell a story about what’s happening and get people to care about something they haven’t thought about before,” Johnson said.

I went into this assignment not having a favorite writer — only a favorite newspaper, The Chronicle. I came out of this with a new favorite writer. She tells compelling stories in a way that makes readers compassionate about things. With “Out of the Fire,” Johnson created a beautiful parallel between a couple that just started their life at Coffee Park and one that had been there for so long. Their lives were briefly intertwined through Johnson, and the impact the story has left on readers is just what she had envisioned for it in the year it took to write it.

Profile: ‘Annie Oakley’ guitarist, singer looks forward to future in new band, album release, tour dates

By Kelci McKendrick

Grace Babb remembers all the moments she makes a room full of people pay attention to her through her radiant voice and the melodic strums of her guitar.

Grace began playing the guitar at 14, a year after her twin sister Sophia started playing, following their father’s suicide. Although this is not a moment she remembers as a crowded room, she remembers it as one that changed her life in the music industry.

Before, Grace had her entire life planned in the opposite direction she would go in. Afterward, her life flipped upside-down.

“It changed everything,” Grace said. “I was going to go to a Catholic high school, and I had it all planned out — I was going to be a cheerleader. I had all my friends going with me, and I was probably going to be super preppy. Then he died, and I was awoken into conscious reality, which is like, ‘Oh shit, I’m mortal. Anyone I know could die, and one of them just did.’”

Grace said she would not have pursued her life in music if she had never come to the realization that life is short, and silly things don’t matter in comparison to death.

As the youngest of 12 siblings, Grace and Sophia found comfort in music together.

“It was hard for us both to handle it, but when we started playing music, we both kind of got on the same level in terms of recovering from grief,” Sophia said.

The twins had a lot of extra emotions and creative energy lounging around, so they plugged it all into music as a sort of therapy tool to express their feelings of grief.

An inseparable duo, Grace and Sophia formed a band together called “Grace and Sophia” in 2013. The name changed to “Annie Oakley” when their violinist and longtime best friend Nia Personette joined.

Seven years later, Annie Oakley is on the verge of breaking out of being local. Annie Oakley is where Grace can focus her energy to doing something that matters to her. As a guitarist and singer, she’s embracing everything that comes with the band — including its first full-length album.

Annie Oakley is releasing “Words We Mean” on Oct. 12. Grace said she believes this album is what will take the band further into the music industry. She said the band put in five years worth of stories into their first album, choosing 12 songs the band played continuously for over a year.

“We’re always writing new songs, but these have been ones that we keep around in our sets, so we figured we might as well just record them, and I think they’re solid,” Grace said. “We wanted something we were proud of.”




Last year, Annie Oakley got to play in the Plaza District Festival in Oklahoma City where Grace met Spenser Powers.

Powers introduced himself to Grace through Instagram before the festival, asking her to come watch his show. She said she would only if he watched hers. That’s where their love story began.

Grace and Powers began playing music together, and when her sister, an Oklahoma City University mass communications senior, interned over the summer in Washington, D.C., Grace said she couldn’t not play music for that long. She formed the band Spinster with Powers and other friends of theirs.

Sophia is now studying abroad in Germany, which is something she’s grateful for. The once inseparable twins are now forming their own identities away from each other, and Grace gets to express herself how she wants to with Spinster whereas she didn’t have as much freedom in Annie Oakley.

Spinster is very different from Annie Oakley, which is more of a collaborative effort with Sophia and Personette. As the leader of Spinster, Grace gets to be more of a performer and do her own songs.

“Spinster is her band, so she’s all business and writes all the songs, comes up with the vision and does everything like that,” Powers said. “That’s her baby.”

Grace enjoys the songs and music she plays in Spinster and finds them fun, but she likes the stories in and the intimacy of the crowd with Annie Oakley.

Spinster does, however, allow Grace to put her heart and emotions into her songs — some of which were about Powers.

“When I write a song, it’s what I want to say to them and how I feel or how they made me feel,” Grace said. “I’ve written my most intimate songs by thinking that way, and I play them, and I just feel like that’s being honest — this is how I really think about things.”


Grace and Powers broke up for more reasons than one, but it was mutual in the end. Powers said he didn’t want to stop her from doing what she wants and being “the one of the best songwriters in Oklahoma City.”

One of Grace’s songs about Powers is what led to Powers actually leaving Spinster on Oct. 8. Powers said he and Grace fought after Grace sang a song called “Yellow” that was about him.

I want to tell you to shut your mouth

Circumvent the moment you might fuck it up

I’m not your mother

I’m not your shrink

These words made Powers feel worthless.

“I can’t play those songs,” Powers said to Grace. “I’m not going to stop you from playing those songs, but I can’t do it.”

This, however, is what comes with being a songwriter — wearing your heart on your sleeve, Grace said.

Although Powers is heartbroken over losing Grace as a lover and a bandmate, he still said only the best things possible about her. In fact, he couldn’t find enough words to describe her “perfection.”

“I just can’t say enough good things about Grace,” Power said.




Grace remembers moments — all the moments she spent with Annie Oakley writing songs, losing her father and balancing music with everything else. Most importantly, though, is she revels in silence in the moments she captivates audiences.

Annie Oakley has performed in the Sooner Theatre during Norman Music Fest for the past three years. The last two years, the band was asked to perform on the main stage, but it declined because Annie Oakley is a band you listen to, Grace said.

“We are a listening-room band,” Grace said. “What we do is very focused as a band, and it’s really a story. Those moments are the moments that I do music for — just being able to grab someone’s attention, because it’s hard … to sit still and listen to someone sing. It takes a lot. So whenever I can do that — whenever I can make someone pay attention, those are the most memorable moments for me.”

Annie Oakley is going on a Southwestern tour in March 2019 — Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma. In June that year, the band is doing a Texas tour and has hopes of booking a California tour and a European tour.

Even though Annie Oakley is still working out the kinks with tours during school semesters for Personette, Sophia and Grace are determined to make their dreams come true and dream of leaving Oklahoma within two years.

Where will Grace Babb be in five years — after Annie Oakley goes further into the music world, after she leaves Oklahoma and after Spinster takes off with Grace’s own words in her songs?

“I see her really kicking ass with her music and killing it with her creative projects,” Sophia Babb said. “I think she’s only going to get better, and she’s going to make a professional career out of what she’s really good at.”

Powers sees an even bigger future for Grace.

“On the cover of Rolling Stone — no doubt in my mind,” Powers said with a smile. “She wants it, and she can do whatever she wants. Grace is a badass.”

Essay: The night that never ended

By Kelci McKendrick

She bought the dress for her daughter’s wedding. Instead, she wore it to her own funeral.

My Aunt Tammy J, short for Johnson, was my second mother. She was buried in that pink and white dress. Her daughter, Rachel, was born exactly one year before me. We called ourselves the “year-apart twins.” We grew up with same-day birthday parties in the old McDonald’s caboose and the old skating rink, always swapping Barbies afterwards. Our mothers were lucky enough to be able to split the cost of our birthday parties.

Rachel’s house had a pool and a huge swing set/slide, so I spent a lot of time there, playing with Polly Pockets and pretending to be mermaids in the pool. Aunt Tammy was my mom at her house and watched us while we played, and she was my mom in mine and Rachel’s elementary school, where she was a teacher. I would see her in the hallways and hug her and then ask her if I could go stay with her. She would laugh and tell me she would ask my mom.

Biscuits and chocolate gravy. Trust me when I say Aunt Tammy made the best biscuits and chocolate gravy. I can’t count how many times she’d make me breakfast, lunch and dinner. When I was younger, I had really bad allergies — allergies that would last two months at least twice a year. I can’t count how many nights I would be coughing my lungs out at 3 a.m. when Aunt Tammy would sleepily walk into Rachel’s room and wake me up to give me cough medicine. There’s so many things she did for me that I can’t count.

Her house was my home away from home. I knew everything about it, from which drawer held color-changing spoons and which held crayons to how to feed their fish the right way.

I also knew, however, time could be short.

In addition to Aunt Tammy J, my mom’s sister, I also had an Aunt Tammy K, short for Ketchum, my dad’s sister. Growing up, if I would tell my parents I wanted to go see Aunt Tammy, I would then specify “Aunt Tammy K” or “Aunt Tammy J.” It’s something I would always laugh about when telling stories to my friends about the weekend I’d had at Aunt Tammy’s house — Aunt Tammy K, I mean. Aunt Tammy J, I mean.

Aunt Tammy K had a computer with a lot of games on it. To any kid, that’s a dream come true. She also lived on a horse farm. I got to spend many days with her petting foals and colts. I helped name horses and rode around with Aunt Tammy K on her Ranger around the farm land.

I invited Aunt Tammy K to my eighth grade banquet. That elementary school I mentioned didn’t have a high school, so I graduated from eighth grade. I invited Aunt Tammy K because I wanted to spend more time with her. That was in May of 2012. I didn’t know how much time I had left to spend time with her.

I don’t exactly remember when Aunt Tammy K was diagnosed with cancer. It wasn’t a long time before my banquet — maybe in March. Nor do I remember what kind of cancer she had. I do remember my mom and I picking her up in her “limo,” which was just my mom’s blue Titan, and taking her places to spend time with her. I’d lost a grandmother and grandfather before, but not someone who wasn’t … old.

That changed in July 2012, when my parents — who were divorced, but my mom was close to Aunt Tammy K — stood by her hospice bed. My dad cried out for her, the second time I’d ever seen him cry.

“Take me instead, God! Please take me instead!”

Those words echoed from then until now. My dad’s pleas to God to take him over Aunt Tammy K ring in my mind to this day. She was barely breathing as my dad clutched her hand. My mom was holding me with tears brimming in her eyes. I was at loss for words. Growing up with two aunts named Tammy was the best of both worlds. Now there was only one.


* * *


In the years following her death, I grew closer to Aunt Tammy J and my year-apart twin.

I started high school in 2012 at the same high school Rachel had chosen to go to. Aunt Tammy was there with my mom to take those dreaded first day of school pictures. Both my mom and Aunt Tammy had big smiles on their faces as we walking into high school together — growing up attached at the hip like they had made them so happy. It made me happy, too. I loved having two mothers in my life.

But by 2015, my year-apart twin’s senior year, everything changed. A pain in Tammy’s hip, which had bothered her for months, was diagnosed as… cancer.

Is this, I remember thinking, really happening again?

Osteosarcoma isn’t an easy to cancer to beat, but we all believed in Aunt Tammy. We all believed God would — as became our motto — (He)al (can)cer. That was our motto. That’s what kept us going.

Aunt Tammy got to watch Rachel graduate in May, crying, using crutches to walk, clearly in pain, but never smiling so big as she did when Rachel crossed that stage. Her other oldest daughter, Sarah, was to be married that July, and she was determined to make it to then. But by July, she couldn’t smile anymore. She couldn’t do much anything. Soon, hospice care was again arranged.

I went to work at my part-time job at Wendy’s on July 1, after leaving Aunt Tammy’s house. She was asleep when I left, her family surrounding her. I hated leaving.

I got back just before midnight, just in time. Aunt Tammy’s her oxygen level and heart rate were low. It was almost time. I stood at her feet as her husband, Russell, as my dad had done for his sister, tried to soothe her.

“It’s okay, Sweetheart. You can let go. You don’t have to be in pain anymore.”

And as her heart rate went flat, he cried out again, but this time, in agony.

“Oh no! God please no! Don’t take her from me!”

This can’t, I remember thinking, be happening again.

As we waited for the funeral service to arrive, I ran to the bathroom and sank to the ground. I called my best friend at the time, Landon, and sobbed, as I stammered through tears.

I lost them both, I explained to him.

In the same month, three years apart.

To the same disease.


* * *


The dress was still perfect, even if it didn’t match its ultimate occasion.

Her daughters had helped her pick it out — big pink and white horizontal stripes and sleeveless. It captured her essence: graceful, loving, sweet and elegant yet casual.

Aunt Tammy wore the dress meant for her daughter’s wedding only twice. Once in the store, and the last time in her casket. Still, she looked beautiful in the dress at her funeral.

Sarah’s wedding was pushed back to September. As happy as the family was for her, we all knew there was a somber tone in the air. In place of the mother helping her daughter with her dress were dozens of aunts stepping in. In place of the mother being walked down the aisle by the groom, was him walking with a white rose in his hand, laying it in her place in the church pew. Jump forward two years. In place of the mother helping Sarah through her first pregnancy to holding her first granddaughter was a baby girl who would never see her grandmother’s smile. In place of the mother smiling at 20-year-old Rachel graduating with her bachelor’s degree was a smile through tearful eyes. In place of the mother, we had an angel.

Biscuits and chocolate gravy. Rachel makes them just like her mom did. I had no answers for Rachel after Tammy died. What answers were there to give? All I could give her was my shoulder. I helped carry her — and my mom, who took her death very had. I grew closer to mom after Tammy died, not wanting to waste any time.

Three years later, my year-apart twin and I talk — as our mothers once did — like sisters. We talked about boys, future babies, OU football, college, God’s existence, the ocean, food… and eventually, Tammy.

She’s not taboo anymore. I was there for Rachel when she lost her mother, and she was there for me when I lost an aunt. We miss her, but she is with us, and she is proud of her daughters and grandchildren.

Biscuits and chocolate gravy, just like her mom made. I’ll eat the biscuits and chocolate gravy Rachel makes any day of the week with her.