Sleep in peace, Agatha.
On June 12, 2017, we lost the matriarch of the Perry family, Leslin Agatha Perry.
Agatha was the cornerstone of the Perry's. A mother of 10 and a grandmother to more than 30, she had family for days. My relationship with my grandmother started when I was young. She came to New York from Georgetown, Guyana in the fall of the early 90's. She stayed with my family and I briefly, until both her and my uncle moved out to Bushwick. Over the course of a few years, I remember visiting her and my uncle. She was, dare I say, a VERY headstrong woman. As it is with most guyanese women, she took no shit and she was proud of where she came from.
When I was 12, My mother and I went on our weekly visit to Grandma's house, only to find her passed out on the floor. After getting her to the hospital, we were told that she had developed Diabetes, and that she would've went into a diabetic coma if it had not been for us getting to her in time. It was at that moment my mother decided that she would live with us from then on.
I remember as a kid having to wake up early before school to make her breakfast (not that she couldn't do it herself, she mainly refused) and also give her the insulin shots. I know what you're thinking, "you were only 12!". Well, in my family, if you were old enough to use the bathroom on your own, you were old enough to do chores and giving grandma her shots were one of them. For a long time, I resented this woman. Who was she? How dare she come into our home and disrupt our lives. She stayed in my sister and I's room. I slept on a futon because I didn't want to share a bed. She used to tell us all of these scary stories and myths from and about Guyana, for the sole purpose of scaring the shit out of us. She used to yell at us. She became a topic of dissonance in the household, and I secretly blamed her for my parents' marriage trouble.
As the years went on, we were forced to place Agatha into a nursing home. She hated it. Prior to entering the facility, she was able to walk, albeit slow, but still. Once she entered, she was given a wheelchair and she proceeded to refuse to ever walk anywhere again. She became so dependent on the wheelchair, that her legs atrophied and she remained bound to it. Soon after, she was diagnosed with early dementia and we started to see a change in her. I no longer viewed her in a negative light. I began to see her as a woman who was alone. You see, even though she had all this family, no one really visited her. My mom was the only daughter in the US and she was her main caregiver for years. Her sons were too busy to care, and her remaining family was in Guyana.
Near the end of her life, she became a shell of herself. The Agatha I knew used to love playing dominoes, teasing her grandchildren, laughing at her sons and tormenting her nurses. She used to love singing church hymns and talking to her stuffed animals as if they were children. She would give us a dollar if we went to the store for her.
Leslin Agatha Perry taught me, by her actions, the meaning of persistence. She was a strong woman and the world is a tiny less active without her.
She will be missed.