I met Sean in the early 1970s. His dad played Drowning Bear in the outdoor drama, Unto These Hills, here in Cherokee. My cousin, Carol, and I were working at the Oconaluftee Indian Village which is right next door to the drama and we began spending our evenings at the play to have something to do. As we got to know more and more of the players, we began attending the canteen show that took place on Saturday night after the regular show. It was a nice time for us to be out – we were safe and we were entertained so we stayed (mostly) out of trouble. We met Sean’s parents first – Jayne and Ed Grady – and later we met Sean and his sister, Marta. Carol and I began spending afternoons with Jayne and Ed because they were interesting people to know plus they were genuinely interested in us even though we were giggly teenagers. I was so impressed with Jayne – she was classy, educated, musical, poetic and no-nonsense. She engaged us on an adult level which was pretty cool since I considered her worldly and way far above anything that I could ever be. Anyway, Carol and I thought Sean was pretty hot stuff and Carol encouraged me to pursue him. Haha. I was painfully shy and pursuing anyone was not something that I could possibly attempt – at least at that time.
We had a couple of lovely summers with Jayne & Ed and I even helped them out by entertaining Ed’s niece from Florida for a couple of weeks. Ed was teaching at Freedom School in Morganton during the year and eventually they stopped working at the drama and I moved away from Cherokee for several years. We always kept in touch though no matter where I lived – Washington, DC, Fort Duchesne, Utah, Seattle, Washington. In 1983, I was living in Seattle and I got a letter from Ed in which he told me that Jayne had breast cancer. It was a stunning bit of news for me. I had spent time at their house in Morganton spending an occasional night on my way to or from my home in Washington, DC. Sean told me year later that he was at the house once when I spent the night – he was interested but I guess it wasn’t time yet. In any event, in late May 1984 Jayne passed away from cancer. At that time, Sean had moved home to Morganton from Minnesota (he had also lived in Colorado and other points) to be there for his mom and dad. I, of course, was living in Seattle and writing weekly letters to Ed and eventually over the summer, I started writing to Sean as well. In early September, I took a Grey Hound bus from Seattle to Sylva, NC – the longest bus trip ever! and came back to Cherokee. My plan was to hang out for a little while and enjoy myself, then head north to Washington, DC and find a job and a place to live. In the meantime, I called Ed and suggested that he and Sean drive to Cherokee for a visit the weekend next but Ed had plans to visit his mother, Granny Grady, so he suggested that Sean come alone, and I said sure. Sean showed up on Friday evening driving Ed’s Honda Accord, and we took off for an evening of beer and goofing off. We spent the night at my friend, Kathy’s apartment and the next day we explored the Smokies and the area. By Sunday evening when it was time for Sean to leave, I was smitten, completely and totally. Such a strange feeling that I’ve never had before – when Sean left, it felt like a piece of my body had been cut off.
We had challenges communicating as there were no cell phones in 1984 at least in our area of the country and not everyone in Cherokee had a phone, but we persevered. Sean returned on the following Friday and by Sunday we had decided to get married. It was whirlwind for sure! We drove to Morganton where Ed had brought Granny Grady to stay. I was terrified to tell Ed – it was so sudden. I kept telling myself it would be okay – if worse came to worse, we could always get divorced – not a great attitude I suppose but I kept thinking that Sean would eventually find out what a phoney I was and dump me. We got through the telling and made plans. I wanted to get married in a church if possible so that’s what we worked toward. Sean’s best friend, Cookie, provided a white dress for me to wear and Rev Sandy Giles, Methodist minister, married us in a Presbyterian church. We were attended by Cookie and her husband, Kevin, with Granny Grady and Ed standing by. Afterward, Cookie, Kevin, Sean & I went to local pub for a celebration beer. The next morning, we left for a couple of days of honeymooning in northern Georgia. Sean’s family was as surprised as my family was and they showered us with congratulatory messages.
There were moments in our early marriage that I almost freaked out. One morning, I woke up in Sean’s bed and almost panicked – what did I do? OMG! But then the panic subsided and I was good. I also had a nightmare when we’d been married a few weeks. I dreamt that I met Sean with a new woman on the street and he hissed at me “get away from me.” That was scary. Now more than 36 years later, I can safely say that my hub loves me and always has.
We were married almost 3 years when Keenan was born and eighteen months later Faolan came along. We are so lucky to have them. Both were born early and Keenan in particular had a difficult time at first. We moved from Sylva where we’d bought a house to Columbia, SC where we lived for 3 years. We decided it was time to move home when we realized that the boys had no idea of who they were. They needed to be around other native kids so we moved back to Cherokee where we have made our life since. We worked hard through our marriage to provide a decent home (although the house was never quite finished physically) for the boys with stability. We lived next door to my parents so the boys were influenced by their granny & grampa throughout their upbringing. We had good food, clean clothes and good beds to sleep in. Throughout it all, Sean provided continuity, support, and encouragement to the boys in whatever they wanted to do. Keenan followed in his dad’s footsteps going into information technology while Faolan earned a degree in creative writing. Both of our sons live in California now – Keenan in San Jose and Faolan in Costa Mesa.
Sean would do anything for his sons that is within his power. He tries to make sure they have what they need, and I imagine that he will continue to do this for as long as he lives. When I think about Sean as a man, my descriptor would be that he has the most integrity of anyone that I have ever known. He has suffered terribly because he refused to compromise when he could have done so at far less risk. Because he is very quiet, I think that some people think that he is bowing up and not being cooperative. He will go out of his way to help others, often giving the most needed item out of his pocket. He researches whatever topic is of interest at any particular time – from diets (he has an wide knowlege of nutrition and the human body), electronics, vendors, politicians, teaching methods and so on. Sean reads almost exclusively non-fiction – he loves history and he researches authors before reading their books to ensure they have balance in their work. He has a good working knowledge of economics and the US economy, he keeps up with doings overseas as well and in Central America. He has read extensively on the political structure in the US and has excellent recall on facts and figures from all historic periods. If I need a quick answer to a question, I’ll ask Sean before I Google it. So much faster and always accurate. I think Sean’s brain truly is a sponge – he took carpentry classes at Southwestern in the early 1970s and from that humble start, he was able to support himself as a subcontractor and he built our house. He taught me the fundamentals of construction as well as how to use the various saws and other equipment.
Sean loves golf. We were introduced to the game just lately by our son, Faolan. I didn’t expect for it to become so popular but it did. We’ve played golf everywhere. I’m not terribly good (terribly bad actually) and we don’t keep official score when we play, but it is a lot of fun and at least a little bit of exercise. Sean is game for almost anything though. When I started running with my sister in the late 1990s, early 2000s, Sean joined in. He drove us everywhere to compete in races and he ended up completing the Marine Corps Marathon with me. We started CrossFit to work on our fitness for running and ended up running to enhance our CrossFit. lol. Sean ended up in the hospital with a triple-bypass in 2013 because of a bum-ticker. We are all very fortunate as Sean’s commitment to exercise had created a very healthy and strong heart even though he experienced a blockage.
Sean isn’t a religious man, although I would say that he is very spiritual. He knows the Bible very well – much better than I do, and I’ve been a long-time church member and attendee. When I was in college, we had to study the Bible and learn the books. Sadly, as soon as school was out, I immediately forgot what I had learned. I can ask Sean and he’ll usually know where a certain passage is and he seems to know the men that wrote the various books.
I am such a needy person. That’s probably not really true but it sure feels like it. As much as I depend on Sean from day to day, week to week and year to year, he has never made feel like I’m a burden to him. I just hope that I have been a good a partner to him as he has been to me.