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A 'Step-Other' Reflects On The Cycle Of Life
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A 'Step-Other' Reflects On The Cycle Of Life


Through the StoryCorps project, everyday Americans can record conversations with the people who matter most to them. Today, a story from Philadelphia. That's where Larry Buss and Roy Wilbur live. Larry and Roy have been partners for nearly 30 years, and they became grandparents two years ago when Larry's daughter, Alexis Buss, has her first child.

Here, Alexis speaks with her father's partner, Roy.

Ms. ALEXIS BUSS: When I asked dad what Sonja ought to call him, he instantly said pop-pop. But, Roy, you said, oh she'll just call me what she calls me.

Mr. ROY WILBUR: Well, I spent 27 years of my life being referred to as a step-other.

Ms. BUSS: And step-other was just a play on stepmother.

Mr. WILBUR: Exactly. And early on I thought, well, she could call me her grand-other.

Ms. BUSS: Which I thought was kind of funny because I thought it was inevitable she'd call you Roy, because, well, we call you Roy.

Mr. WILBUR: Well, I am Roy and she's young. She doesn't know the difference at this point, you know, having a pop-pop and a Roy as opposed to a pop-pop and a grandma. So, at this point, you know, to hear her say pop-pop and Roy really just sort of re-emphasizes the fact that we are a couple. And that means a lot to me.

Ms. BUSS: I think that's the great thing about her being so close to you two, is that your relationship is great. And with Sonja, you know, you're her closest grandparents, so I'm glad to have that example. I wanted to ask you about a bonding moment you had with Sonja when your father was sick and in his last days.

Mr. WILBUR: My relationship with my father really wasn't all that good because he had a lot of problems accepting me and accepting Larry. And so when he got sick, I just didn't find myself grieving. I knew he was dying but I couldn't cry. Sonja was three months old and Larry was holding her, and she just started crying. I took her outside, I started rocking her back and forth and she fell asleep.

And I found that when she fell asleep after she stopped crying, that's when I started crying. And it was like she allowed me to grieve for my father. I was reminded of everything he had done for me over my life despite the feelings that he had for me at that time, and the whole cycle of life sort of came to mind. You know, here she was a little three-month-old baby and my father was a 77-year-old man who within three days would be gone.

You know, I am not her biological grandfather — Larry is - but at that moment, feeling the warmth of her body and her little sobbing — you know, the little tears — it almost felt like she was.

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MONTAGNE: Roy Wilbur with Alexis Buss at StoryCorps in Philadelphia. Their conversation and all the others in this project will be archived at the Library of Congress. Subscribe to the StoryCorps Podcast at

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MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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