STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And it's time now for StoryCorps, the project that records the stories of everyday Americans listening to each other. Today we hear from Mike Kilgore, who wanted to talk about his grandmother.
Mr. MIKE KILGORE: Her full name was Sara Louisa Matilda Elizabeth Nowles. I think she was named after all her grandmothers and probably a few other people.
INSKEEP: Mike Kilgore says he was always welcome in his grandmother's Alabama home, even when he took certain liberties, like smoking the leaves of a wildflower called rabbit tobacco, in secret.
Mr. KILGORE: I remember one night I went to my grandmother's, and Cousin Jimmy was staying with me, and we were doing the things that boys would do. And we decided we were going to smoke rabbit tobacco. Then we rolled it up in newspaper, and we sat right there and we were, you know, not inhaling it, but we thought we were big shots. But anyway, I saw the pickup lights coming up the hill, and I knew it was Daddy coming to check on us.
And my granny, she had an old, little potbellied heater, and we grabbed up that big, old pile rabbit tobacco and, instead of shoving it under the bed, we put it in that old potbellied stove. And of course, the smoke just went everywhere. We were opening up windows trying to get all the smoke out, and Daddy started beating on the door, wanting to know if everybody's all right. And Daddy came in there and he smelled it and he said, you boys, y'all been smoking, and he pulled off his belt. He could pull it out in one flash like that.
And she said, Cecil Kilgore, you're not going to lay a hand on those boys. This is my house, and as long as they're here, you're not going to lay a hand on them. And she was his mother. He respected his mother, and he left. From that night on, off and on, basically I'd spend the night with her, and we would talk, you know, bad things would happen in school, little things would happen. And I remember she'd say, Mikey, if you look at the bad, the good's going to always pass you by, and the birds always sing after the storm. She'd just say things like that all the time.
And when I was 15 years of age, my aunt called Daddy up and said, Cecil, we need to take Mama to the hospital, to the doctor. She's having trouble breathing. I heard the call; the phone was on the wall on the hallway where my bedroom door was at. And I said, let me go with you. And so I was with her when she passed away, and she had a smile on her face, and she said that she could hear the angels. She says she could hear them singing. And I never will forget that.
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INSKEEP: That's Mike Kilgore, remembering his grandmother at StoryCorps in Indianapolis. You can read more stories like this in the StoryCorps book, "Listening Is an Act of Love." It's now available on paperback. StoryCorps interviews are also archive at the Library of Congress and at npr.org. And we'd like to let you know that we're going to have special StoryCorps sessions everyday next week, Thanksgiving week, leading up to Friday, which we're calling the national day of listening. Next week, we're going to hear people including George W. Bush, the president of the United States, and also my mom.
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INSKEEP: This is NPR News.