A Visit to My Parents That Was a Long Time Coming
In the review of my life, I always felt I fell short as a son. Never did anything horrific, however, just felt like I never did enough, especially when my mother was sick. Most of that was left to my sister. I remember going to the movies with my mother, mortified thinking ‘what if someone from school saw me?’ (see, this is what I’m talking about – what an asshole). Now, as a parent, I realize how much spending time with me meant to her. Painfully selfish on my part.
Ok, you usually come to this site to read something funny; this self-reflection is depressing for you to read. Let me cheer things up a bit around here.
Let’s talk about cemeteries.
After my mother died, I never went to visit her grave. The only time back was when my father passed away (enough with the dead parents, Al). My daughter was born shortly after that, then my two sons in succession. In all those years since their births, not once did I think to take them to visit their grandparents.
The first Christmas, after my marriage was all but over, I finally decided to go visit my parents.
It was a bitter cold day, dreary, and sky filled with grey clouds. A vendor at work sold grave blankets, bought one just a few days before (did you know they don’t look like blankets? I did not). Previously, I asked my sister where the graves were. She gave me detailed instructions where to find them. When I entered the cemetery, I went to where I thought they’d be. They weren’t. These were the days before cell phones, so back to my car I went. A few miles down the road, I found a gas station and called my sister. She repeated her directions, and I went back to the cemetery. Of course, I could not find them. I went back, made a second call, was instructed a second time (actually, third time), but still could not find them. The bitter cold froze my cheeks as I wandered, a confused ghost, between the headstones. I came across a name I recognized from school; not sure if it was the same person, sadly the age was about right.
After my penance, I came across a small gravestone, a child, whose last name was the same as a bar I went to once or twice off route thirty-six. I placed the blanket below his name and asked him to tell my parents I was here.
Now, for these past few years, my brother, my sister, and myself visit our parents around Christmas. My sister brings the grave blanket. We talk for a while, reminisce about our childhood, and our parents. Last year, after we said something about our father, my brother’s cell phone rang.
“Well,” I said, “I guess Mom has something to add.”
These visits have since given me something to think about. Do I want to be buried, or be cremated? I’m not sure what the church has to say about it; the rules change over time. Even though we were born catholic, my brother is now a Baptist, my sister is a Lutheran (they let her sing in their choir); I am still a Catholic (because you dance with the one who brought you).
Also, made me think of my maternal grandmother. I was young when she died, but I remember the cemetery she was buried in. It was the biggest piece of enclosed land that I ever saw. Rolling hills of green, pockmarked with headstone, seemed to go on forever. The reason I think of her now is, I don’t have a clue how I would go about finding her grave. The cemetery, Green-wood, is four-hundred-and-eight acres with five-hundred-sixty-thousand permanent residents, per their website. Although, I feel the term ‘permanent’ is redundant; I don’t think any of the residents think ‘this place has really gone downhill, we’re moving to Florida.
With cremation, I can divvy myself up, and give each of my kids a little Dad container, something to wave at as they walk out the door (not too creepy, right?).
Point is, and maybe other families are more diligent in terms of visiting deceased relatives, a few generations from now, no one will know where we are. I will have an ego-driven blog that will be out there for as long as the internet exists, so if anyone is interested, they could find me. But sometime, down the road, it might be nice to see a familiar face drop by around the holidays.