Monday, May 27, 2013

Remembering

My paternal grandparents.


Late May in small-town Idaho. We would wake early for a vacation day. Mom would go outside to circle the lilac bush. When she returned, her arms were heavy with the heady scent of spring. The counter covered with flowers. She would cut and arrange them in masons jars filled with water. Purple and white loveliness.

Into the station wagon we piled. Windows down and the warm breeze ruffling our hair. The line into the cemetery was often long, cars inching forward waiting their turn. Finally, we would turn in and follow the path, around the back and up to the big tree. If we were lucky, Dad would park in the shade.

Mom might let me carry the precious flowers. We were taught to respect the graves, no running across the grass, no goofing around. The cemetery was large and confusing to me. I always wondered how Dad always knew where to go. We would find it and Mom would set the homemade arrangement in beside the markers, one for Dad's parents, one for the sister he never knew.  Grandpa was a veteran, and the cemetery was supposed to place a flag at his grave. They always missed him. So, we'd beg for permission, then race (not on the grass!) to the office and get a flag to mark his heroism.

Often, Dad's siblings would be there--a reunion of sorts. The grown-ups would talk, the younger kids would chase each other on the gravel road, while the teens chatted, clearly too cool to be there.

It was a ritual, a tradition never missed. The rest of the day could be filled with picnics and parks, but the morning was always reserved for remembering our dead.

Things have changed. My children rarely visit a grave site. Their great-grandparents are buried miles and miles away. It saddens me, this ending of tradition. They need to know where they came from. There must be an understanding of the lives and sacrifices made so that they could be here. There are pictures, of course, but I want them to learn the stories that go with them. I'm feeling the 'pull'.

That invisible cord that links us to the past. It doesn't lie slack. It is strong and taught. Ever so gently, it pulls us toward our history.

2 comments:

  1. I remember watching my Mom and Grandma unerringly find the stones of all our family and I was amazed. How did they do that? Now I am the adult, leading my kids and nephews to those same markers. I heard one young nephew ask how I knew exactly where to go....hopeful one day, he will lead his flower toting kids out there too.

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  2. We used to visiti the cemeteries every year as kids as well. Visiting the graves of my great grandparents in Brigham City and Wellsville. Apparently it was never a tradition in Bryan's family and he is less thrilled to take his day off and drive to Provo, Lindon or Brigham City where our own grandparents are now buried. It makes me kind of sad that Memorial Day is just like any other day at our house and we aren't paying our respects. So for the past 12 years or so, I've been going out of my way to buy red carnations on Memorial Day. The day my grandpa died, my grandmother made sure that after the funeral was over, the red carnations were pulled from various flower arrangements and one given to each grandchild. Papa loved red carnations, she said. So though in the past 12 years she has also now passed, along with my maternal grandparents and all but one of Bryan's grandparents as well, the red carnations have come to symbolize all of them. My way to remember them on Memorial Day, even if I'm not at the gravesite.

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