Sunday, May 25, 2008

Happy Memorial Day!

Wishing everyone a happy holiday seems a bit inappropriate for a time set aside to honor the memories of loved ones passed. Nonetheless, I hope it's a very pleasant weekend for everyone.

(NOTE: For those who have been readers of Dada's for some time you can stop here as what follows is the same Memorial Day memory I've run for the past two years. That's because I've been unable to top it. I guess there's truth to "peaking too early.")


photo by Dada

Another Memorial Day and I muse at the parade of those incredibly peaceful cemetery names across the land. It's too bad in life we can't aspire to the serenity we embrace in death in places like Skyline Memorial Gardens, Forest Lawn, Oak Grove, Rose Hill, Evergreen, Memory Gardens, Pierce Brothers Cemetery.

Wait! Pierce Brothers Cemetery? Pierce Brothers always sounded more like the Flying A gas station on the corner of 10th and Main than a place of eternal slumbers. But Pierce Brothers it was in the hometown of my youth.

This weekend I recall a Memorial Day of many, many years ago where the sacred, set-aside sections of Earth of every little community and town sprout multi-colored bouquets under the stars in fields of blue amid red-white stripes atop neatly mown lawns of verdant greens. Pierce Brothers was no exception.

Being a new comer to my little town, the significance of Memorial Day was lost on me. I didn't know anyone 'neath those flowers and flags. Yet every year this happened.

Oh sure, there were the two grandmothers and grandfathers who died before I was born. I never knew any of them. And as absent as they had been in my life, they were almost equally aloof in their deaths, buried seven states and 2,000 miles away. They were nothing more to me than glistenings in Mom and Dad's eyes whenever they'd remember them.

I was a stranger to death and those who represented it to us the living were nothing more than faceless names carved into the stones they were buried beneath where those floral arrangements and little flags suddenly sprang up every Memorial Day down at old Pierce Brothers.

But to my parents the day held more meaning. And so, when my mom announced that she and dad were going to take a drive through the local cemetery to see the graves, would I "like to go along?" I declined. There was no one there I knew.

That's when inspiration hit me. Plucking a handkerchief from my bedroom dresser, I headed out to my bike, announcing I was going to go for a ride instead. I wished them a pleasant drive.

Arriving at the cemetery a few minutes before my folks, I picked out a grave near the narrow lane that wound among the eternal slumberers. Borrowing a single rose from the bouquet atop it, I began working myself into the proper mindset. Trying to evoke tears, I imagined I was standing over the grave of Gina Lollobrigida, or Sophia Loren. For more tears, I imagined both beneath me.

It wasn't long before I spotted our black and yellow '57 Ford slowly winding along the lane towards me. Never once glancing in their direction, but with hanky deployed, I dropped to my knees as I placed the lone rose atop the grave in my best display of grief for the departed, Gina and Sophia. Behind me I thought I heard my mother's voice as they passed. Through the open car window came the words, "That damn fool!"

My prank had succeeded beyond my greatest expectations. Once back home, my folks and I would laugh about it. And every Memorial Day with my folks thereafter, I would hear my mom recount that one in particular to friends and family.

And now, many years later, I am no longer a stranger to death as in my youth. Mom and Dad are no longer here. Having passed almost 20 years ago now, they slumber eternally. No, they didn't end up in the Pierce Brothers place. They went to a place called Fir Lawn.

But just like Pierce Brothers and every other cemetery in the country this weekend, the flowers and flags are in full bloom. And while Fir Lawn is four or five states and almost two thousand miles away, there occasionally occurs a Memorial Day when, amid the colors and tributes of sadness, a shadow is cast across their graves. It's the shadow of their son with hanky in hand, a rose in the other. And I swear I can hear the words of my mother once more saying, "That damn fool!"


D.K. Raed said...

hope your Memorial Day is nice and that you leave off painting eaves until you are over your cold ... otherwise we may be hearing Mrs. Dada saying, "that damn fool"!

dada said...

Thanks, DK. Back atcha! This morning (Monday), I honestly think I can say I'm 'over the hump.' Energy's returning (along with the will to blog! ~grin).

Spent much time out on the patio yesterday. The winds have subsided and thoughts of painting under the eaves are returning. (Oh no!)