My family’s never been much for visiting cemeteries. I guess Mom and Dad bought wreaths or bouquets for my grandparents’ graves on Decoration Day most years (I don’t think they ever called it Memorial Day), but that was about it. Not much sentimentality about the final resting places of our forebears. Maybe if they’d been buried on our land, out back of the barn or near the garden gate, we might’ve been more solicitous towards their bones and marble stones, but maybe not.
As far as I know, my cousin Eddie had been the only family member to visit Daddy’s grave since his death in July. He called to tell me that he dropped by the Rising Sun cemetery to visit his brother Bobby and our grandparents, and went by his Uncle George’s (Daddy’s) grave while he was there—to tell him how much he respected him and what a fine family he had and that Aunt Pauline was sure missing him but was going to be okay.
Yesterday would’ve been Daddy’s 91st birthday. Mom would’ve baked him an apple pie or chocolate cake and would’ve certainly had vanilla ice cream on hand if he were still hanging around. He’s been gone three and a half months and she’s still not used to the quiet space that his laughter and snoring and the rise and fall of his words once occupied. My sister and her daughter and granddaughter (Reta, LaVonne, and Gracie) are spending a couple of days with Mom this week. Four generations of women sitting around the kitchen table goes a long way towards filling up the void. They decided to visit Dad’s grave after lunch and my older brother Ron went with them.
When I called last night to see how their venture went, Mom said, “We stopped at that little florist shop in Rising Sun and I bought a bouquet of flowers in fall colors. George loved the fall colors, and the flowers were real pretty. But the gravesite was a desolate place. We’ve had so much rain this past week that the grave was all muddy and sunken in. I almost wish I hadn’t gone. You know how George was about keeping his yard so perfect, and there he was, stuck under a mud pit. Ron dug a hole and poked the flowers in it so that helped a little. We had to laugh at our meager attempt to beautify the place. The stone’s not there yet either, so it felt like we were sticking those flowers in a mudhole. Ron said the grave has to settle before they put the headstone in. I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s settled. Looked like a pan of brownies I took out of the oven way too soon, only a lot worse. A big mud puddle, that’s what it was. I guess it’s a good thing we went though. Seemed like we needed to do something to mark George’s birthday.”
After I hung up the phone, I made a pan of brownies. Didn’t add pecans to the batter because Daddy couldn’t do nuts—he hadn’t worn his bottom dentures for years. And I was careful to leave them in the oven till they were perfectly done. Didn’t want the grave to settle right before my eyes. Brownies for Daddy’s birthday. I ate two for breakfast this morning—one for me and one for him. I think I’ll wait and visit his grave after the groundskeeper has had time to fill it in and sow some grass, after the stone is in place:
George Edward Baker Pauline Smither Baker
October 24, 1925—July 8, 2016 September 23, 1926—
I hope Mom hangs out with us a few more years before we have to carve out that last blank space. And who knows, when both my parents are six feet under, I may join my cousin Eddie and visit their final resting place on a regular basis—at least on Decoration Day. Maybe take along a couple of brownies and a thermos of coffee and sit a spell.
Glenda Breeden for The Poplar Grove Muse