It’s Christmas time again. Yesterday I visited my parents and in-laws. I visited a few months ago after Cary’s relapse not knowing exactly why I stopped that day after dropping off my grandson at daycare. It has been 17 years since my father died and 9 years since my father-in-law’s death. My mother and mother-in-law died some years after their spouses and both in December two years apart, one eight days before Christmas and one three days after. Perhaps that is what brought me here again as Christmas approaches. My family is not angry because I have not visited before this year. This is just a symbolic place of remembrance, and that is what I do now—remember. But it is not the only place to remember. My children and I share stories and memories often of this family. This is what Poppy did or this is a word Grandma always used or do you remember when? That is why they never really leave us. My children are lucky and grateful to have had two sets of grandparents in their lives for so long. They wish the same for their own children, but it will be different for them.
It was just below freezing yesterday with the gray overcast skies of a wet winter day. Near the entrance to this nondenominational cemetery, I passed a tree stump with greenish algae or lichens and some water-logged fungi gripping the bark. There were remnants of the ice-snow from the day before on the ground, and the earth squished under my soles with the rain from the night before on the yet unfrozen ground. My parents were locked behind mausoleum doors. The key was stiff in the lock and turned with difficulty. I walked into the room with stone walls and bronze plaques and dotted with flowers in remembrance of the holiday; there they were —Ruth and Henry. I cried a moment grieving losses years ago or maybe just grieving for the past and for the desire to talk just one more time. They were good parents leaving me with things I had not fully realized until I needed them. Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see my mother. I miss them now as I get older. I locked the door behind me and drove down one of the roads winding through the cemetery and parked. I walked down close to Old Route 422 to the graves of Jim and Eva. The vase base was lifted slightly from its hole and one of the screws on the 2012 date plaque was missing. What does perpetual care mean? Will they put in another screw in the spring?
I left them feeling warm in memory and cold in loss.