April 11, 2006

I'm back and further reflections

Offline for four days, or was it five? I'm re-amazed every time how easily I adapt to a world sans net. Sans keyboard. Sans even writing. Especially when I go to Rochester, where, except for the weather, life is simpler than it is here in the megalopolis of atlanta.

The first funniest part is driving. How in other places, people work together on a highway to make sure no one dies. How in Atlanta, it's you versus me, and if I don't look in my rear-view mirror, it doesn't count if what I do kills you.

I was telling george, it's like the motto of Rochester in all things is: We do our job. On the highways, in the schools, shoveling snow, work, shopping, cooking, whatever. It is an industrial age town caught in time between how things were and how things are. I don't know what will happen to a place that has lost so many jobs from defections of Kodak, Xerox, and Baush & Lomb and soon General Motors that the University of Rochester is now the largest employer. But when you've lived in hyperthrillville of "the city that doesn't hate" (now: "every day is an opening day") for a dozen years, feeling good about getting by and surviving another blizzard sounds kind of nice.

I visited my dad's grave for the first time in a decade. My grandmother's for the first time ever. They're together in the family plot. I hadn't seen the big stone with her name on it. I try not to fill in the the name for the remaining spot in my head, the empty one. Never mind.


My dad's headstone is overgrown with grass, clumped around the edges so you might miss his stone altogether, one solid clump of sleeping winter green covering up the cross at the top of the headstone.

I don't understand. Look around: The Tomaselli's are so well groomed, and the Fischers. Maybe it's the family's job. With all the death and dying, I forgot to learn who manicures the headstone. I think that job has been bought and paid for.

Whatever--I cry.

I have no tools. I'm a tourist.

But I have the key to the PT Cruiser rental car in my hand. That's all, except for the Kleenex, which is soaked and yellowed now.

Kneeling, I use the key to dig, a crude edger carving a path around marble, shove my fingers deep until I feel the stone's edge, and pull away dirt, grass, clumps. Three more sides to go.

The grooves in the key fill with dirt. I don't care.

When I finish, I see the grave of someone dead too long.

Family doesn't come often. The least visited is the least tended to.

My uneven uncovering of unforgiving marble makes this all the more obvious.

The dampness remains on the stone too long covered.

I brush away twigs and broken limbs, collect two pinecones to bring home, and say I love you still.

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Jonathan Peterson said...

Wow, we had my Grandmom's funeral in Tifton 4 weeks ago and I had never seen my Dad's headstone (he died 14 years ago and it was put in place after we buried his ashes).

Dad's headstone was partially covered by the astroturf they used around the fresh grave - but I don't think he'd have minded. I moved if out of the way and left a rose from my Grandmom's casket and had a nice time talking about my Dad and Grandfather with my son who is too young to have ever known either.

What an odd coincidence?

Jeneane Sessum said...

I'm so glad you shared that. I'm also glad you could tell your son something meaningful and make meaning there.

I didn't take my daughter--haven't yet. Hard to explain why I'm so sad, even to me. I can't see her there, me looking at her looking...too big.

thank you.