I am very much against war, and resist holidays that celebrate the Military. The Fourth of July isn’t quite about the military, thank God, though it borders on it and could be turned into one at a moment’s notice.
They would co-opt all the holidays for the military if they could.
For instance, we have always celebrated Memorial Day by decorating family graves. Neither my husband nor I realized until recently that it is intended to honor dead vets.
We didn’t make it to Iowa City this year till after Memorial Day. The day we finally saw Mom’s new gravestone, which was installed a few months ago, I thought furiously, Mom, where are you?
I have cried, I have mourned, I have suddenly cried out, “Oh, Mommy” (though she hasn’t been Mommy since I was nine ), and most recently I am irritated by her absence.
There is utter, utter silence from beyond the grave.
My heart was wrenched by the gravestone. It is flat, and mown brown grass was scattered on top of it. Behind the stone was a big dirt clump with long unmown grass.
All around her are neat graves with flowers.
“Oh my God, oh my God. Why isn’t that mown? Is there some maintenance fee the family’s not paying?” I swept the grass off the stone, picked up the candy bar wrapper, and looked at all the memorials on sticks in the cemetery.
At the Hy-Vee garden center, we bought a stick with plastic flowers on it. (This is called a “memorial.”) The flowers were blue, not her favorite, orange. Well, they would have to do.
I planted it on the north side of the grave. Why north? I don’t know. Although I longed to use the f— word, because the memorial was so paltry, I couldn’t say it there. I should have bought several memorials and stuck them around the grave.
Then I felt her there, wanting me to cut the grass around the stone with scissors. Yes, she once had me do that in her yard. Scissors!
None of us lives in Iowa City anymore.
Her friends are here. Her best friend is dying of cancer.
One dies, they all die.
“The next time you see me, I’ll be in my grave,” her friend said at the funeral.
Her husband rudely said to me, “Glad you could make it to the funeral, Kat.”
That was mean. We couldn’t find the church, even with Google map (a tornado destroyed the old church and the new one was on the edge of town), but we still got there five minutes early. I didn’t react to or care about his words. I had other things on my mind.
My mother had strong feelings about church, family, and cemeteries. She made a point of visiting her parents’ grave often until she became too old to do so. It was always decorated with flowers.
I was frantic. I needed to buy a memorial for my grandparents’ graves, too. They are next to hers.
Next time, next time.
Nobody visits these graves.
If only I never left Iowa City. I could have been a spinster, you know. Then I could have taken care of the graves.
Well, work, love, and the late 20th century took us away.