Saturday, May 26, 2007

stones for others, but not for me

I went to a graveyard today, but not because it is Memorial Day weekend or I had any family to visit. I don’t have family; what was left of them threw me under the bus a long ago and I since moved away. I went because I had nowhere else to go.

I noticed a lot of Russian names and symbols, a lot of old and worn gravestones. Among the barely legible and illegible engravings, mostly from the 1800s and early 1900s was a brass plaque on the base of a stone that led to a cross. It read, “Francis Hugick, September 29, 1929 – May 3, 1930” on two lines, and in two lines beneath that, “Walter Hugick, November 3, 1921 – May 11, 1930.”

She was born the day the stock market crashed and died eight months later. Her brother died at age eight, just eight days after she did. It may have been a fire or some other tragedy from which he lingered beyond death for a short time.

There were no other graves bearing that last name anywhere near the children. Perhaps the parents left the area and rebuilt their lives.

Being Memorial Day weekend, I saw several people come and go. An older couple sat together at a gazebo then walked slowly to their car. A woman in her 60s placed flowers by one grave then walked to another and stood. She came and went in less than five minutes. Others walked in places far from where I sat.

Next the Hugick children’s grave was another child, died at age 12. A brass statue of Mary leaned at an angle against the stone. In another graveyard, perhaps, that statue would have been stolen long ago. Here, a small graveyard in a rural area, the statue braved the weather through the seasons, probably being propped up often by visitors or workers.

Enameled pictures of couples adorned some markers. They usually died within a few years of one another. One man died at age 63. His stone was marked with his wife’s name – she was 57 when he died. Although she would be close to 90 if she were still alive today, her death is not inscribed. She must have found favor with another, and buried her remains with him.

The newer stones lacked character. Names were deeply engraved on large rose-colored stones. No words such as, “Mother,” “Father,” or one older stone of a gentleman that died at age 31, “Uncle.” The new stones were simply functional, no better than an “X” on a map.

I used to visit my father’s grave, but don’t anymore. I imagine I will see it again, but only to show someone else. I have no interest in seeing it myself. Perhaps strange to others, but I feel more of a draw to the resting place of people I never knew than to those who I remember in life.

I have memories of my dad, and I can relate the worst of them all. His family, my genetic relations, was spineless in the death march from his passing to his planting. They did the happy shit. I made the phone calls from his address book. I went to the parlor to make sure everything was set before people arrived. It was there that the worst memory comes back.

I sat alone in the viewing room. His head was tilted towards me. I looked at him and saw a man sleeping. He used to be intellectually vibrant. He could analyze a situation in moments, could size up a person instantly. He had a razor-sharp wit that would cut deeply at times. As he aged and his processes slowed, I got to see him more clearly. I knew the intellectual direction he would go before he turned. I sat in that viewing room and watched a man that lost the game at age 71. He gave up. He was in so much pain and so viciously unhappy with his wife that he just gave up.

I had a t-shirt purchased for me (privately, to me, in his honor) years later that reads, “Rehab is for Quitters.” He never went to rehab, perhaps he should have for his drinking; instead, he just gave up.

I don’t visit his grave because when I did I knew where to stand. I knew were his head was titled. I still see it every time I think of him.

I will have no viewing. I will have no grave. I want no one to see me dead.
No one will remember me but as a living person, eyes alive, mind engaged, wit cutting in seeming random fashion.

No comments:

Post a Comment