Wave your flags this day.
Honor those who risked it all.
Stars forever shine.
I pondered before making the decision, but only briefly.
I hadn’t intended to visit the beautiful cemetary before me today, but my plans had changed.
Though the remains of my parents, brother and husband rest elsewhere, my grandparents ashes are in this sacred spot.
The lush, green rolling hills are striking and it’s been decades since I’ve visited.
Yet an additional draw for me today was the arts.
And there was plenty of it.
Music sang from all directions. The local police band played the traditional patriotic songs, but also offerings were made of gospel, classical, folk, and swing.
And there was poetry, including a poetry writing class with critiques available for all.
There was also drawing sessions with guidance, paper, and pastels freely given by professional artists.
Photography, too, was represented with creative and technical tips being shared by instructors.
With white doves soaring above and shiny horse drawn carriages trotting along side me, opportunities for subjects to shoot were everywhere.
Unfortunately my digital camera, currently short a memory card, peacefully rested at home missing the events.
But in the camera’s honor, and also that of my sweet caramel loving grandmother, I did pen one short poem in my poetry session that reads:
My memories are like caramels.
Savored and sweet.
Melting on my tongue till they’re gone.
Maybe I can freeze them?
All right, I admit I was really hungry and hot when I wrote it.
I’ll try again next year.
While coming across Dad’s book of World War II cartoons that he’d drawn, and letters he’d written home, I also found some old piano sheet music. It belonged to Dad’s mother, Grandma Hazel. She adored the piano and played it with vigor. Every time she performed, the songs were played with her classic “honky tonk” style. I loved that she was still able to play for other residents in her care facility, as her own Alzheimer’s continued to progress.
I just returned after a visit to see my husband Richard in his home. For a special treat, I brought over a big box of chocolate donuts, topped with red, white and blue sprinkles in the shape of stars, for both residents and staff.
I heard piano music as I entered. A volunteer had stopped by and was playing classic patriotic songs, and other tunes as well, all decades old. I knew every one. All had been on Grandma’s playlist.
I thought a lot about Grandma as the volunteer played the familiar tunes. I thought a lot about Richard too, and 25 years of Memorial Day picnics enjoyed together.
Somehow I became a little sad as I left, and walked out into the rain.
As I started to clean my house tonight, I came across one of the best Christmas presents I ever received. As it’s Memorial Day tomorrow, I thought I’d take another look at the gift. It is a 105 page notebook put together 13 years ago by Mom and Dad. One created for my sister and one for me. This book details Dad’s experiences during World War II through cartoons he drew and letters he wrote to his parents back home.
The book is full of detailed description, history and humor and while reflecting the love he had for his parents. I’m impressed that my parents had the fortitude to get the book pulled together at a time when Dad was starting to show signs of his Alzheimer’s.
As I reviewed some of the pages tonight, I learned even more about Dad and what it was like to be in the South Pacific and Japan as a very young man. Dad was very fortunate, and survived his war years. But those years were not pretty, as we found later in some of the gruesome photos tucked away in a basement box. Yet somehow his humor continued to get him through the toughest days. And that may be the greatest gift that he ever received.
Flags are proudly waving in the three small cemeteries near my home, in preparation for the visit by the Honor Guard tomorrow. They’ll also be waving in my family’s cemetery in the western part of the state.
Every Memorial Day weekend, Mom and Dad would make the two hour drive to our cemetery where several generations of family members are buried. The trunk of Dad’s Oldsmobile would be stuffed full of potted red geraniums and white petunias to be placed next to the grave sites.
The cemetery is just up the gravel road, atop a small hill, outside the town of Atwater, MN. Surrounded by farm fields filled with with towering corn stalks in the summer, this cemetery is a peaceful place as it should be.
Walking arm in arm with Great Aunt Marie, prior to my brother’s graveside service twenty years ago, I came to the realization I’m related to at least half of the people buried there. Marie filled me in that day with stories of the lives represented by names on the tombstones. Names that hang on my family tree, that I hadn’t heard much about before.
Grandma Esther, a Gold Star mother, is buried there. She’s next to Grandpa Chester, and my Uncle Bob. Bob died while in the service, before I was born. A great guy, I hear. I wish I’d had a chance to know him.
My brother Scott, Dad, and now Mom are buried nearby. Mom was buried there just last fall.
I was hoping to make it to the cemetery tomorrow but have to postpone the trip a week or two. But I do know the local veterans’ groups and relatives still in the area will be checking in on my family’s site, making sure all is well. Small towns lookout for each other. Or at least this one does.