Strong Women and Whiskey

not for the delicate palate

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Location: Oxford, Pennsylvania, United States

I've found that if you speak as if with authority on nearly any topic, most people will believe you. This frightens me.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Collecting the Dead

I stopped by the cemetary where three of my aunts, my grandfather, and Nanny are buried. We buried Nanny at the end of September.

I used to wonder on the sense of burial -- all that wasted space best used by the living, right? Well, I think we do use it. They're a captive audience in our minds, anyway. We can go and tell them whatever we want without hurting their feelings, risking ours, nurses bustling in, the odor of antiseptic. Just me and Nanny and the sound of rain and traffic. I'm a shelver, I shelve things and I have to come back later. I didn't trully grieve for Aunt Mabel and Aunt Ethel (one month apart) until Nanny's funeral. That day, as the cars were filing away to go back to the church, walked down the hill to visit them. That's when I wept -- for them, for missing them, for the end of an era in our family. I cried for Aunt Betty, who, died a quick and nasty death of brain cancer just as her beautiful house was nearly done being built, and not long after her burial, her husband (though I love him) had a new "lady friend". They have a joint tombstone, does it matter? Nanny is buried next to Pop Pop. He died in 85. Since then she had a companion, Bill, who was the only grandfather I ever knew. He loved her and us dearly. I'm sure he's buried next to his wife -- where it'll be easier for his kin to visit.

And it struck me on how much easier it is to "stop by" and talk to the dead. God knows how little of it I did when they were alive -- all of them, for different reasons. I've made my peace with those reasons but not with the things unsaid. The hinge of my jaw may be worn loose from overuse, but it seems I expect folks to know what's going on in my head with little effort on my part. The visit to the graveyard drove home family I've not connected with, two friendships I've jeopardized, one I've ruined and some I've tarnished recently.

I was a bit upset, that Nanny's stone was bare - her birthday was a few days ago. I though that perhaps I'd go to the convenience store across the street and get her a blue bag of Herr's potato chips, or some Big Red gum -- just a flower, even. As if there is some graveyard hierarchy in who's "best dressed". Just down the hill is a tombstone of a little boy who lived until he was four. The base of the stone is covered in little toy trucks that had been painstakingly lined up along the edges, a plastic alligator on top of the stone. He's been dead three times longer than he was alive -- some of those cars are nearly new.

Sometimes I wonder who's collecting who.

All fancied up after Nanny's funeral. DJ (left), and David (right) in the back. Devin (left), me (center), and Daryl (right) in the front.

And on a lighter note, the official goofball shot. We do bar mitzvah's too.


Blogger Angela Martínez said...


Was in Memphis a few weeks ago... drove past both of the cemetaries that hold my kin. Couldn't make myself stop, using the excuse that I didn't want to get J out of the car in the cold, and that he wouldn't understand mom crying over a rock, but the truth is, I think I was just stuck on the things left unsaid.

6:42 PM  
Blogger Mother Raven said...

My favorite haunt in town, the historical cemetary. I have no dead burried there. Indeed I had few dead at the time. I went anyway, to honor those forgotten and all that came before. Mostly I went to talk to them. To tell them things I could not say but needed to be able to say to the living. To mourn for things without shape or words. Weird.

3:23 PM  

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