Thursday, October 7, 2004

Belated Birthday

 back when it was a mess.I made a side trip to East Lawn Cemetery on my way home tonight. I was there for about three minutes, just long enough to inspect my Mom's grave, retrieve a long-handled scrub brush from the trunk of my car, brush the dirt and bits of mowed grass off the marker (especially out of the etched notes and masks), put the brush away and leave. It wasn't much of a visit, but I'm glad I did it. I should have gone yesterday, but oh, well. I have a long history of being late for parents' birthdays.

After much wrangling with the cemetery staff the first year because of bare ground over the grave, mud on the marker, and grass obscuring the stone, they've finally gotten it under control. There's as much grass now where I want it as there is anywhere else in the cemetery. It's not perfect, because getting grass to grow in Tucson is always a struggle (ask the Sidewinders), but it's good enough. Equally important to me, the grass stops a couple of inches from the marker, so that there's a place for the water from sprinklers and monsoons to run off. A year and a half ago, the marker was always obscured by mud because the water had nowhere to go. That's why I bought that long-handled brush. But now it's okay. I no longer have to worry about it.

This was my first visit to the cemetery since spring at least, possibly since winter. Once the grave stopped being an unacceptable mess, there seemed little point in going there. Even when I do go, I feel a little uncomfortable and silly. I never stay more than a couple of minutes unless it's to go complain about upkeep. What else am I supposed to do there? Talk to my mom? I love her, but she's less real to me at East Lawn than she is in this house, or when I'm driving by the places we used to go together, or when I see a woman using an electric shopping cart at Fry's. The part of my mom that matters is not hanging around by the marker I designed a couple of weeks before she died. Only her body is there, decomposing in a semi-expensive wooden coffin six feet below where I stand with the long-handled brush--and isn't that a creepy thought. So no, I seldom say more than "Hi, Mom" when I go to East Lawn.

Ruth Anne Johnson and Frank E Funk, 1949Just before the English Faire, I cleaned out my mom's drawers and sorted stuff into trash and donations and things to keep. In doing so I ended up with a small pile of photos, most of them very old. Here's the one that lay on top. It's of my parents, before they were anybody's parents, even before they were married. On the back it says,

"Frank & I
Green Lake
4/10/49
Feeling quite smug."

It's a little wallet-sized photo, frayed and creased and brittle, but it's a bit of a miracle it survived at all. I think it's the only picture with my dad in it that Mom didn't burn or throw away after the divorce. I'm glad to have it.  It's a little glimpse of my mom and dad when they were still young and alive and happy together. I'm glad that such a time existed for them, even if it didn't last.

Karen



3 comments:

alphawoman1 said...

Wow.  Your Mom is beautiful.  My Mom was born in '27 too.  Very touching, it is so shocking to see our parents young, isn't it.  Glad that photo survived.

madmanadhd said...

Thank you for this touching entry. Monday will be the 3rd anniversary of my mom's death and I'm not sure if I'll be up to writing about it but your kind and gentle reflection of your mom and visit to her grave gives me inspiration. Mom requested to be buried next to dad, over a thousand miles away. Don't visit their graves often at all and feel similar to you about where their true "spirit" resides. Wish I had a scanner to put in a photo of them. What a lovely photo of your parents, caught in another time of their lives. Thanks again.

cneinhorn said...

What a touching entry.....your Mom was beautiful, I love looking at those old photos.  
~JerseyGirl