Tuesday, July 01, 2003


Dad says that years ago, when Grandma and Grandpa and the rest of their apartment coop banded together and bought a shared plot in cemetery-land, Long Island was mostly potato fields and wilderness. Now it just looks like the rest of America -- rich people on the edges, strip malls down the center -- except in Farmingdale, where the granite and low shrubs stretch for miles, and no one laughs much when they visit.

Mom says Grandma used to joke that her whole Mah-Jong club would be there with her. Some of them are. The rest will be there soon, I guess.

Funny how time marches on without us. Surely my grandparents thought they'd be in cool grass and potato fields, the suburbs at last, when they picked their final resting place. But there we were in the burninghot sun with most of my mother's family and the overweight rabbi, talking of mensches amidst miles and miles of bare, low ground, heavy with graves. Hardly anyone cried; most had been there eleven months ago, when Grandma passed on.

I didn't cry, either, even though it was my first time there. It wasn't the emotional shock I expected. I guess I knew in my heart that Grandma was gone all along, and after years of questioning, I've realized that I just don't have it in me to believe that Grandma is there anymore. The grave didn't do much for me, at least not then and there, standing among my mother's cousins and uncles, their kids and my own.

Darcie and I talked a little about it on the way back to the hotel for the reception. We agreed a big sprawling cemetery isn't for us. We seem to be of the same mind in leaning towards cremation, in fact. But we also decided that we want to pick a place together where people will come and think of us, and know that we wanted them to think of us there. Maybe a nice bench somewhere, with a cool breeze, some shade, flowers. Somewhere like us; somewhere people will want to sit and be, if not happy, then at least thankful and blessed. Somewhere in no danger of becoming what Long Island is now, if there is such a place.

And I realized that although it's changed, that's what Grandma chose, too. I guess what I do believe, even though it took Darcie's help to make sense of it, is that there's value in picking a place where one's loved ones will come and think of you every so often. It's the fact that Grandma picked that particular spot, even if she had no idea it would face an industrial glassworks and a landfill when the time came for her to need it, that makes it special.

Monday morning I drove out the cemetery by myself. A rabbit ran in front of the car just before I got to Grandma's block, and tiny white butterflies flitted all around. Mom's heelprint from the unveiling the day before was still marked clearly in the dry soil beside the stone; I added my fingerprint to the dry dust, and shook some tobacco into the grit -- cigarettes being one thing Grandma and I shared alone, while the rest of the family silently disapproved. I cried for a while, more than I thought I would. I sat a while, and told her about Willow, how much I miss her, how grateful I am that she was so generous of herself, how much she taught me. I told her about the rabbit -- she would have loved the rabbit -- and the butterflies, the indian paintbrushes, the trees.

I want to believe she heard me. It's enough to know she wanted me to think of her there.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:33 PM |

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