Thoughts from the Graveyard
My dad didn't talk much about his childhood when we were growing up. As a matter of fact, much of what I know about his childhood came from correspondence with my grandma in the years after I left home. (Don't worry Dad, she was kind.) But the stories he did share were sewn upon our hearts and woven into the fabric of our own personal history.
There was the story of his first job, sweeping out the dime store before and after school for what, a penny? He was five. And as I watch my almost 5 year old Liam, I have to kind of chuckle. Five year olds are not usually adept at the art of sweeping although they can certainly put on some show with a broom. Now give them an iPod and you might be on to something! Anyway, he must have had a very loving "boss." (Insert understanding head shake here.)
There was also a story (that pretty much haunted me for years) of his friend who was given a horse for his 9th or 10th birthday, the day he would lose his life after falling off that horse. I can't remember if he had been kicked in the head or simply fallen off while riding too fast and landed on a rock. My imagination painted a picture that included both. And I am almost sure that helmets didn't exist back then, at least not there. Needless-to-say, none of us received horses for our birthdays growing up. (Nor did we ask!)
But the story that most fascinated me was the one he told about his ventures into the graveyard of that tiny, one church town. I am guessing it was a stone's throw from his house but I seem to remember him saying something about loading up his little wagon and spending the night all by himself in that graveyard. I could have embellished it in my mind of course but I always thought that story to be of the lonely, spooky sort. Even at a young age (or possibly because of the young age!) it sent chills down my spine as it seemed to me that the graveyard was not a place for children. Especially not children who were all by themselves! I always assumed it said a little something about his childhood, that he'd purposely camp out alone in a graveyard. But, I digress.
So, a few nights ago was date night. The babysitter arrived and off we went to our favorite restaurant where we ordered, ate and enjoyed a glass of wine in under 45 minutes. Usually that's when we look at each other and say, "Now what?" but this time we had ideas. We walked to the bookstore, browsed the crazy-big magazine section and then decided we'd run an errand before heading to the coffee shop for a cup of decaf. (Exciting, I know.) Our evening ended with a venture to the nearby graveyard.
Now, before you give my husband a hard time for his romance skills, I will admit the graveyard was my idea. You see, for a long time now our kids have been asking to go visit Wally's grave. (If you recall, Wally was a dear friend and neighbor who passed about 2 years ago now.) And, maybe because it got stuck in my head that kids don't belong in graveyards, we just haven't gotten to it. But, as kids tend to be, they are persistent and keep asking, every single time we pass the graveyard to be exact. So as we were sitting and musing about the kids over our coffee, I suggested we go to the graveyard and pay our respects to Wally so that next time the kids ask, we know precisely where to take them.
It was a beautiful evening and while we sat on Wally's bench there next to her grave, I realized after all these years that my dad had been right. Contrary to many a horror movie, it really isn't a scary place at all. It's calm and peaceful. Maybe even slightly reassuring. And as we listened to the song of the quiet wind chimes singing in the gentle breeze, the sun setting low in the sky, I realized it really was the perfect ending for our time together.
So here's to you Dad, and anyone else sharing his birthday: May your birthday be as calm and peaceful and full of cherished memories but without any sweeping, or horses, or graveyards of your own.