Saturday, May 30, 2009

I had a few minutes to myself late this morning so I decided to go back to the cemetery. We had monsoon-level rains on Monday after the Mass and before the barbecue, and we had them again yesterday but this morning was beautiful and dry and sunny so out I went.

Saturday is an active day at Gate of Heaven. You could see canopies and chairs set out, earth dug up, in one place a marker had been moved, anticipating a new occupant. I got to see all of this in more detail than usual because the little road closest to Thomas was blocked off and I had to walk across the grass to get to him. And yes, I check out the neighbors too (I always think of Thornton Wilder's Our Town which was the school play one of my high school years. Marked for life by a play I didn't much like).

When I got to Thomas's grave, I found the two little flags we had left on Monday planted at the upper corners of the marker. In between them now were two much larger flags, evenly spaced. The tips were different so I assume they came from different people. After I stared at the marker for a few minutes, I realized that there were flower petals scattered around the marker, and after a few more minutes of staring, I found them on the grave too. Those monsoon rains had apparently crushed them and left them soggy, but they also made sure the petals stayed put.

I like knowing people have been there.

On my way back to my car, I stopped at a few other flag-decorated graves. Two side by side had the same last name, one a veteran of WWII, one of Viet Nam. The elder died in 1973, the younger about three months later at the age of 21. I wonder about their story, but I've let their names slip through my memory so I'll never know. But at least for a few minutes today, the traditional Memorial Day, someone honored their memory.

Wikipedia's entry for Memorial Day (at least today's version) has an explanation of the date and observance:

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

It doesn't look like I'll be able to go Arlington today--my impulse towards hospitality means that we are going to have to spend today doing some necessary shopping and yard work instead. But here is something I wasn't expecting: MSNBC is keeping a page of remembrances from family and friends of various service members and the son of an old neighbor is there. Someone had told me that Mrs. Avelleyra's son had been killed in Viet Nam but when I met her in 1986 she never spoke of him to me, I suppose because it had been 18 years since his death and also because I was a generation and a half younger than she. I did look his name up on the Wall one day because people should not be forgotten. And now here he is, remembered by his sister: PFC John William Avelleyra

Saturday, May 23, 2009

This long pause of two months needs a bit of explanation. Basically, five days after that last entry, my mother-in-law had a cardiac event. In the end she went to the hospital three times for monitoring, for placement of a stent in a coronary artery, and then for a blood clot that ironically was formed because she was taking anticoagulants. The hospital she spent the most time in does not have internet access for patients which meant that all of my usual activity online was put aside for the duration. She's doing much better now. This doesn't have much to do with Thomas, though one of the nurses while trying to make conversation asked Edith casually how many children she had. So Edith told her that she has two living, and one who died last year. Poor nurse was a bit taken aback so went on to the "safe" question: what about grandchildren? And again, it was five living, we lost her son (pointing to me) a few years ago. Again, I felt a bit sorry for the nurse but that is just the way it goes sometimes.

This is Memorial Day weekend. We are going to have a barbecue on Monday afternoon. We will start the day with Mass at the cemetery. I would like to go to Arlington, but that does not seem practical at the moment. I might be able to carve some time out tomorrow. NPR did a Story Corps story yesterday about the father of one of the fallen of the Stryker Brigade (Nainoa Hoe)--it was beautiful and I left a comment last night. I always feel a bit odd doing that, but I do it anyway: one man's story is the story of all of us. Anyway, I want to visit Michael Bordelon's grave and those of the other soldiers whose names I have learned and families I have met.

The rest of our trip to Washington state was mostly taken up with visiting and doing a bit of sight-seeing. This was the first time I had been back of course since we said goodbye to Thomas that last day and I will admit that it was very hard to be in places that we'd been in together last time. I had spent a good deal of time since his death thinking that I would never be able to go back to Washington at all. The rational half of me knew that was unrealistic: most of my relatives live there and a number of friends and now that I had added Laurie to their number (Laurie is not a great traveler by her own admission but I'm working on her!) it was clear that I really would have to do it someday. But it was hard going on those roads and seeing those places again . . .

Matthew had been four years old the only other time he'd been to the Pacific Northwest so we took him on a ferry to Port Townsend so he could see both water and mountains--unfortunately, the crossing was a bit rough that day and he looked a little apprehensive, not to mention seasick. On Saturday night, my sister had a sort of party for us, including our cousins and many people I had known growing up. It was lovely, and then it was time to leave. Our plane was very early and so we drove to Seattle to spend the night and drop off our rental car near the airport. I don't really remember much of that Sunday at all (except that I left my dental nightguard in the motel room! They did mail it to me a couple of weeks later). And then, it was back to the fray.

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