I have mentioned the term 'Memorial Day' in twenty-four blog entries in my personal blog (The Misadventures of Widowhood). I know this because the ‘search this blog’ feature mysterious started working again and since I’m a statistics kind of person, I’m happy about that. Though, honestly, sometimes I wonder why I still bother to reread past posts in an effort to take my widowhood temperature, comparing earlier versions of myself to how I feel in the present. My first Memorial Day without Don, for example, was all about the disgraceful way his newly set tombstone looked. The ground hadn’t been leveled out or reseeded and dirt was all over the stone which was (and still is) set too low in the ground in my opinion. I went home that first Memorial Day, got some tools and water, then went back and did what I could to clean it up. Over my second Memorial Day I had a broken bone in my arm and couldn’t drive to the cemetery so I made a memorial corner in my yard. Don loved dogwood trees so I had one planted, then I put his life-sized tin chickens near-by and buried some of his ashes in what I now call Don's Corner. (I was a regular Johnny Appleseed spreading his ashes across state.) Last winter one of his chickens made its get-away during a wind storm and I was about to put ‘lost chicken’ posters up around the neighborhood when I found him down the block.
With my third Memorial Day weekend without Don I was still searching for a new tradition I’d adopt for the first long weekend of the summer. I couldn’t do what we did as a couple for many years which was to either take off on a mini trip along Lake Michigan or gather with his family at a cottage they no longer own. I still miss seeing all of my in-laws. It’s not that they don’t include me in holiday parties anymore like some widows experience but rather they don’t have them as often now that the oldest members in a family are dying off. Last year one of my sister-in-law’s was beside herself when she learned her kids had planned a family reunion but they neglected to ask the oldest member of the family. If you’re not on Facebook apparently in this century you don’t get invitations. The moral of that story is that if you don’t keep up with technology you’re headed to the Valley of Dinosaur Bones and one day all the paper invitations and greeting cards kept in scrapbooks will end up in a museum, relics of a time when everyone could still read cursive.
This year, my fifth Memorial Day since Don’s passing, I could write exactly what I wrote last year: “I went to the cemetery on Saturday and had a talk with Don. I told him that I think of him often and that I’m doing okay even though he took a piece of me with him when he left.” Again, I took tools and water and cleaned up the stone. I can’t believe how fast sod takes it over. After I’m dead or can’t do it anymore all traces of us will get reclaimed by nature. I thought of that as I dug a deep ditch all the way around the stone, deep enough to swallow up a lawn mower wheel. I hope the cemetery sexton swears every time he comes near the grave. Nothing passive aggressive about me and the fact that I hate their flower policy. The only “legal” place you can put flowers is in an urn placed on top of the tombstone which I refuse to do. Instead I will glue a fresh Snoopy trinket on the corner of the stone each year. That and cleaning the stone has become my tradition by default.
This year Don has a new neighbor in the cemetery, a veteran of the Korean War whose grave-site looks deplorable except for the American flag that was dutifully placed by the Boy Scouts. The gentlemen died in February and they still haven’t removed the casket spray of dead flowers and sand covers more than half the stone. As I stood looking at it, I thought about cleaning off the stone myself and hauling the dead flowers to the trash container. Then I remembered reading a widow’s blog about how mad she was when she went to the cemetery to clean up her husband’s stone and discovered someone else had already done it. She suspected it was his first wife’s doing and she was ready to start WWIII over it.
The cemetery that holds my husband's granite is just a few blocks from the Main Street of a small tourist town and I headed there after my widow's duties were done. Ice cream cures everything so I grabbed a rocky road filled waffle cone and sat in the park overlooking the damn. Little girls where doing cartwheels in the bandstand. Bikers, joggers and dog walkers were passing by on the nature trail. Fishermen in waist-high waders were doing their thing in the water and canoers were being picked up by the bus that takes them and the canoes back up the river. Life goes on and while Memorial Day Year Five had an air of sad acceptance, no tears fell this time. And as Martha says, "That's a good thing." ©