Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Marker

Better late than never, I suppose. I wrote this not long before Tim and I left on vacation two weeks ago. When I finished it, I thought, "I'll post this on Father's Day, in memory of Daddy." Technology contrived against me. My laptop and my scanner have an "on again, off again" relationship. The day before we left I wanted to scan in the picture of Daddy and me that is now at the bottom of this post. It turned out that the computer and scanner were not on speaking terms; the relationship was definitely "off." Normally, Tim, my techy husband, can convince them to reconcile, at least for awhile, but this time his attempts were to no avail.
We are now back home, after being gone for two weeks. I have no idea if the laptop and scanner will communicate, but my sweet nephew, Brock, took the picture home, scanned it, and emailed it to me. So here is my Father's Day post, albeit almost a week late:
The third Sunday in May is Decoration Day at the rural cemetary where my parents are buried. My paternal grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great grandparents and a huge extended family are interred there as well.

Every year I go and clean the headstone of my parents and decorate their grave. I enjoy it. I think happy thoughts about my parents, visit with relatives I haven't seen for the last year, and wander about among the old headstones, visiting the graves of my departed family, looking for dates and clues to help me learn more about these people from whom I came.

This year Tim went with me to help me do a little work on the day before I was planning to actually take the flowers. As he cleaned out the old styrofoam from the vases on the headstone and cut fresh pieces for the new flowers, we chatted, sharing memories about my parents.

Then I remembered to look for it. The marker. In years gone by, I could not find it. I suppose it had been covered with dirt, and grass had grown over it. In the last few years, I've been able to find it but only after earnestly combing through the thick grass and searching for it.

This year was different. We have had an abundance of rain. The local news reported that our area has had the wettest May on record since 1882. In fact, the cemetary was the worse for it. Old headstones, their footing weakened by the wet earth, had toppled over. Many were broken. It was a sad sight.

However, one good thing came of this. Perhaps, because the dirt around it had washed away, the marker was plainly visible.

"There it is, Honey!" I exclaimed to Tim. He knows well the story of the marker, but he always takes the time to listen.

I knelt down, rubbed my fingers across the rough concrete, and traced the shape of the "B" etched into its rough surface.

Suddenly, I am a little girl again, perhaps three or four years old. Kneeling on the cool, painted concrete floor of the enclosed back porch that serves as our laundry room. I am "helping" my daddy. He has mixed the concrete and poured it into a large tomato juice can. Now he is tracing the "B" into the top. We set it in a secure spot, where it can harden. Later, he will set the marker into the ground at the cemetary to mark the plots he and my mother have selected.

As I touch the marker, the sorrow overwhelms me. The sobs come like a flood without warning. Tim, whose mother died 16 years ago, knows just what to do. I feel his hand on my shoulder. Then he holds me until the sobs give way to gentle weeping, and the tears subside. Soon, I am smiling again, wiping away my tears, and we go on about our work.

I do not often weep over Daddy. He has been gone for almost 28 years now. But there are moments, unexpectedly, that bring his memory to me so vividly that the hurt is as fresh as the day he died.

Daddy left his mark on my life; he lives on in my heart. I was "Daddy's little girl." He made me feel special. He made me believe I could do anything or be anything. That is a legacy no one can ever take from me.
Next year, I'll be looking for the marker.

Daddy and me, age 3 1/2, August, 1960

1 comment:

Nina said...

Susan I love your posts! I did not know your Daddy but I know what wonderful children he raised! This post made me cry! But in a good way :)