Friday, May 24, 2013

Happy Memorial Day

As we visited Freeze Cemetery near Potlatch, ID - the Cottonwood trees were
shedding their  cotton and it looked like snow on the ground.

Memorial Day has always been a favorite time of year for me.  Not because of camping trips or other types of recreational activities...but because of the special family time that we had when I was a child.

The morning that we chose to decorate the graves - usually Saturday - was always a flurry of activity as Mom would be cutting every fresh flower she could find.  The sage and chives were not immune...if it had a flower, we cut it.  Mom usually would have me cutting a large bouquet of pansies and it was always iffy if we would have many roses or irises.  If the spring had been too cold and wet then we wouldn't have roses and if it had been warm, then the irises were gone.  Usually we had to borrow irises from someone else...because we had to have irises for Pop Friddle's grave.  Actually this is one my personal favorite blog entries that I have written - please check out "OK, Pop, Turn Over" to read about Pop Friddle and the irises.  Today, it was rather a sad bunch.  Didn't have enough to make a really spectacular bouquet but the intent was there.

Every year I think of my grandparents on Memorial Day.  After they moved back to the valley, we usually did the job together.  Even as my grandparents health was failing, they still made the effort.  I always enjoyed hearing the stories.  When we went to a grave, it seemed that every sentence started with "I remember..."  It is funny that it still does and it is just Dad and I now.  The sentences usually end now with - I really miss them!

I don't mean to make it sound maudlin or depressing, because it really isn't.  I was lucky to have either known most of these relatives or some great stories about the.  While my mother didn't remember her grandfather that well...she certainly remember my grandmother and great grandmother when they put the stone in - see The Gravestone for that story.  The stories that my grandmother and mother would tell about Aunty Jones and Uncle Henry helped me keep my memories fresh.  I never knew my mother's father or the little brother that was stillborn - but through my grandmother's memories, I learned about them.

You might say that in many ways I am the keeper of the family stories.  Probably because I found such wonder and fascination with listening to the stories from my grandparents and mother.  I even have a few of my own...I remember one year when my parents were out of town and I had to go and take care of the cemeteries.  Grandma Marian decided that I needed help or at least company and she came with me.  We had a wonderful day - she knew many of the graves that we visited but we talked about each person.  Even though she had a hard time walking around, when we visited her parents and little brother's grave at Moscow, she got out her canes and walked to the grave.  It might have been the first time that she had been back since they had died.  I had been going to that spot since I was in college when my great grandmother worried that no one put flowers on her little Gary's grave.  Gary drowned in the Palouse River when he was just eight years old and thoughts about him were ever present in Grandma Florence's mind and heart.  So, I promised her that Mom and I would see to it that there were flowers on Gary's grave.  After Grandma Marian and I ate dinner, we traveled up to Freeze cemetery to visit more family members.  Grandma got a little nostalgic at this point, because were just a few miles away from where she had raised her family.  It bothered her that she had buried Grandpa Frank down near Canby, OR and she wondered out loud, how much it might cost to move him to Freeze, because it was so much closer to home.

For the next several years, Grandma talked off and on about moving Grandpa Frank and when my mother died after Christmas in 2005, she made up her mind.  She had Grandpa Frank and his sister exhumed and cremated and my aunt brought their ashes back to Lewiston.  On Memorial Day in 2006, we buried my Grandfather and his sister next to another sister who had been buried there and as a family gathered to celebrate the occasion and have a family reunion.  Now Grandma is there with him and they are finally back home.

So, however you celebrate or remember Memorial Day, please take a moment to think about some of the relatives and friends who have passed on.  Perhaps take a moment or two to tell a funny story or reminisce about your loved ones.  If they are remembered, then they never truly leave us.