#52 The MarkerPosted: July 15, 2013
One summer when our family was traveling across country, Dad took us to his father’s grave near St. Louis. Maybe it was Minnesota. We had never met the man who died in his early 40’s. Like most men of his generation Dad rarely spoke about his childhood. But near the end of her life my aunt described how dreary their early years were. We couldn’t appreciate what that cemetery visit meant to Dad. We stood before the grave, which was visible only by its flat brass plate. It noted simply his name and birth and death dates. Thomas Lawrence Hainstock. I was a child and knew nothing of my father’s father. I knew nothing of death and dying. But even then it seemed a barren way to mark a man’s life.
Just a few years later Dad died, and except for the day of his burial I was unable to force myself to go to his grave. I was unable to go to his grave for a couple of years and then moved 3,000 miles away. I never saw him dead. And I could not bear the thought of that vibrant life force locked in the ground.
The blur of memory of those early death days is sitting somberly with my mother and brother in front of the flag-draped casket. It was a military funeral so I flinched at the report of the rifles. It always seemed in my memory that we were on the side of a shady hill, so I knew I’d be able to find the spot some day.
Many years later I finally returned to that cemetery. I was confident in my navigational ability to find that shaded hilly spot so I didn’t check the register. I drove and then walked. No hills. It was as flat as Kansas. I gave up and consulted the office. Finally walking around the various sections I found my father’s grave almost by accident. It was in a dry, lonely spot, and all that noted his grave was a flat brass marker, like the one at his father’s grave. It was a military marker noting years served and rank achieved.
The thing is, I have a crystal clear memory of the day my parents went out to buy their burial plots. That was the day I scorched the Pot Roast (The Pot Roast Story posted 3/26/12). But here he was, alone with no room for his wife. But like most things for me, that didn’t sink in, then.
A couple of years ago I returned and sat on the ground by that marker. I looked around because I knew my nephew and his wife occasionally visited Dad as well as my mother’s second husband’s grave. And there it was; a stone marker for her second husband with Alice’s name for one future day.
Dull detective that I am, I flashed back to that day of death. Dad was clearing land for their new house. And they were building a cabin at the lake. Yet she buried him alone, knowing then that they would never be together.
How did she know that?