My family is in Los Angeles - a visit with Michele's Mom - and so I have been left to my own devices. I've been doing a lot of nothing but some of it "good"nothing.
This morning I got up early to get the car inspected. With that accomplished and the day before me, I hatched a plan. I got a 5 gallon bucket and put some potting soil in it, along with some bulbs and a trowel. And then I headed down the mountain.
I took Shooting Creek, a narrow country road that goes down through the woods. It was a beautiful morning, with the sun filtering through the trees. I hardly saw a car as I headed past Ferrum College and connected, finally, with the Booker T. Washingotn Highway. Yes, it goes past his birthplace (we took the boys once and yes, even people with little money could and did own slaves) and then eventually crosses a bridge that spans Smith Mountain Lake. A few miles farther on and I finally pulled into the drive of Resurrection Catholic Church in Moneta. I found a place around back and parked in the shade.
I gulped some water and got out and stretched. I got out my bucket and then walked into the cemetery and to the gravesite where my parents are buried. It's a nice, shady spot and, after sweeping a few leaves from their very simple stone, I grabbed the trowel and began to dig. The earth was rock-hard but I managed to plant about a dozen bulbs. Hopefuly they will "winter" well and come up in the spring. Mom would like that; they are lilies. At my parents' feet, or what would be their feet - they were both cremated- is my Uncle Donald, Mom's youngest brother. For a short while after Dad retired, my parents lived with Uncle Donald, in Connecticut and while he would have been happy with that arrangement forever, Dad was not. Well, Donald is with them now.
I went into the church to use the rest room and wash my hands. I met a woman named Judy whose office was just inside the doors. She asked if she could help me and when I told her what I was about, she asked my name. "Oh, you look just like your mother," she said and then proceeded to say lots of nice things about both Mom and Dad. "Your parents were special people," she said.
I came out of the bathroom and went into the main room. Churches are not my thing, really but it was cool and quiet in there, with only dim, natural light. I took a seat in the back and was immediately overwhelmed. We'd had a service in there for Mom, three years ago, the 8th of this month. (Dad passed away in 1999.) I spent a few moments in the peace and quiet.
Back outside, I sat for a while listening to the birds. Then I said my goodbyes, brushing my hands over my parents' names, my uncle's, too. Across the lawn, I noticed some stone work and when I went to investigate, discovered a labyrinth. I thought that pretty progressive for a Catholic church and decided to walk it. I breathed deeply as I walked and conjured Mom and Dad. It was very helpful.
Though I have what at best might be called an errant sense of direction, I was determined to find Mom's condo, where she lived after Dad died. With nary a wrong turn, there it was. There wasn't much of a feeling of her there, though, so I went off in search of their house. This was a little trickier and I made a few u-turns before a road name caught my eye, a few landmarks and then, there it was.
The house sits at the end of a quiet lane, right on the lake. There was a "For Sale" sign stuck in the lawn. I rang the bell and, when no one answered, I walked around the upper deck, peering in windows. The carpet that I remembered was gone, replaced with hardwood. Downstairs, I looked in and saw the built-ins that Dad had made, still there.
The lawn rolled right down to the water and the dock, where Mom and Dad kept a pontoon boat and Dad's sailboat. Mom loved that dock and the fact that anytime she wanted, she could dive right in. So, that's what I did. I had a pair of running shorts in the back of the car and I changed right there in the driveway, walked out onto the dock and dove into the lake. It felt so good. I drip-dried after as I walked around and did some more exploring.
It wasn't the house I grew up in but it was the last house Dad and Mom lived in together. We had a reunion there in 1997, when we were all still talking to one another. It was nice. Preston was an infant. Dad was pretty ill at the time and ran out of breath, easily. He spent a lot of time in the house, away from all the brou-ha-ha. I sat with him on the downstairs couch while we looked at old, black and white photographs. He pointed to faces and named names, some familiar to me and some not. He was in a lot of pain.
As I drove away I had the fantasy, of course, of buying the house. The boys and I could dive into the lake whenever we wanted. Michele could watch from the deck, with her knitting.
It would be perfect.