Monday was Dad's birthday. I know I haven't posted any updates lately, but he is doing very well. He claims to be walking everyday like he's supposed to, and he recently started a new job. I found myself appreciating his birthday and Father's Day a bit more this year.
Sunday afternoon, we took him out for birthday lunch. He was going on and on about a hydrogen fuel cell or something, so I know he's back to normal. Of course, now I'm expecting just any day to see him on the news: Man Blows Garage Off House. After all, Dad's all about making the blog.
After lunch, we went to the cemetery where Dad's parents are buried. (Doesn't everyone visit the cemetery on their birthday?) I'm ashamed to say I didn't remember exactly how to get there. I've probably only been four or five times that I remember. For whatever reasons, we never visited it as much as we did Mom's family's cemetery.
We were just never as close with Dad's family. First of all, Mom had eleven brothers and sisters. Dad only had two half-brothers, and they were both fifteen to twenty years older than him. Dad was the baby of everyone, by far. At least one of his first cousins was thirty years older than him. He's actually about the same age as his nephew, who I got to meet when Dad was in the hospital for his open heart surgery.
Riding down the quiet, narrow two-lane road that leads to the cemetery, I looked at Dad and tried to imagine what he must be thinking and feeling, about to visit the site where his parents were laid to rest. I couldn't. But in that instant, I appreciated him and I appreciated the day even more.
When we arrived, I instinctively headed for my grandmother's grave. My grandfather's first wife died young and he is buried next to her with a joint headstone. About ten feet away sits my grandmother's stone, all by itself. It breaks my heart all over again every time I see it. Maybe because it seems all too fitting.
As I said earlier, we gravitated more towards Mom's family. Dad's father died when I was one. My grandmother had a serious car accident not long after that and never drove again. I remember Dad would go get her on Christmas Eve day and she would bring presents for us. They were really bad presents, too, like athletic socks with wide red stripes and bad games like dominoes or something. And I feel guilty even as I'm typing this.
Then we'd spend Christmas Eve at my other grandma's house with Mom's family, and we'd go back there for lunch on Christmas Day. I remember sometime on Christmas afternoon, Mamaw or Mom or one of my aunts would fix up a plate and put tin foil over it and Dad would take it to his mother.
And in her whole life, as long as I knew her, she never once complained. Of course, now I wonder why was it like that? And I imagine her sitting there on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning all by herself. And I can't think about it without becoming deeply saddened. And I just want to tell her I'm sorry now, but I can't. So that's why it breaks my heart anew each time I visit her grave.
Sunday afternoon, I walked around more than usual and tried to find more Bone family graves. It's an old cemetery with lots of graves dating back to the 1800's. There were two Bones who were in the Confederate army and one who served in WWII.
With Mom's family, I've heard many stories. And what I don't know, I still have Mom, four uncles and three aunts that I can ask. But with Dad's family, I hardly know anything. And there's no one left to ask other than Dad. So I asked lots of questions, trying to learn all I could.
I don't know why it had never hit me before, but I realized that my grandmother was the only person buried there that I had actually known. And I miss her, for sure. But standing there Sunday, I found myself missing relatives that I never met.
That started me thinking about doing research on Dad's family. I want to get to know, at least in some small way, the family I never knew. I want to write things down and be able to pass along stories to the next generation. And if I don't do it, who will?
Dad told one story Sunday that I'd never heard before, although not family related. We passed a house where a classmate of his had lived many moons ago. Dad said he drew the boy's name for the Christmas party in sixth grade, so one day he asked him what he wanted. The boy's response? "You can just get me some cigarettes."
"If heaven was a town, it would be my town, on a summer day in 1985. And everything I wanted was out there waiting, and everyone I loved was still alive..."