Monday, May 31, 2010

Graveyard Tourism

In honor of Memorial Day, we like to visit the cemeteries where our relatives are buried. We admire the flowers and the decorated headstones, we say a few words to honor our loved ones, and we tell stories about them to our daughters to give the girls an idea of the kind of people that their grandmothers or great-grandparents, -aunts, -uncles, etc., were. As Suzanna pointed out yesterday, talking about our deceased relatives helps to keep them alive in our hearts and minds and lets the girls get to know people whom they don't remember well or whom they never even met.

Susan's mom and grandparents are buried in cemeteries in town and nearby, but visiting my relatives' graves involves a trip to northwest ND. It's an opportunity to visit my (living) dad and stepmom along the way, and we often have other mini-adventures, driving by sites of interest from my childhood or stopping at tourist destinations or restaurants that we've never been to before. There are four cemeteries that we usually visit, each just a few minutes' drive away from the next. When we arrive at one, we pile out of the vehicle with our cameras, swat at mosquitoes or tighten our coats against the wind or rain or relax in the warmth of the sun (depending on the weather), and start wandering.

It may sound odd to spend time in graveyards; but really it's a beautiful enterprise to journey through the picturesque countryside to each cemetery, tour the plots, trace our relatives' names on their tombstones, talk to and about them, answer the girls' questions about them, breathe in the fresh air, and take in the beautiful vistas of the surrounding fields and valleys and creeks and tree groves, all beneath the expansive blue sky. It's good for the soul and a fitting way to spend Memorial Day.

Here are Suzanna, Abigail, and Hillary with my stepmom Beverly and my dad. Beverly recently had back surgery (and is recovering nicely), so we brought them dinner: fried chicken, fresh fruit, potato chips, and cabbage salad and rhubarb cordial from Saturday night.

When we saw Dad and Beverly last weekend, we gave Beverly a Mother's Day gift: some Hardanger needlework that Susan created. Susan was advised by her fellow Hardanger embroiderers to take photos of all her work--especially any needlework that she gives away--so Susan took advantage of the opportunity to do that today.

The morning was beautiful as we drove to Dad and Beverly's, but it was rainy and cool outside by mid-afternoon when we left their home and headed north to the cemeteries. Here I am doing what Susan and I spent the afternoon doing: taking photos. (We have wa-a-a-a-ay more photographs from today than I am sharing with you in this post, by the way!)

These are my maternal grandparents. I never met this grandfather, but Grandma Roloff was a warm, quiet, gentle woman who lived just a few miles away from us when I was a child, visited us frequently, and even stayed with us a few times (while recovering from illness or to babysit while our parents were away).

These are my paternal grandparents. Their home was only a half-mile away--just a quick bicycle ride down the road--so I spent a lot of time with them when I was growing up, helping in their garden, eating meals or snacks with them, playing card games with them, spending summer evenings with them in lawn chairs out on the driveway, etc. They were not quiet like Grandma Roloff, but they were just as loving.

My mom died just a few months before Hillary was born, so she regrets never having met Grandma, and the other two girls wish they could remember Grandma. My mom loved being a grandmother for the short time that she was one. The girls are lucky to have my stepmom as their grandma now; but, just the same, it's sad to think of what might have been had Mom not died so young and had instead gotten to experience being a grandmother to all three of our daughters.

My sisters and I take turns each year buying flowers for Mom's grave. This year it was Sandy's turn. Isn't this a beautiful bouquet?

On the way home from Mom's cemetery, we drove a route that took us through Stanley, ND, where we ate supper at Frostee Treat, a Dairy Queen-type restaurant at which one steps up to the counter to order ice cream treats or food made on the grill. The burgers were so delicious, as were the waffle-cut fries. We didn't have room for dessert, or else I would have tried a sundae with their homemade rhubarb sauce for a topping.

To get home, we drove south from Stanley and then west into New Town, a route that let us see even more of Lake Sakakawea than we usually do when entering New Town from the north (our usual drive home from visiting Dad). The way the evening sunlight hit the lake and cast shadows on the surrounding landscape was just lovely. The blue of the water matched that of the sky, which featured interesting patterns drawn in the clouds. There is such variety and beauty in the terrain in western ND, and what makes it beautiful changes with every season. It was a nice drive (despite the many deer hoping to commit suicide by leaping in front of us from the ditches along the way, thwarted only by my keen eye and responsive foot on the brake pedal).

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1 comment:

  1. Loved the pics of Grandparent and Mom flowers on the graves. I honestly teared up when reading under your picture with Mom. :-(