Thursday, June 6, 2013

Memorial visit

On Saturday, May 25th, I was on the freeway going to the home of one of my nieces to deliver some Dodger tickets. I had just had a lovely breakfast with my dearest and oldest friend Caren and the breakfast was over a little earlier than expected. As I was just about to get on the Pomona freeway I had the notion to stop and visit my parents grave site.  I had not been to visit the site since my dad's funeral and I cannot really tell you why. Denial? Perhaps.

But there I was, just about to the approach the exit and I made an instant decision to to take the exit. It seemed like a pretty natural feeling and so I went with the flow. I had a few dollars in my purse so I thought I would buy flowers from the lady who sells them illegally on the street corner. Just the same way my dad and I  would when coming to visit my mom.  After buying the flowers I stopped at a local florist and picked up a little flag in honor of my dad's service in the military.  

I arrived at the cemetery and as I drove towards my parents location I thought about my other family that were at this same cemetery; My grandmothers, both Juana and Ramona, I believe my Dad's birth and step fathers' are here, my aunt Helen, Julia and I think my aunt Emily is here, my uncle "Pauncy" and my uncle Jess is here. It was a rather odd feeling when I realized how many family members were here. I felt a little claustrophobic!

I parked the car and made my way up the little incline to the site. As I was walking I noticed a gentleman tending to a grave site. He was down on his hands and knees and seemed to be clipping or edging along the grave marker or stone. I had seen this man before. In fact, when my dad I would come to visit my mom we would see him here often.  One time the man had a water hose connected to a faucet and was watering the site he was attending to. My dad made some sort of comment about how the man really worked hard on his task at hand. My dad was always impressed with physical work done by others. I always imagined it was something he learned from one or both of his parents. He rarely talked about either of his fathers. I know his birth father passed away when my dad was young and his mom later remarried. I often wondered if his step-dad bullied him or mistreated him because my dad seem to have some sort of rage inside. Even though the last 20 or so years of my dads life he might have seemed like a softy, I had witnessed times where his rage was out of control. Sometimes towards us kids, and sometimes towards my mother. I guess you could say I am a survivor of domestic abuse. But I have long since forgiven him. Something I will write about soon.

So I made my way to the grave site. And there it was. My dad's name and the years 1919- 2013 engraved on the marker. It almost took my breath away and my system got a little jolt. Up until my dad's passing the marker only had his name and his birth year beside my mother's name and dates. Now that story is complete. They are both together again. In peace and in love. It was a strange, unknown feeling to be standing there....almost like I was standing on "history"...of times gone by.

I stayed standing there a few minutes. I thought about when I would bring my dad, he would always pray in silence and when he was finished he would make the sign of the cross. While I stood there alone I heard my dad say "well Mija, now I don't have to walk all that way over the hill to get here...because I am already here!". 

It brought a smile to my face and I had such an enormous feeling of joy and peace. I knew at that moment I would need to come back again. Often.

So I started my way back to my car and when I glanced over at the man he looked up and waved. I waved back and that prompted him to get up and start walking towards me. I made a remark about all the work he put into keeping the grave site clean. Then, we just started talking.

He told me that particular site was his grandmothers and his parents were on the other side of the cemetery.
He asked about my father and said he had too noticed the two of us at the cemetery in the past. I explained my dad had just passed away in February and the man seemed genuinely shocked and sad. He was even surprised when I told him my dad was 93 years old.

We continued on to discuss our parents and how they passed. When he told me about his dad his eyes began to tear up and I have to admit, mine did too. Here we were, two strangers, sharing our grief with one another. He told me his dad went out to move the trash bins from out in front of his house to the back yard. He said his dad had not really wanted to go out because it had been raining, but his mother insisted that he go and take care of this task. So as his father was bringing the trash can up the driveway somehow the bin got away from him, he tried to grab it, missed the can and fell. He didn't break anything, but he hit his head pretty hard. I do not remember if they rushed him to the hospital or that he seemed ok and so they waited a few days. This part is a little fuzzy. All I remember is that after a while, days, maybe weeks, his father began to  walk sort of funny. The man said he walked as if he were drunk. So, they took him to the hospital and they did see some bleeding (or bruising) in his head. He said his dad felt fine but they kept him in the hospital for observation. Then as days continued his heart began to fail. As the doctor explained, while his father's health was good, his heart could not take the shock of the fall and of the result of the fall. In a few days he fell into a coma. The man said it became time to say "goodbye" and that all of their family came to see him, cousins, uncles, you name it. The man told me he was so glad that he was able to say "goodbye" to his father. I wasn't sure if my tears were for him or for me. Maybe a little of both mixed together.

As we continued to chat  we discovered 2 major coincidences; we both had the same last name and we both lived about 2 blocks from each other when we were really young. Our families went to the same church, the same market and the same butcher. His mother was from that Lincoln Heights neighborhood as so was my dad. His father was from El Paso and so was my mom. It was very funny!!  I am going to dig around and ask my other brothers and some cousins if they remember his family.  What a strange and small world.

We continued our conversation a little longer. We shared our occupations and a little about our lives.  I believe we must have talked for well over an hour and I wasn't sure if I was over staying my welcome. So I told him I needed to get along, we shook hands again (we shook hands when we first introduced ourselves) and we said that maybe we would see each other the next time we were at the cemetery.

As I drove away I thought about some of the things we talked about. I thought about how there really are nice people in the world. I wondered if this meeting had any significance and about the rare coincidences.

I decided that there are always significances when two or more people come together in a place of calm and peace. Two people who share a common grief about two different people. I accepted nothing else but this because I know someday the real answer will be revealed. But for now I accept that this meeting just "was" and I would treasure the short time I had with this stranger and know that it was our parents, our history and our grief that brought us together, for maybe no other reason but to reach out and be friendly strangers . 

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes we have an idea that *closure* comes in a sweep, some kind of cosmic door opening or shutting. Instead I think we come to peace with things just as you described, in moments of sharing that still our insides and bring us into physical/spiritual congruency. I'm glad you captured this interaction, and even happier that you walked away knowing it was a special exchange between you, that man, and your dad, too.