Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Warm Stone



The only thing that has not changed in Rehoboth is this cemetery, where Mom’s ashes still rest beneath the gray granite carved with ducks and light houses. 305 School Lane is in upheaval with mounds of dirt and plastic coverings everywhere. Peg and Dad will wed in November, and Peg will move here with her two cats, Tom and Ginger. She will be my stepmother, but I doubt that I will ever think of her that way. In my mind, they will be Dad and Peg, just as to her children they will be Mom and Harvey.


Mom's grave is no longer my first stop in Rehoboth. I know that Mom will still be here, waiting, certainty among so many changes. But just now Bonnie and I have taken a few minutes to visit Epworth Cemetery, bringing with us yellow roses and brightly colored stones. “Grandmom liked bright colors,” she told me a few moments ago when she purchased the stones at the boardwalk. I note that the violets need weeding and there is a stain on Mom’s headstone. The Windex in my car is not capable of removing it; it will require Dad’s effort with a Brillo pad. I arrange the flowers in a holder and Bonnie lays the stones along the ledge of the headstone. Then we wander over to a new stone. One thing we like about this cemetery is the diversity of memorials. Near Mom is one that says, “I told you I was really sick!” and another boasts a bench engraved with, “Sit a while.” The new stone confuses us: the date says this woman, Margaret, died in 2005. Yet we are sure the grave was not here at Easter. Something else to quiz Dad, who knows everything that is going on in Rehoboth.


We do notice this about the mysterious Margaret, however. There are two vases, one on each side of her headstone, but the flowers in them have long since died.


“That’s sad,” notes my daughter. We glance back at Mom’s grave, with its abundance of bright flowers and stones. “Do you think Grandmom would mind…” Bonnie begins. I nod, of course. So some of Mom’s flowers and stones migrate over to Margaret’s grave. I pull the dead flowers out, brush aside some fallen leaves. In a few moments, the grave of the unknown woman is looking cared for. Later on, Dad will tell us that Margaret’s husband lives in Florida and only gets up twice a year. We will resolve to always bring flowers to Margaret.


We stop before leaving to say good-bye to Mom. Five years ago, this grave was not here. Now, so many things in life have changed. Mom was never particularly good at change, but she was a woman of warmth and courage.


I whisper my burdens to her. Ron is still bearing the results of the car accident, suffering with bi-polar disorder. The work of my doctorate sometimes overwhelms me. I carry much on my shoulders. Dad is so wrapped up with his new life with Peg that I sometimes feel orphaned. There is no one I can really turn to, really sob to, no one who puts me first in their life, the way that mothers do.


The bright stones Bonnie has arranged on the ledge of the headstone wink at me in the sun. I touch one, surprised that it is already warm from the July heat. I fold my hand around it, let it nestle in my palm. Then I fold my fingers over it and tuck it into the pocket of my shorts. It nestles there, a small and warm weight, a reminder of the love my mother had for me, the love she shared with so many.


I straighten from the grave, giving one last tweak to the flowers, brushing my fingers over the carved name, Elizabeth Virginia Waltersdorf, whispering, as I always do, “Love you. Miss you.” Bonnie and I are off the join the rest of the family on our wild and wacky crazy Cobourn week end. But the stone remains in my pocket, a warm token of a mother’s love.


I have many miles yet to go, and many people who need and depend on me as I once did my mother. The stone will help me remember that one day I will lay these burdens down.


It is warm and small and light. I can easily carry its weight for a while.

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