Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Year Later

It is nearly a year ago the end began. It was a Wednesday, still early morning, when the phone rang and the Caller ID was my parent's. Mom never called me in the morning. There must be something wrong. I suspected it was The Call, the one that begins with, "Your father died..."

But when I said, "Hello" it was my father's gravelly voice that answered back, and my father never called me. There was no preamble, just, "Your mother's had a stroke. I want you to come up here."

My wife and I went up, up being in Pennsylvania, an hour trip. We cancelled a doctor appointment my wife had for that morning and hurried along thinking it was an emergency. But upon arrival we discovered it hadn't happened overnight, as I suspected, but on Sunday, the First of the month, April Fool's Day. By now, four days later, things could be said to be under control. Mom was in the hospital and dad had survived home alone.

It was not a good situation, of course. It quickly turned nightmarish in a lot of ways. It was obvious that dad could not remain on his own for any extended period. He had a number of health problems, not the least of which being unable to walk about very well. Mom had been his caretaker, but that was over. Mom was not coming home, a fact that became more and more obvious each passing week, And over the course of the next six months I would learn how exhausting, ineffective, confusing and cruel the bureaucracy in place to deal with the needy elderly could be.

That Kafkaesque story is for another time. This one is about this one year later time, which is not the end of the story. I don't have the end of the story yet. You see, both my parents passed away six months ago and closure has not come because it takes so long to close the estate. Not that they had some large, complicated one full of property and assets. All that was left them in the end was some money in a simple bank account, and not a great deal. So no, this is not the end of the story yet, just a revisit to the scene of the crime, so to speak.

Yesterday being a bright Sunny Saturday, my wife and I drove up to see the tombstone. I had been told a month ago the marker had been placed (something else that took nearly five months to complete), but how can one be certain unless they see for themselves.

I had almost forgotten how horrid the traffic is going north in Pennsylvania. It used to be a breeze going from here to there way beck when I was young, but in these times it is hard to weather the increased volume of vehicles. It was bad yesterday and even worse on work days and I was making that trip many times a week last year. I fear in another ten years that route will be frozen by the congestion of traffic and nothing will ever move north again.

We went by the house first. This is the home my parents bought in 1956, the home I spend my teenage years in and the home I was forced by statute to sell last year.

That is it on the left as it looked when I was growing up there. Of course, my parents had new aluminum siding put on about two decades ago, but beyond that improvement the house or property hadn't changed much by the time of their demise.

When last we ever passed it the new owner had varied equipment tearing up the yard. We were curious about what changes may had occurred since.

The most noticeable difference is the deck build on the back.  The person spoke during settlement of putting a stairway in between the living floor and the basement. I wondered where they would find a spot for this inside, so maybe the deck was the solution. At least it provides stairs to the back driveway.

If you peek beneath the deck there is a white bar visible. This is actually the top support of what appear to be dog runs coming from the garage beneath the house. I was told the person planned to have a rescue shelter for dogs.

The railing along the side walk is gone as is the ramp that ran up the front of the house to the front door.  The lawn area surrounding the house is plowed up dirt. I assume there will be a sodding in the future.

The field is marked completely around by small white flags.  The new owner had said she would build a fence around the property and I assume these mark the boundaries where that fence will be constructed.

I had pulled into the lot next door to take pictures. We left in the opposite direction than we needed to go only because traffic is such anymore you can't make a left out of the drive onto the highway. I drove a few miles and turned down a road on the right. I figured it would cross something that would take me to the church, but it wasn't long until I had no idea where I was. Once upon a time I knew all these byways and side roads, but that was a half century ago, so no more. Still, one figures you have to come out somewhere.

I was surprised to come out just below the churchyard.

My wife and I parked at the church and walked down the little lane through the cemetery. We walked so far without sighting our family name I was beginning to believe the stone hadn't been delivered after all. It is amazing how once the tents and backhoe is gone you lose bearings on where the grave was dug. It was my wife that spotted it further down the hill than I remembered. They lay upon the slope of the hill with a distant view of a nuclear power plant, its twin plumes of white vapor sailing up into the blue sky behind some farm fields. There will be corn across the ground later where it is just barren now. It is a scene mixed with the antiquity of the countryside, when all was agriculture, and the modern specter of atomic energy.

The gravestone is as it should be, correct in all detail, exactly as ordered. Two tiny signs indicate the plot of each parent. The name of the funeral home is listed upon them. To one side is a bronze marker of a military veteran and a small American flag. The flag has torn away from its staff at the top.

The outline of the individual graves is still clearly seen.

The sun was bright, but the wind was fierce and the air cold. We had our look and left back to the shelter of our car to return home. There are two more plots, one for each of us if we should choose to use them when that time comes. At our age it is something to think about. Meanwhile I await the finalization of my parent's lives so I can get on with my own.

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