The roads into the cemetery where my parents are buried were blocked with orange cones. It looked as if new asphalt had been put down and was being given time to cure. This meant driving down the narrow dirt road that runs along the edge of the cemetery and walking in, carrying my little jug of water, a wad of paper towels, and three roses I’d just bought from the florist in downtown Hastings.
There was nothing remarkable about this visit except I was alone. Usually my husband is with me and goes off walking into the nearby woods while I wipe away the grass clippings and the odd calcified substance that sprouts on marble headstones. I like when he comes along but I liked today. There was more talking out loud.
The stones I brought from Lake Superior two years ago were still where I’d left them – on my parents’ graves and my grandparents’. No one has disturbed them but I noticed right away a brittle, weathered Christmas wreath with a red plaid ribbon that someone left at my grandmother’s grave sometime this year. Who would’ve left that, I thought, then remembered I’m not her only grandchild.
But I am the only child who comes for my parents. My brother has died and my sister is gone. Or perhaps she is just gone from me. Maybe she’s been visiting our parents’ graves and leaving things like Christmas wreaths for our grandmother. Maybe she left footprints in the snow. There is no way of knowing. All that has melted.
I decided on roses this year because they are beautiful even when dead. Pale pink for my mother, red for my dad, and yellow for my grandparents. They will likely weather the winter and be there next year, long thin stems and black petals brittle to the touch. I’ll replace them and leave the stones.
It felt good to bring something to them, something that would show that I’d been there, that would tell passers-by that my folks have people who show up, if only once a year, with a few stones and a rose.
Leaving, I saw a man walking down the dirt road next to the cemetery carrying a hanging plant and a jug of water. His offering.