I wrote this in 2008...when my life fell apart. My life is still apart, but I'm slowly picking up the pieces. I'm doing OK.... even though I still drop a few pieces now and then. 

For the First Time in 15 years… May, 2008

I did something today that I haven’t done in 15 years. I woke up at 7:30 this morning and my dad was on my mind immediately. I decided right then I was gonna go to the cemetery today. I guess with it being Memorial weekend I thought it was the thing to do. 

I’m not from a family that decorates grave sites at Memorial day like some do and I haven’t gone to that cemetery for specifically that purpose since Daddy died in 1993. I’ve gone over there when I was there for other funerals but haven’t made any special trips. It just never really occurred to me before. So I got up, grabbed some coffee for the 30 minute drive and off I went. 

As I passed the garden center in Tontitown, I said “Oh Crap, you’re supposed to take flowers or something when you do this sort of thing.” So, I did a u turn & headed back into town, then I thought, “Wait a minute, that’s really not what Daddy would have done.” A memory came back that I haven’t ever thought of until now. I don’t think I ever saw him buy flowers for any occasion. He might have, but I don’t ever remember a time. But almost every day, I won’t say every day, but almost everyday, when they were in bloom, he would pick one of those big orange tiger lilies or some other wild flower that grew in the ditch in front of our house and put it on the kitchen table. So…. I did another U-turn and headed back west, deciding I’d pick some wild flowers along the way.

Well, I couldn’t find any wildflowers that were really suitable. For some reason, there weren’t any daisies or coreopsis growing between Tontitown & Robinson Road right now. There were some yellow flowers that were passing away from their blooming stage and had lost the top half of their bloom, so they weren’t very pretty. I passed them by. So, when I got to Robinson Road, instead of heading to the cemetery, I went on west to our old home place. On the drive there, I saw plenty of daisies, honeysuckle and other flowers that would do just fine. At the home place, I found even more growing up on the side of the hill at the back of the yard. I justified taking some of them. I didn’t think anyone would mind, since the house was long gone and after all, Mama planted those flowers… Then I headed back to the cemetery and stopped and got the daisies along our old dirt road. I had a nice little bouquet.

Thinking of Daddy this morning, I was a little melancholy and missing him some. Which is another thing that hasn’t happened in a long time. I’m not sure what I expected when I got to the cemetery. The old country cemetery was beautifully groomed and almost every stone had been decorated. I got around to the very back corner where Daddy’s stone was at. It had a spray of flowers on it, probably from last year. Also, there were a few more stones around his than before. His was the first under that big shade tree back there in the back. It’s a nice place. 

I laid the wild flowers on top of the stone and sat in the damp grass for a while and enjoyed the beautiful morning. I noticed a bobwhite was announcing his presence regularly to the north. It brought back another memory. Daddy knew a lot of bird sounds and the bobwhite and whipporwill were his favorites. He’d always make us come and listen when he heard one outside. The bobwhite kept up his song and kept me company for a long time. 

It was such a pretty morning, I brought out my camera to record the day. Not sure what the outcome would be, but hoping to capture some sense of the day, a small part of the journey to remember. (Bobwhite is to the southwest of me now, a little closer than before, but just as persistent in his song… still talking constantly to me in that soothing rhythmic voice.) I sat on the ground with the camera and tripod and took over 50 shots. I tried different angles and heights with different lenses. 

After a while, I put the camera down. I sat there a while longer taking in everything. (Bobwhite is just over my shoulder in a tree to the south about 20 yards away.) I realized I hadn’t talked to Daddy, nor had any tears here in this place, and none would come. Only good memories and a few shadows and the bobwhite telling me his story. 

I packed my gear back in the car and walked around to look at some of the other stones. Neighbors I knew or had heard of almost all my life or grandparents of friends from the school bus and a few that were so very special to me. When I got back to the shade tree, I noticed bobwhite was silent now. No longer talking to me or making a peep. Before I left, I went & picked up the flowers off the head stone. And put them in a cup of water in my car.

I got in my car and drove to the exit gate, passing all the pretty monuments. I think I came here wanting some answers to questions I have. All I found were functional pieces of granite, serving to preserve dates and names and evidence of past existence. My dad wasn’t here, he never has been. Neither were there any answers. As I reached the gate, I realized this and something told me I had to find the answers on my own. Then the floods came, passionate tears from somewhere deep. Tears for losses and for a desperate longing for losses that I can never have back again. But more than that, tears for the answers that I didn’t find. And tears for that voice that just kept telling me to listen to my heart. 

On my way back home, I stopped & picked some of those damaged flowers with their blooms missing. I realized, they were a lot like Daddy. Not the prettiest, a little damaged, but still with a lot to give. They are on my kitchen table with the rest of the wild flowers.

Thank you for reading this. I hope you were touched by it 

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