Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving with Ghosts

The weather cooperated today in spite of a forecast for showers and I was able to take my third annual Thanksgiving scooter ride to the parish cemetery. I remember a time when I picked on my parents for visiting there - back when I was in high school and knew everything - demanding of them the point of going to a place where only the bodies of distant relatives were interred. Now, the relatives entombed there aren't so distant. They are my own dear grandparents, their siblings who were all very much a part of my formative years, some of my mom's sibs, and a few of my cousins. Just as my mom and dad couldn't do when challenged, I could not put into words my purpose for going there to where my family is buried, but I am compelled to visit on occasion and on Thanksgiving Day as has become my personal tradition.

The camera sits atop the tombstone of my Grandma and Grandpa as I remember their parts in my life. Though years ago I might have played through in my head various scenes of the times I spent with them, nowadays I simply wallow in a vague but rich and deep feeling rather than calling to mind specific memories. I am Slovak through and through, tracing my entire ancestry back to that part of Europe known today as the Slovak Republic. We often joke in my family, though seriously, that the Slovak heart is a somewhat morbid thing. I felt that heart beating inside myself today, standing there and being somewhat cognizant of my own mortality, feeling an odd and compelling pull to the soil myself, almost hearing a whisper of voices from long ago calling in the breeze, "Lie down. Lie down with us, Joseph."

I fought off the urge to spill out my eyes and then I got a text from the love of my life. "Say hello for me, wish them all Happy Thanksgiving and consider yourself hugged and VERY loved!" That did me in and the dam burst. I was Grandma and Grandpa's little boy again, but realized that now, I am as loved as I was by them ages and ages ago. It was an overwhelming moment that I knew would be tempered later by a feeling of loneliness as wide as the Pacific. I worked my handkerchief, savored the moment, and steeled myself against the emptiness that would be coming. And then I rode some more.

It was the state park more or less just around the corner from the cemetery to which I rode as if somehow this recent Thanksgiving ritual of mine required it. The trees were barren as expected. The last time I had been there they were adorned with their richest fall colors but now they were barren and the anticipated lonely feeling began to grip me already. I sighed heavily a number of times as I walked around and took a few pictures. I made a call that lightened my spirit for a while but knew that it wouldn't last much beyond the click at the end. I rode off to face the rest of the ghosts that wouldn't be coming from a bad bowl of gruel but from my own heart.

I stopped here at what would appear to be a most ordinary place. Objectively it is, but it has much significance from two Thanksgiving ago. It was here, at this intersection, at which I offered up my deepest thanks of the day to the Almighty. And then, as usual, in my next breath I begged Him for a few things.

The cold was having a cumulative effect and though I didn't really want to come back to the house I did. Although I'd not walked through anything more wet than the grass at the cemetery, I had somehow gotten water into my boots. My socks were soaked and I was starting to feel miserable. I napped for about two hours when I got back, woke up with a sore throat, and then headed to my mom's for dinner. The food was good but my lack of appetite held me in check. In a while I'll light a candle, kick back with a glass of mango rum, and try to keep the chill at bay. I'll hope not to hear the rattle of chains. If by chance my own Jacob Marley shows up, he'd darned well better have some answers for me.


bobskoot said...


You are very lucky to have a place to visit your relatives. It has been the tradition in our family to "scatter" the ashes. Sometimes I wished that I could go to a cemetery to sit and ponder for a while. Your post today has also made me teary-eyed.

Now you've got an excuse to buy another pair of boots. Just make sure these new ones are waterproof

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Lance said...

Joe, wonderful remembrances and observations on the connections we have with those who have passed on. I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving, despite the sore throat.