Carol Clausing of Albequerque is the oldest of my 4 living cousins on my father’s side. Kathy and I yesterday went to visit a lot of the people we both know. I sent her this account.
Kathy and I visited some Ikes yesterday, and a few other family. We make this trip every year around Memorial Day to decorate my mom and dad’s graves and linger by several others. Yesterday morning was beautiful with bright sunshine that made chosing the top down Jeep for the trip west a no-brainer. We kept to the back roads till we ended up at Grandville cemetery. We helped along Dad’s and Mom’s, already sporting a crisp flag from the VFW, by placing our potted red chrysanthemum, Dad’s usual, into the green pail Diane had put between the stones. She’d put her artificial flowers next to her mom’s, which will still be colorful in November when we have to pull things in. I related to Kathy that Aunt Florence was resting in the plot dad had meant for me when he bought in ’62 and she was happy I hadn’t had call to use it.
We ventured west a few rows then toward Prairie where we found the four red stones of the Slaters: Uncle Jim (Stewart, her husband), Aunt Dorie, and Grandma and Grandpa Slater.
We mused how long Aunt Dorie and Grandma had lived as widows and recalled the quick deaths of the Slaters compared with the grisly prolonged exits of their spouses.
Then it was on to Rosedale in Standale, a place I had not visited for decades. We had to route through downtown GR, stopping and Avron’s brewery on Division near Hall to pick up a case of their excellent beer I had ordered on line Friday. The path to Standale does not go through the most attractive areas of GR, but things were nice once we hit Walker and we finally got there. A couple nights before the trip I panicked as I had no idea where Grandpa’s grave was. The “find a grave” program on Rosedale’s web site wasn’t finding him anywhere, Dirk or Dick. Fortunately, there was an email address and on Friday night I got a message that an envelope with a map would be taped to the office door. When we got there, sure enough. We found the plots easily. Grandpa must have bought these 6 all at once when your dad passed in ’62. I don’t think they filled as he expected. Aunt Ann was still alive when your Uncle passed. Uncle Bob was already gone, so she probably decided she rather rest somewhere other than Standale when her time came. She’s gone now, too, but I honestly don’t know where she was laid to rest. Likely Dickie had a hand. Two with whom I lost touch long ago (tho’ Diane still talks to Dickie). Standale’s graves are more subdued than Grandville’s. I saw few flowers and no flags, although there was a box that looked like a coffin full of them by the office. Terry and Uncle Bob both merited a flag but I could see no place to put them.
Kathy got to know Grandpa a little, and was charmed and delighted by him. Wasn’t everybody? I know all the women at the Holland Home loved him. She never met Uncle Bob, but went to his funeral. She still remembers being shook by seeing the big sign at the door announcing this was the funeral of “Robert Ike”. I told her a little of what I remembered about Terry. I hadn’t remembered he’d been in the service. My dad was keeping contact with him when he was living in Detroit. We kept talking how we were going to both visit Terry and get a guided tour of his world. It always sounded fun and interesting to me and I’m sorry we never made the connection. It sounded like he was living an interesting, if troubled, life. Gone too soon. Speaking of gone too soon, there’s your dad, the first of a string of premature deaths to rip through my family. Your mom lived a long time without him, and she was a great one to get to know. The last of the Ike women of that generation, I still miss her.
So that was our tour. 13 graves. I’m lucky I’m still above ground. I know they’re not there, their bodies are dust and their souls are in Heaven, but standing by their graves puts a focus on the person you don’t get from idle thoughts, no matter how much you might try. Where they really live on is in our memories, but that closet full of memories gets awfully crowded at our age, so having to go in, find them, and dust them off for a while is a rewarding exercise. I’m very happy we did it, even if it made for a very long day.
What made it even longer was our trip up to Stanwood, where we dropped in on my living, breathing 87 year old birth mother, whom it’s been my pleasure and privilege to know for the past 11 years. I want to make sure she’s got a few memories packed in there before her time comes, which may be sooner than I was anticipating. See us 11 years ago when Kathy rented a plane and flew me to our first meeting, from Ann Arbor to Canadian Lakes Airport. She drove up in her convertible. So we both made an entrance.
Here’s to all who have touched our lives. May we treasure their memories!