My daughter tells me that We-Irish deal with graveyards in a way that it might take her a few years to understand. The more something matters, the more we find humor; the more random our stories might seem.
But, these are not photos from said yard. These are from the journey along the way. The graveyard is in such a remote location, it requires traveling back in time to get there. We’ll take a bit of that time to get there:
I wanted this to be a teepee when I was eight years old.
So, first we stopped to listen to the meadowlarks and to eat mom’s cupcakes at an old sawmill camp, a skip and a holler away from the unabomber’s cabin. A short log-roll from where my grandparents once lived. We had some stories to remember.
I know you want to know who accidentally dropped her cupcake in the gravel. Sans frosting . . .
We were headed to a place so remote, the people in the valley could get their weather forecast from some notes written on a blackboard at the one local establishment. See if you can make out tomorrow’s high (82) and the low (7).
I debated posting this photo since I wanted you to feel like you were traveling back in time
and I am not sure that such Olden Days had weather forecasts such as this.
In a remote mountain valley a wee bit west of here, most of the tombstones are related to this one. The oldest tombstones declare the county of birth in Ireland. Ellis Island, covered wagons, mining camps, mining accidents. Influenza in a deadly winter.
When we visit, we visit and celebrate. And we picnic, certain that this is what our Irish ancestors would want.
Are you waiting with me for John Wayne to ride up on horseback over yonder ridge? When the wind blows, (and I kid you not), we can hear the bag pipes playing Oh Danny Boy.
When I was my daughter’s age, most of the tombstones hadn’t been acquired yet. Most of our ancestors had been buried with a plastic placard marking their spot. It took We-Irish some decades to see to it that each had a tombstone. When I say we, I mean Dad and his siblings. Three of the eight remain.
It seems it has befallen Dad to show us the way to make this journey. This time it was to bury ashes of his younger brother next to the military headstone of his twin. And to set the belated stone. Mom supplied flowers, flags and cupcakes. Dad and dozens of others supplied the memories.
I don’t like to think about how it feels to be the brother left to such tendings.
We waited years for the military to supply the apostrophe and then we realized we must quit waiting.
Here, some setting of stone is assigned to the family. Shovels, empty coffee cans for scooping, heavy feed sack for temporary propping. Those who could gather, did. Brother, nephew, cousin. We showed up in waves. Four times we returned to the field and paid our respects. Four times we retired to the shade of the only establishment. Turned out, after a lengthy Q and A with the bartender, we ascertained she was almost related to us. She might have returned to the field with us had there been a fifth trip up the hill.
Son following father.
The wind at their backs, every road leading home.