TRAVEL HERE – THIRD WEEKEND OF OCTOBER
Since this is the month of Halloween, I thought I’d chat with you about cemeteries. Not all of them, just the ones I visit.
Decorating the cemetery is a job handed down to me by my mother. I guess it actually started with my grandmother, but mom’s the one who delegated it to me. My grandfather, Thomas Byron Mobley, was buried at Pecan Grove and I grew up going there with my mom, Ruth, and my grandmother, Lula Mae. They’d load up the car with hoes and rakes and pruning shears and we’d head off to do our duty.
I’ve never been one for yardwork, but the plot at Pecan Grove with one headstone, a pecan tree and a peony bush was a manageable job and besides, I wasn’t doing it by myself. I was with two of my favorite people in the world. We’d unload our tools at the corner of Pecos and Rhea in the historic old cemetery and go to work on making it look good. I got assignments like picking up limbs from the pecan trees or gathering up the trimmings from their pruning, while Ruth and Lula Mae would share stories from their memories. All in all, it was a great way to spend an afternoon.
As you can see from the picture, our plot has changed from those companionable days. The first change was the headstones. Aunt Tommie decided we needed to upgrade our look. New residents were going to be joining my grandfather and the government-provided headstone, for a veteran of the Spanish American War, wasn’t going to fit with her idea of what our plot should look like. So, she talked her sisters into donating to the cause and the ladies went to a stone mason to choose matching double headstones for Grandfather, Grandmother, Tommie and her husband.
I had no idea, at the time, why Mom did not join into this upgrade by getting a stone for she and my dad. I’d find out later, but the years after the upgrade were busy and my grandfather did get new neighbors. The peony bush was replaced by silk arrangements in the fancy marble urns, but the rest of the job stayed the same.
As our plot gained new residents, Mom’s cemetery job also grew, but Grandmother was no longer around and I was an adult, too busy for cemetery time. In Pecan Grove, Mom took on the responsibility of checking on Aunt Hiley’s grave, which was on the block catty-corner to my family. Then my Great Aunt Bird, Grandmother’s sister, started getting attention. In addition, we began to have family members buried at Ridgeview, which was just a few miles from Pecan Grove.
Then my mom, always a timid driver, started asking me to help her at the cemeteries, because she didn’t want to drive up to McKinney on her own. I somehow got attuned to the rhythm of job – keeping the headstones clean and changing the flowers with the season. Like the cemetery days with Grandmother, we’d share memories and usually we’d also share lunch.
About this time, my very favorite relative, Aunt Edie, was beginning to think about where she’d be buried. There was a bit of competition for that honor. She had two husbands buried in Temple, TX, but in truth, she was fairly happy being rid of both of them. Mom and I lobbied for her to be buried in Pecan Grove, with the family, but in the end, she decided to be buried next to her last husband. It was one of the three worst decisions she ever made, in my opinion. You might guess what the other two were.
A little more than a year after we buried Aunt Edie, my dad passed away and my mom was forced to make some decisions she hadn’t been willing to face before. The reason she hadn’t gotten a stone when they did the upgrade, was because she’d always held out hope that Edith would be with us. She had an idea of where she wanted Edith to rest and Mom wanted to be right next to her. Now, the remaining 10 spots in our plot had to be parceled out, without the option of Mom being buried next to Aunt Edie.
Grandfather had been first and of course, Grandmother rested next to him. My Aunt Tommie had scored the spot next to Grandmother (which Mom hated) and Tommie’s husband finished off that end. That left three on the front row and seven in the back, except that one of those on the front was taken up with a tree. That’s when I learned about the Battle of the Pecan Tree, which had never been mentioned to me in all of my life, in spite of the many times I’d picked up the “mess” the tree deposited on the plot.
When Grandfather died, Great Aunt Bird decided “Tom” needed a tree on his grave and dug up a small pecan tree to plant next to him. Lula Mae, thought a tree was OK, but she didn’t want a pecan, because they were too messy. The sisters argued ferociously about it and Lula Mae told Birdie she’d never talk to her again, if she planted that pecan tree on Tom’s grave. Well, Aunt Bird did plant that tree and, as far as I know, Grandmother never quit talking to her, but she also refused to let anybody dig up the tree, which I thought was the funniest part of the story.
Lula Mae and Aunt Bird were no longer around to put in their two cents worth, but we had to decide whether the tree would stay or go. Perversely, Ruth wouldn’t tell me where she wanted to be, nor would she tell me whether she wanted the tree to stay or not. So, I consulted the stone mason who would make the headstone and the manager of the cemetery. They both voted for the tree to go, so it went. With the tree gone, Mom decided she’d rest between her father and her husband, under a double headstone that matched the other two. That left a single grave next to my dad. Who knows who will be buried there!
In less than a year, Mom was laid down between the two men she had adored more than all others on earth. In all the years I’d been her cemetery chauffer, one message was repeated each time we visited the cemetery (as well as any other time she could work it into the conversation), when she was gone, I’d be in charge of the cemeteries and she knew I wouldn’t let her down.
I wouldn’t let her down for the world, but I’m not as faithful as she was. She provided new arrangements for all birthdays, for Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Decoration Day – in fact, it seemed as if we were up there once a month for some reason or another. I put out poinsettias (which she loved) for the holiday season, change the poinsettias for her birthday in January (usually tulips, peonies or roses – which she also loved), change them again for spring around my Dad’s birthday, then perhaps a couple of other times as the seasons, change and my life allows. Usually, I also get to Ridgeview, but I can’t put out flowers for my aunts and uncles there, because all of their fancy gravestones with the urn you can put up or down, now have their urns stuck in the down position. Yes, I need to do something about that.
However, I do one more thing Ruth never did. I also go up to Melissa and decorate my father’s family plot, in the cemetery there. Mom never did and she reluctantly stopped short of telling me not to.
During her last year, she was in the hospital or a physical rehab facility more than she was home. She let me know my cemetery duties had officially begun, but when I told after one trip up there, I’d also taken care of the Caves, her response was, “Oh, you don’t have to do that.” From Ruth this kindly-sounding phrase was in truth more of a demand like “DON’T DO THAT!” Her strength made me strong and I ignored her. I continue to ignore her and hit all three cemeteries as frequently as I can.
I have no idea why Mom was so strongly opposed to keeping the Cave family plot in good order and I am happy to leave that problem in the grave with her. I am the product of two families, not one.
The Rest of the Weekend
Not much else. I met my bestie for a late lunch, after I was through at the cemeteries. We ate at Brio’s, which is one of my favorite and most-often visited restaurants in the Metroplex. Had I not taken up all my words talking about cemeteries, I might compare it favorably to the Cheesecake Factory next to it and wonder why the Cheesecake Factory stays so much busier than Brio’s, but I’m already over my word count. After lunch we did a little shopping therapy at the Allen Outlet Mall, something else I could use up a whole bunch of words about – whining about the stores which are no longer there and the dismal things they call bargains today. Sunday I went to church and then the rain kept hubby and I in the house.
I hope you’ll have a great weekend and see me back here next week for another Weekend Report.