Thursday, February 04, 2010

temporary markers

temporary marker

This is where Corinne is buried. She was my grandmother’s older sister, a marvel on the violin, who attended the Cornish School of Arts (just down the road from where she lays now) on scholarship (her family was not the sort that was able to afford tuition).

She died when she was 8 years old of meningitis. Her family buried her in the Spring rain of 1925. My grandmother was 7 when she stood beside her sister’s grave.

Seven years later they buried Ingebor, my grandmother’s grandmother, at the far opposite edge of Lakeview Cemetery. (Only the rich have the luxury of family plots.) There as here the ground is thick with paupers under pauper’s stones, all of them invisible. Rough cinder blocks with the names and dates of death roughly stamped in them. The birth is not noted, and if you want to see the stone at all you need a plot map and a trowel or you ask the nice man at the office to bring out a shovel. This is because the headstones of the poor are not maintained on the regular maintenance rounds and the sod soon reclaims them.

I can verify that there are dozen stones that run below those two large slabs from here all the way to the fence that edges the property close by. I can verify this because I dug them all up one wet Spring day with my trowel. My grandmother sat nearby offering color commentary, darkly wicked and witty, words I thought I could never possibly forget; words I wish I had written down because, of course, I’ve forgotten them all.

But not how she made me laugh, and how she sat there watching me work, a far away sadness in her eyes beneath the laughter; a faint hope that we would find what we were looking for; a set jaw that was prepared for disappointment.

I wish I could describe the light on her face when we finally found the stone.

This is where I asked them to lay the new stone this Summer, as Grama lay dying across town. The man at the office (his last name was very Guys and Dolls -- something like Detroit) was a bit baffled by the request as he ran the calculations; frustrated that the plots were far distant from one another (they wouldn’t be able to share a stone); graciously offering to run the numbers for children’s headstones (they’re smaller, less expensive); pointing me to the standard issue granite.

Still, as he punched the numbers into his 10-key and gave me the result he said: “There it is. I mean: that’s a trip.”

He didn’t mean a groovy trip. He meant: you could take that money and go to Hawaii.

The stones were installed within a month’s time, and I stopped by to see them when I was in Seattle over this last weekend. They’re simple: I asked that they be carved verbatim to their temporary markers. I requested no ornament.

I simply wanted them to be seen.

p.s. The original markers? I had them shipped home. They’re in my backyard, under the big bluestem grasses.

lakeview cemetery plots

Update: I posted an annotated map identifying Ingebor and Corinne's plots, along with a few others »


I, Rodius said...

You are a constant surprise. I like the way you think. And write.

Debbi said...

Lovely, lovely.

ev said...

I don't know which is a metaphor for the other: installing new stones or writing such a wonderful post. You wanted them to be seen.
Well, they are.
and, from miles away, they even *shine*

thank you

Trevor said...

I thought your gift was a gift to us all. Very sensitive to something very hard for our Grama as a child. This was a precious act to give back to a woman we all loved so much.

Lummox said...

beautiful dayna.

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