Memorial Day weekend, the real start to summer. And, an important holiday to remember those who gave their all for the freedoms I enjoy. Did I think about that while I was scarfing down my delicious lunch? Some. But I also, like most of you I think, use Memorial Day as a holiday to remember and honor my own ancestors, whether or not they served in the military.
Memorial Day isn’t complete without a trip to the cemetery, usually multiple cemeteries. I remember going as a kid, seeing all the pretty flowers and decorations and wondering why they were wasted on dead people. Really, what were they going to do to with them? I have a different attitude as an adult. I see them as what they are probably meant to be: a memorial to those we’ve lost, more to make us feel like they are gone but not forgotten. (And I think some must see it as a contest. The most decorated grave wins for best loved dearly departed! There are some seriously overboard graves out there.)
This year I cut some irises from my garden and bought the requisite mum and on Sunday headed up with my family to the cemetery where my husband’s father is buried. This was a tender Memorial Day because it was the first since my father-in-law’s death in July; at least it was tender until an employee of Mountain View Memorial Cemetery ruined it. We were all gathered around the grave, placing flowers and cleaning another family headstone when one of the employees from the cemetery came rolling up on his Segway no less. He looked at us gathered around and asked, “So are you all taken care of here when your time comes? We have some great specials we’re running this weekend if you need any plots.” My mouth just hung agape. My gutsy sister-in-law loudly commented that she thought it was all a complete racket, and we should just donate her body to science “when her time comes”. My mother-in-law started in on how, thirty years ago, the plot she was promised was sold to someone else. I couldn’t believe this guy was so tacky, like Tacky the Penguin tacky, but without the endearing qualities of said penguin. Who tries to sell you something while you’re gathered in family remembrance of a loved one recently passed on? Apparently, someone from the dark side of the force who needs to find a way to pay for his employee Segway.
On Monday my kids and I went with my family to a tiny little town in central Utah to have a family reunion of sorts and visit other graves. I cut more irises, because those were my grandmother’s favorite flower, and headed off for a 2+ hour drive with my four little ones. We went to a cemetery so small and quaint, it is entirely dirt and rock, complete with mounded graves you see in old Western movies. Then, we went to a little springs and caught several minnows to take home to be pets.
It seems that the fish weren’t too keen on coming home with us. We put the plastic bucket of fish in the shade of the mini while we waded around for a little while longer. One of the gilled creatures decided to commit fishicide. He jumped out of the bucket and landed on the dirt next to it. He must have–wisely–chosen a quick death of suffocation rather than a slow death of neglect under my children’s untested pet care. My mom saw his death inducing stunt and threw him back in the bucket; he was foiled. He attempted it a second time, and my ten-year-old son chucked him back in.
The plastic bucket had no lid, so I tried to drive extra carefully on the bumpy dirt road out of the springs. When we got to the next cemetery, my children checked on the fish. Three had either succeeded in their attempts to escape our frightening clutches by jumping out, or I am guilty of vehicular fishicide by sloshing out some water and unfortunate fish. Cuff me now.
My ten year old, being the drama king that he is and perhaps inspired by his surroundings, scooped up the fish, “buried” them in the dirt and rocks of the road and had a little memorial service of his own, right there. “Dear fish,” he began in a quavering voice, “we only knew you for a short time, but you will be dearly missed. Sleep well and join your friends in fishy heaven.” He then began to fake cry for all he was worth, for all of ten seconds anyway. Then he abruptly stopped his sniffing and asked, “Where’s the rest of the Doritos? Can I have some?” (I told him no, not until he cleaned his hands. Eww.)
Twenty dollars and three days later, and with only one more fish casualty, we have six “free” minnows–Joe, Billy Bob Joe, Lightning, Thunder, Murky and He Who Has Not Yet Been Named– swimming around in their new fish bowl. Maybe they’ll last until next Memorial Day; but if not, I’m sure my son can come up with a great impromptu “memorial day” as they are flushed down to the great fishy beyond.