A Trip to the Cemetary
It began with a mildly panicked call from June while I was across the village working at a neighbours, "David is gone. He is going to Sturgeon!" Thinking she meant he was going to the hospital and the ambulance was coming or had already been, I asked, "What happened? Is he sick?" No she said, "He is going to Sturgeon. He took his walker and said he was going to walk to Sturgeon. I couldn't stop him he is going up the road toward River Valley." (David is 85 and in no shape to walk the 26 miles to Sturgeon Falls.)
I drove back across the village toward the house and intercepted him about 1000 yards up the road coming toward me. He had made it over the hill to my surprise. I stopped and asked him. "Where are you heading." "I am going to Sturgeon. She doesn't want me any more!" "Come on get in I will take you back home." " No! I am going to Sturgeon." I want to go to the cemetary and then I am going to the cemetary in Verner." (20 miles away). "Who do you know in the cemetary in River Valley.?" I asked. "My in laws." "Come on, I will drive you there. Let me put your walker in the back of the car and get in." This is how the trip to the cemetary began.
The cemetary in River Valley is a parish cemetary of the Eglise de Sainte Rose de Lima. Here the local French Catholic parishioners are buried or expect to be buried. It is about a mile from my house and I must pass it every time I go anywhere.
Before David and I could drive to the cemetary June joined us walking down the road. While I was distracted she took David's walker out of the car and he refused to get back in.
"Make him get in." June pleaded. " Well then, I will walk with you. "I told David, hoping June would just go away for now. She evenually did saying she was going back to the house and would join us at the cemetary. "It is a mile you know." I reminded David. "That's OK, I will rest on my walker when I am tired." So we walked and talked about the weather, the trees turning, the geese on the field, my neighbours cattle. Two or three times he stopped and sat down on his walker. I picked some bird's foot treefoil growing along the road and put it in his little basket on his walker to take home to my rabbits.
We finally reached the cemetary. I was surprised David made it. My gimpy knees were complaining and I was wishing I had a walker to sit down on. I eventually sat on a headstone feeling some what uncomfortable as if it was disrespectful. (I must suggest to the cemetary board that they put in a park bench). David wandered around and located his in-laws marker and some headstones of people he had known with a story about each. "This is the guy I bought the lovely little horse from." He had previously told me the story.
I too looked around the cemetary at all the familiar family names: Ayotte, Giroux, Tessier, Legault, etc. The families are all still well represented in our small town. I recognized people I had know in the years I have lived here. You know you are old and perhaps "belong" (I may never fully belong. I will continue to be seen as an outsider.), when you seem to know more people buried in the cemetary than in town. This is really not true but it certainly has been a long time since I moved here in 1980. It is home.
By now June had joined us coming in the car. I am sure I would not have easily walked back home, even if David could. With a promise to drive him to the cemetary in Verner, where some of his family is buried, including a grandson who had drowned a few years ago, and then. to the cemetary in Crystal Falls, where his parents are buried, David accepted the invitation to go back home for breakfast.
For two days, David insisted he was leaving and getting an apartment in Sturgeon Falls, with out June. I stayed out of it wisely. Eventually, June informed me he told her he loved her and he was again his regular self. My helper was once again happy to join me in piling the wood I have been spitting.
Years ago, when I first came to River Valley, Father Bradley, the parish priest visited me out of curiousily as to who this single father, English speaking, 'cleric', with one child , was. I was clearly a curiousity and an outsider. He was polite and friendly but in spite of his name he was a strong French nationalist and saw English only speakers somewhat threatening in his town, which had been his fiefdom for 35 years. He now is buried in the cemetary on the highest point of land with the largest monument. . .still keeping guard over his flock.
On this occasion, he went out of his way to tell me they even had a protestant buried in the cemetary. A fellow named Campbell. I later went to look for his stone (above) and laughted! He was there alright but right in the corner near the road nearly outside the cemetary. I later learned he was actually outside the cemetary on the road allowance until they straighted the fence. Was Father Bradley's hand in this? I suspect so for he controlled everything in this hamlet back then.
Well, if he was ever uneasy about young Campbell being in his cemetary, he can rest easy now for last year they came and dug up Campbell and shipped his remains out west to a family cemetary. Perhaps, now there is a place for me in the cemetary. . . .just on the outside edge. How appropriate.
The is the headstone of my dear friend Madame Carrie (even after nearly 20 years of knowing her I never called her Delima). Our relationship is a full chapter in a novel. She was romantically attached to me while I saw her as an older motherly friend. There were tensions at times that wewre both touching and humourous. And comments were occasionally made in town, after I first escorted her to a family gathering where 400 of her closest relatives were in attendance. We ignored them. I was very fond of her and she was very good to me and Parker. I miss her often.