After I left my grandparents' house (my mom's parents), I started to drive home. On the way, I made a little side trip to the town where my dad grew up. It's only a few miles out of my way. We haven't gone there regularly as a family in the last 18 years since my grandpa died and my grandma moved away. Even though it's so close when we visit my mom's side of the family, my dad never wants to go there. I think that part of the problem is that he is not sentimental enough to want to walk down memory lane; he'd rather get home.
It may also be too depressing. It's a teeny tiny town that is slowly dying. Only a couple of the public buildings are open for business. Every 3rd or 4th house seems to be boarded up and falling down. My dad has a lot of great childhood stories, but they never had much money.
I could easily get a little depressed by the decay of time, but I'm too busy being fascinated by the idea that this is where my dad and grandpa grew up. I'm trying to imagine what the town must have been like at that time. I love that the little church is still there and (relatively) thriving.
I don't go there because of the town, though. My reason for being there takes me east, over the railroad tracks and up the dirt road. A mile out of town, on top of a hill, is a little cemetery. That is my destination. It is now the only place that I can go to visit my dad's parents.
I miss them a lot. When my grandpa first died, I was sad, but not too much. We lived too far away to visit often, and I remember playing with my cousins much more than hanging out with the adults. The older I get, the more I miss him. The more I got to be old enough to know and appreciate my other grandparents, the more I wanted to know him.
My grandma died a year and a half ago. I am finally beginning to realize that she is not just a phone call away; that I can't run down over the holidays to see her. I can't say that I have grieved horribly for her. I love her and miss her more than I can say, but she was in so much pain in the last months of her life. I really don't wish her back. I do wish for one more hug, one more smile, to see the sparkle in her eyes again. I know that it will happen someday... but I've never been accused of being overly patient.
Some people are weirded out by cemeteries. They have never bothered me. Somehow it is a tangible connection to the people that I have lost. It is a way for me to honor them in the only way that I have left. I like to leave flowers there if I remember to bring some. Maybe the fake flowers are not that meaningful, but I like to leave the visible proof that these people are important and still remembered. I didn't have time to get anything this time, but was gratified to see that someone else had left some there recently.
It is often not grief that I feel there, but peace and hope. I think the real reason that I go is to say "Until we meet again." I don't know why it is that the cemetery is the place that I am most likely to realize that they are not lost to me forever, but it is. Whatever the reason, I am grateful for it, and I am grateful to God for my wonderful grandparents.