In August, after 3 1/2 years, we finally laid my father to rest in the family crypt in Denver.
Daddy died at the age of 91 in January, 2010. My mother had his body cremated, and we held a nice service/remembrance for family and friends in Dallas. After that, we tried on two occasions to make the trip to Denver for the final inurnment. But both times, my mother's energies flagged and we wound up cancelling our plans. I was beginning to think my poor father was going to sit in the closet until Mother passed away, when my older cousins announced that they were throwing a party for their mother's (my dad's sister) 90th birthday. The party became an excuse for a big family reunion and provided the perfect opportunity to take care of long overdue business. Richard and I made plans to attend. For a number of reasons, all health related, Mom refused to go, and no one could make her change her mind.
I emailed the cemetery and, with the assistance of a really nice lady named Diana, got everything set up.
On Friday morning, August 9, we arrived at Denver's Fairmount Cemetery with my father's urn carefully enclosed in a snazzy zebra striped bag with pink handles and trim. Richard was appalled at my choice of paternal transportation, but Daddy had a good sense of humor and I really don't think he would have minded. My mother, on the other hand, would have minded considerably, but she wasn't there to give me the stink eye.
After we got Daddy safely ensconced in my parents' double niche, I told Richard I wanted to try to find my mom's parents, as I was pretty sure they were buried somewhere on the enormous grounds. But before I go any further with the story, allow me to make this statement: I HAVE NEVER MET A SOUL ON MY MOTHER'S SIDE OF THE FAMILY. NEVER.
My maternal grandparents died within months of each other in 1949, years before I was born. (Actually, three of my grandparents died that year. My parents married in 1948, so one could safely assume their newlywed period kind of sucked.) Despite her Mormon roots, my mother was an only child. She had scads of extended family in her hometown of Logan, UT; aunts, uncles and cousins galore, but it appears that when my grandfather moved his wife and daughter to Denver about 1937'ish, the family ties to Logan started to unravel. I don't think there was a fight or misunderstanding that led to the estrangement, just distance, a Great Depression, little money, and Facebook hadn't been invented yet.
After her parents died, my mother, who was basically orphaned even though she was all grown up and a married woman, embraced her in-laws as her family and never looked back. She has never said much about her upbringing, so I know very little, but I get the impression that she had a happy childhood. There wasn't much money, but my mother was not deprived. She had a private university education (mostly paid for with scholarships), and a lovely wedding, so I'm told, with 300 guests.
So, 64 years after my grandparents' deaths, I'm at Fairmount. It's the closest I've ever been to them, and I wanted to find their graves and take pictures of their markers, for two reasons: firstly, I believed my mom would appreciate the gesture, but mainly because I wanted to make some kind of connection to the half of my DNA they had contributed, even if that connection was separated by six feet of dirt.
At the office, I gave the clerk the particulars and it took so long for her to find the plot cards, I began to wonder if I had it wrong and they weren't buried at Fairmount, but someplace else. Finally, she located the information, told us they reside in section 30, and gave us a map showing the approximate location of the graves.
We found section 30, parked the car, oriented ourselves with the map, picked what looked to be the best starting point, and began looking. Unfortunately, section 30 is one of the few areas at Fairmount where all the markers are flush with the ground. Mud, leaves and mowed grass had accumulated on many of the markers, making them hard to read. Others were so worn down, the inscriptions were illegible. We must have poked around for close to an hour with no luck. I finally called off the hunt because we had plans to go up into the mountains and were running behind schedule. I was very disappointed not to find my grandparents' resting place and chalked up our failure to either not looking in the right spot, or not being able to read the inscriptions.
That evening, Richard called my mother to check in and told her about our unsuccessful effort in locating her parents. She thanked him for trying and said she wasn't surprised we couldn't locate them. Keep that statement in mind, as I will come back to it.
Because the lady at the cemetery, Diana, was so nice and helpful, when we returned home I emailed her to thank her for her time and consideration. I also told her how we had tried and failed to find my grandparents. I wasn't fishing for anything, just making a comment, but Diana emailed back to say if I would give her the information, she would look them up herself and take photos for me. The next day, here comes another email from Denver, but instead of the pictures I was expecting, Diana tells me that according to the plot cards, there are no markers on the graves. Not willing to take the information on the plot cards at face value, she went out to the section and looked. Unlike us, she knew exactly where to look. Like us, she came up with zilch. My grandparents are lying in unmarked graves.
This news completely poleaxed me and left me with so many questions. The biggest one being, Who is this woman I call my mother?
My mom never did anything without doing it right and proper, and this concept was drilled into me from the time I was a little girl. With that in mind, how could she have allowed such a thing? I can only surmise that a lack of funds at the time prevented the purchase of markers. I'd like to think that she planned to rectify this --- money certainly wasn't an issue in later years --- but I guess life and time and distance --- for my parents eventually moved away --- caused this matter to drop to the very bottom of the "to do" list, until it dropped off completely and was forgotten.
So this brings me back to her statement about not being surprised that we couldn't find the graves. If she knows there are no markers, why didn't she say something? Or was she too embarrassed to admit to this awful oversight? I nonchalantly brought the topic up a second time when I visited with her after our return home, giving her a chance to 'fess up, but she repeated to me what she said to Richard on the phone. He thinks I should just flat out tell her what I know, but I'm afraid no matter how carefully I word it, she will feel I've backed her into a corner and will get defensive. Believe me, nothing good can come of making an old lady defensive. And then there's this angle to consider, too: what if markers were ordered all those years ago and the order got lost? This seems unlikely, but if true, how does one go about fixing this 64 years late? Worse, it means my mother never called to inquire if the markers had arrived, or even bothered to go to the cemetery to see them and make sure the inscriptions were correct.
It makes me sad that my grandparents were buried and seemingly forgotten, like a couple of unknown transients. Richard has promised me that when the time comes to take my mother on her last trip to Denver, that we will order markers to be placed on her parents' graves. It is only right and proper.
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