|Suburban library in the pouring rain. It turned to snow shortly after.|
I wouldn't describe either of my parents as responsible individuals, but the one thing they did plan ahead for was buying burial plots. They might not have known where they'd be living in their day to day lives, but at least they knew where they were headed at the end. In this case, w a a a a y the hell out in the western suburbs, which in the 60's must have seemed like the other side of the world. They paid the plots off in installments over the years.
Being a newer cemetery, all the headstones are flat to the ground, which makes mowing and upkeep easier. It does not, however make it easier to locate graves, particularly in a downpour. Mr. ETB found Mum after a few minutes, when wiping away the pooling water, realised her headstone had been vandalised.
There aren't too many things that shock me anymore, but defacing a grave always will. I pulled myself together, and then realised there wasn't a headstone for my father either. That was less shocking as he'd died ten years ago and as I already hadn't spoken to him in years (and in fact hadn't known he died until I did a random Google search several years after the fact) and didn't really expect my sister to bother with an expensive headstone for someone who treated her so horribly.
My dad was an awful person. I don't think I'm disclosing any family secret here that everyone didn't already know, but I stress it because from the outside it might sound unreasonably harsh to cut off contact so completely with your family. I put up with his bullshit for close to forty years until I couldn't anymore. It took lawyers, cease and desist letters, more lawyers, more cease and desist letters, until finally he gave up and got someone to help him stalk and threaten me on the internet instead. Then, there were more lawyers, letters, etc. Rinse and repeat.
I don't know what my sister's relationship with him was like, but I have a feeling when he died, he didn't leave her anything but bills. He played the part of a "big shot" and had been alternately very wealthy and penniless at various stages of his business career. That would be fine had he not been such an awful person but...well, he was an awful person that managed to alienate nearly everyone. He thought he could buy people's loyalty and when that failed go straight for threats and demands. Rinse and repeat.
Since I needed to replace my mother's headstone, I figured I'd just get a larger one with both their names on it. That's commonly done with family graves. I went up to the cemetery office to see about getting it replaced. I gave the man their names. Clickty click tappty tap on the keyboard and he's looking pale.
"I have your mother's grave and your father is listed as the owner of the adjoining grave but...he's not buried in it."
"He's not?" I must have looked mad. Soaking wet, wearing two pair of trousers to improvise outdoor gear for the unexpected cold, my nose bright red from the wind. "Well then where is he?" I asked which in hindsight seems like a terribly stupid question.
I have no idea if my sister had him cremated, which would be awful because that's as close to heresy as it gets for our religion, or perhaps she had him buried somewhere else which seems unlikely as this grave was paid for. I suppose a worst case scenario would be that no one ever claimed his body and he ended up in an unmarked pauper's grave. I mean, there's no one left to call and ask after all these years except my former brother in law who has probably put up with more from this bloody family than any human being deserves. What am I supposed to do, call and ask, "Oh by the way, where did you guys dump dad?" After ten years, does it even matter?
At this point the only thing I can do is go ahead with both their names on the headstone anyway. I didn't like the man, but it seems harmless enough to at least acknowledge that he lived and died. I was about to say, "Because he was still someone's precious baby once" but then I remembered that my grandmother never really liked him either. He was a tough person to like, and he thrived on hurting others, so it isn't at all surprising that in the end, no one thought it was worth the bother to give him a proper burial. You can't go through life terrorising people and expect them to show you basic respect in the end. I would have buried him if I'd even known he died, but I completely understand why my sister wouldn't.
I've been home from the trip for a few weeks now, and after I had a chance to absorb everything, I'm finding it was a more positive experience than it felt like standing in the pouring rain a few Sundays ago. I'm done with it. All of it. Chicago, my family, the stress, done. Everyone's dead, and while I admit it is a little strange to realise you're the "last one standing" as the saying goes, I'm not particularly sad about it.
I had a terrible start in life, but now in my 50's I honestly do feel like I've had a great life anyway. Do I wish my family could have been different? Of course. Is there a lesson here? I dunno, "Don't be a bully and an asshole" is probably a good start but beyond that?
Regular vintage posting should resume shortly.