Backing out of the garage, she then pointed her car toward the highway infused with holiday traffic. Just about everyone she knew was headed to the lake, the mountains, the cousin’s house, to all those places where folks go to participate in the frivolity of the Memorial Day weekend.
Hunger arousing aroma of steaks, simmering on a grill and delivered to her on the wind blowing across the neighborhood, reminded her of other days, those days when she too associated the day with cookouts, skiing on the lake, camping in the mountains, or attending a Braves game in Atlanta. Memories of such times were suppressed as she took a right onto the highway. Traditional Memorial Day activities now dimmed under the cloak of her present activity, an activity that rested somewhere among ritual, ceremony, need, and obsession. With uncompromising regularity she made this pilgrimage, undeterred any form of inclement weather. It was what she did.
Driving along her
journey she remembered, with a Mother’s guilt, the lack of resources that led
him to join the Army Reserve to finance his education. He’d completed three
years when the activation notice came. He never complained. He just went, with
a smile on his face and a kiss on her cheek she still felt to this day, into
His emails to her were jovial, never conveying any worry or hint of danger. Yet, she knew. She knew the general area in which she served. She could read newspapers and watch the TV news. She could put the pieces together. So she worried.
She drove with
precision in an almost mechanical way as thousands of memories lasting only a
moment played upon the screen of her mind in time with the advancing odometer.
The car she stopped in the same place she always stopped. Staring for a moment she breathed deeply in preparation for her rite. Exiting the car she placed her feet upon the newly trimmed grass and headed up the slight slope toward her destination. Rank upon rank of the white crosses, standing in perfect formation, stretched before her and behind her and to each side with a uniformity that defied individuality. Yet, she progressed without confusion among the silent sentential to that one particular cross.
She placed the single rose on the ground above his place of repose. He’d received full military honors when they placed him here. She’d jumped in shock at the sound of the rifles and fallen into herself with the notes of Taps. The soldier with the gold band across his cap gave her the flag they’d taken from his casket and folded with such tight precision. For long moments she remembered that day and how they had rendered the honors. And yet, the rose, now lying in quiet testimony above his remains was the honor that would continue until her deat.
A wind was blowing when she rose to leave. A wind was blowing from the East. She stood quietly again. “I love you, son,” she said with a mother’s comforting voice. She turned toward home where life laboriously moved on.