a grave situation
Finding the place proved to be just as tricky the second time. The small road leading to the old cemetery wasn’t on the GPS and he only found it by making all the same mistakes he’d made the first time.
There was a chill in the air, over and above the typical chill that comes with being in a cemetery, a distinct difference between this and his first visit. November in Pennsylvania will do that.
He walked slowly to the headstone. When he got there he bowed his head slightly and said “Hello again” quietly.
It had been the spring two years ago when he’d last stood in front of the grave. He’d come there to ask the dead man permission to marry his daughter.
“Words mean something” he began. He’d rehearsed the speech over and over in his head on the three hour drive to the cemetery but it still sounded weird to hear out loud. “They do. At least to me sir.”
There was a small town only a few miles away but he felt like he was standing a million miles away from civilization.
“I came here last time to tell you I loved your daughter. I did.” A long sigh escaped from him. “I still do.”
A large crow had taken an interest in the proceedings, to be fair there wasn’t much else going on, and it hopped closer and closer as the man spoke.
“I asked your permission to marry her. I thought it was important despite the fact that you’re no longer with us… because you’re still with her.”
There was a rustling of leaves that wasn’t there in the spring. It was like a sad soundtrack to the scene and the approaching bite of winter.
“I said something that day and I need you to remember it. I made you a promise and I need you to know I tried to keep it.”
Monologues weren’t his specialty. When you’re emotional and alone and there’s nobody there to listen but a crow and a corpse it seems the very definition of a tough crowd.
“I said I’d take care of her as long as she’d let me.” He’d added the last part without realizing it. Looking back, perhaps he’d known all along he wouldn’t get the chance to keep his promise.
“She said no sir.”
The leaves stopped rustling and the crow stopped hopping. “I needed you to know I would have kept up my end of the deal.”
He was holding a big yellow book. Figuring by Maria Popova.
“I’m sorry to say I don’t even know if she’s doing ok. I hope she is.”
He opened the book to the page with the bent corner.
“Don’t be mad at her sir. I was for a long time but it wasn’t right to feel anger.” He began to read; “Those accustomed to hard work and self-propulsion, who have risen to the zenith of accomplishment by force of will and magnitude of effort, are most susceptible to the supreme self-damnation of human life… the belief that love is something to be earned by striving rather than something that comes unbidden like a shepherd’s song on a summer evening in the mountains of Bulgaria.”
He was getting choked up until the word Bulgaria. He was thankful that Maria had included such a dumb-sounding location.
“So you see sir, it wasn’t her fault. Everything I said about her last time is still true. You have an amazing daughter sir.”
There was so much more to say and nothing at all. He’d get no sympathy from a dead man. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and closed the book.
“I guess I just wanted you to know. I’m sure she still thinks of you. I hope she still thinks of me.”
Leaves blew across the grave but stubbornly refused to form a heart or smiley face. The crow had departed at the word Bulgaria.
“Take care sir.”
The man began the walk back to his car.