Across West Virginia and back again in two days, with storytelling and family visit included. Thunder, lightning and heavy rain seemed like logical companions for this journey.
Getting to Romney, West Virginia from where I live is a feat. Althugh there are several routes, there is really no good way to get there from here. We selected what looked like the best way and headed out, allowing an extra two hours because when you travel on two-lane roads you never know what you might encounter. We were lucky--although the rain was heavy here and there and we saw two roll-overs along the way, the trip was smooth and the scenery...well, you really have to see it to understand.
I was the main event Saturday night for a weekend kids camp sponsored by the local law enforcement agencies. Given the rain, we moved indoors. The stories? Ghost stories, of course, perfect for the rainy, foggy evening in a place that had its own resident ghost.
Afterwards, we headed to Virginia. According to the map, we were only about 60 miles from my son Jon's house. The storytelling event went a little longer than expected; the drive took longer too because of the rain, but we arrived about 11pm and had a good hour-long visit with granddaughters and daughter-in-law before bed.
This morning, our main goal was to visit Jon's grave. I knew it was best to do this on our way home so we had breakfast, visited a little more with granddaughters and then went to the cemetery.
I will say this: no matter how many times I go there it never gets easier. To see those dates--"1970-2010." To see his name--"Jonathan Scott Ford." To see the old, old gaves around him, many of Confederate soldiers from the Civil War. To know my son is inexpicably here among them. None of it is easier. The same questions, the same regrets, the same pain are there each time. And each time, leaving is harder to do.
I wish I could tell you that it gets better and easier to bear, but the truth is that it does not. Grief, I have discovered, is a lonely place and something I must endure alone. No one, no words, can make it easier or smooth the journey. It is what it is--a terrible place framed by the beauty of memories.
I left a pot of vincas to join company with the flags and the almost hidden golf ball that mixed with the new grass covering the bare earth of Jon's grave. Vinca is tough and long-lived and I hope the cemetery caretakers will leave it in place as long as it can manage to survive. My visits to my son's grave cannot be frequent so I have to rely on the kindness of others and the sturdiness of my vincas to keep my son company in this far-off place. Leaving the cemetery is one of the hardest things I have to do in this life. How many times will I make this journey in the years that are left to me? How many times will I have to say good-bye?
The trip home was quiet. Larry knows enough about me to let me be. Now that I am here in my house I can start to sort through the emotions, the sadness and the memories one more time. I know I will find no answers, no magic antedotes. Tomorrow I will get up and go to work, and the daily routine will continue. I wonder why, and yet I know I will do the things that need to be done, just as I pulled weeds in my gardens when I came home tonight.
It is what it is. Life. And death. And the thin line that separates the two sometimes stretches until it is invisible.