Decoration Day

The stone-carved names read like my grade school roll call: Kapusta, Brusch, Karpiak, Chybik, Wydick. The Polish and Slavic names I heard every day, that I knew how to pronounce without thinking about them, were the grandmas, grandpas, aunts and uncles of my school mates. My sister and I played among these stones, while Daddy knelt at the one that bore his name. He’d tenderly till the soil around the stone, then gently pat begonias, geraniums and marigolds into the ground. Then he’d place the large flower urn that he had carefully planted in our greenhouse back home, under the name of his father, next to the flag. Then, job well done, he’s stand, call us to silent prayer, then depart. This was our annual Decoration Day ritual, the day to honor the fallen.

Now this task is mine. My parent’s grave has two stone vases, into which I’ve placed artificial flowers. There’s forsythia for the spring, mums or poinsettias for the winter. With these flowers in place year-long, I don’t have to come for Decoration Day any more to plant flowers, but I do. I almost didn’t do it this year: with my family’s home sold, I seldom get to this place almost an hour’s drive away. Even when I did come often, the potted annuals would always fare poorly throughout the summer, with only sporadic watering and deadheading. In recent years I had turned to planting the hardiest and most drought-resistant annuals I could find, instead of my parent’s favorites, but still they’d be small and dry, barely alive, each time I visited.

But planting flowers for Decoration Day is a tradition ingrained in me as a child. It just didn’t seem right to let it go, not yet anyway. So my husband and I dutifully brought a pot of flowers to this place of stones. Yellow zinnias for Mom, red snapdragons for Dad. He would have preferred geraniums, but they would never survive in this untended spot. We place the flower pot, tidy the grave, straighten the flag and say our silent prayers. Just as I did as a child.

© Huffygirl 2012

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