Saturday, July 22, 2006
I'm Doin' That Thing
...where I go into hiding.

I could go on an on about all the things on my plate right now. But that's dull enough as it is, and doesn't require me painstakingly listing dullness on my blog. I could tell you about how mosquitoes are attacking me and leaving two inch welts all over my body. I could report to you how my plucking of my chin has led to some kind of strange texture, and I'm worried I might be a hermaphrodite. I could describe the struggles I'm having with my weight, and how it is not helped by my stress. I could tell you all about these things, and that would simply not be enough to satiate myself or you, dear readers (if there are any of you left).

Instead, I will tell you about the old man and the cemetery.

Michael works in the horrid little town of Canton, where I once worked, long ago. Ah, I'm pleased to report that Canton, GA is now a mere destination for lunch every now and again, as I'm prone to meet Michael near his work for Mexican. As I drive to his work to meet him, I pass a cemetery. It is not the kind of cemetery I enjoy, with decrepit headstones and plants and trees. It's one of those modern things, where the dead enjoy a scripted plate dug into the ground and some fake flowers that are replaced every two weeks or so. It isn't a cozy place, the way cemeteries SHOULD be. It's rather manufactured. In any case, I drive by it without even thinking about it as a resting place for the dead, because all those fake flowers and neatly trimmed plaques remind me more of a park than of a final destination. I don't hold my breath as I drive by, nor slow down, nor even turn down my music. There's nothing even slightly moody about the place. And with the drill of power machines from the road crew, or the smell of chicken from the chicken processing plant a mile away, the cemetery becomes even less romantic. You see what I'm saying? It's a dull cemetery.

But I drive by it one day, and see an old man sitting on a 'memorial' bench beneath one, young, withered looking tree. The tree is at the corner of the cemetery, so he can look at the expanse of it beneath his tree. It is hot out, like 97 degrees, but he is wearing a long sleeved cotton shirt and neat khakis. He is simply sitting there with his hands folded on his legs. He is sitting amongst the stench of chicken and the roars of the bulldozer, and he is just staring.

I pick up Michael for lunch. We drive back by the cemetery, and Michael comments, "There he is, again." I look at Michael and he explains that the old man is there everyday, always at the same time, always sitting on the same bench. Sometimes, the old man is sipping from a flask. Sometimes, he is smiling and sometimes he is sad. But he is always there, like some kind of sentinel for the rest of us driving by. He's a landmark in the afternoon. You can count on his presence. Michael looks sad while he explains.

"Who do you think he is visiting?" I ask.
"I bet it's his wife," said Michael.
"Yeah. Me, too."
We both grow quiet at this exchange, and think about that. What that would be like--like losing a limb or a vital organ, yet chugging along through life while that innate part is buried underneath some dumb plaque. It is no wonder the flask accompanies the old man.

On those rare days that I meet Michael for lunch, I always look for the old man on the bench. I turn my music down and hold my breath. You see, the cemetery has now truly become a cemetery for me, thanks to that old man. He reminds me that the dead are there, and resting, and we should remember them, regardless of the fake flowers and the lack of trees. Over the fourth of July, flags were placed in the flower holders, and lots of cars could be seen parked throughout the desultory drives. People walked about, talking to their loved ones who have passed away. The cemetery is growing for me. I am glad for that old man.

We have not seen him recently. We wonder if he has gone to join his wife. Possibly, he has grown to understand that he needn't sit there to remember her--that he can do this in his home. Maybe, it's simply too hot. Whatever the case may be, I miss the old man, and now look longingly at the bench he sat upon, thinking of him. This is the case of cemeteries. They make you remember.
Written by FRITZ
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Name: Fritz

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