This entry was written on December 29 while I was in Indiana:
Nora took me out for the best Indian food in NW Indiana! Going out for Indian food has become our tradition when I visit her. Toni was not feeling well again, so she stayed behind with her caretaker. After lunch, Nora and I spontaneously decided to visit mom and dad’s graves. We stopped, bought flowers, then headed over to Calumet Cemetery in Merrillville, Indiana. Snowdrifts covered gravesites and headstones, but mom and dad’s graves, tucked away in a mausoleum crypt, were free from the snow. We parked the car, went into the mausoleum, and sat on the floor next to our parents’ headstones. A blanket of sadness fell over us. Quietly, with my fingers I traced out my mom’s engraved name again and again while Nora sadly expressed how much she missed them.
As I wedged a flower between the headstones (these flowers are forbidden in the crypt and will be removed by the end of the day), I feared, as I always do, that the rock face would fall away to reveal the caskets that hold their bones, the shells that housed their generous loving spirits. Of course, that did not happen. After a while, we went back to the car, each of us in our quiet thoughts. Neither of us felt their spirits at their gravesite.
Emptiness has a sound. It is a deafening silence so loud it can be heard thousands of miles away. I hate to say this, but the hole my parents left behind remains a gaping chasm. It is something I am learning to live with.
As we left the cemetery, we took the silence and emptiness with us and I made no comment as Nora drove straight over to mom and dad’s house. This was not part of our plan. It was as if a very strong force was simply leading us to their house in Crown Point.
Nora pulled into the driveway. She said, “God, I haven’t been here in so long.”
From the car, I looked at the pretty Christmas decorations on the house, windows, and trees. I found it very odd to see that the new owners’ Christmas decorations were set up pretty much the same way mom and dad used to set up decorations!
Nora turned off the engine and said, “Well, let’s go in.”
“But Nora, do you think it’s ok? We don’t even know the people who live here now!”
“Well, I met her once. I think her name is Jeanette. Come on.”
And before I knew it, Nora was ringing the doorbell, tears streaming down her face. Jeanette opened the door, smiled, and, as if she had been expecting us, said, “Come on in!”
Once inside the house, Nora asked Jeanette, “Do you remember me?” Jeanette, still smiling, nodded no. I had the eeriest feeling and suddenly realized I was feeling mom and dad’s presence very strongly! Nora explained who we were and Jeanette suddenly said, “Oh!! We had the best figs last summer!”
Wait! That is exactly what my dad would have said! He loved his fig trees and took tender care of them so they would produce the most delicious fruit year after year!
Jeanette grabbed Nora by the arm and lead her (and me) to the sunroom! Well, my parents would have done just that. My mom and dad loved the sunroom. That is why dad never wanted to sell the house, even after he could no longer maneuver the stairs in his old age. Mom and dad could sit in that room for hours, just looking out at the garden, at all the fruit trees, the flowers, and the perfect lawn.
Fast as I could, I scanned the rooms, I looked around. and I couldn’t believe what I saw! Jeanette had decorated the house just like my parents did!! En route to the sunroom, she lead us across the living room where the sofa’s design and pattern was almost identical to my parents’ sofa, where the drapes were the same!!, where the placement of all the furniture and wall hangings were placed in the identical spots. She lead us across the kitchen. How could she have placed the microwave in the same spot?? I quickly glanced down to the TV room where Jeanette’s sofas, easy chairs, and HDTV were in the exact same places where my parents had theirs!!
In the sunroom, I noticed Jeanette had plants all over just as mom did. We looked across the snow-covered yard. Nora and I noticed the fig trees were covered the way dad used to cover them to protect them from freezing temperatures! Nora started crying again and Jeanette held her as if she had known Nora her whole life, as if to hug a stranger is the most natural thing in the world, and Jeanette kept hugging her, absorbing Nora’s pain.
Then I noticed the framed pictures of wolves and eagles and without thinking, I asked blue eyed, blond Jeanette if she was, by any chance, Native American and she says in an excited voice, “Yes!” She brought me over to see a picture of her grandparents and proudly explained, “See, my grandpa was Indian and my grandma was half black and half Irish and the other set of grandparents who I look like had Swedish, Dutch, and German.” She beamed when I told her she represented a good portion of the world.
After our short visit, Jeanette walked us to the door and said, “Come on by in the spring and summer when I’ve got the garden planted in and the roses are up. Just stop on by anytime! You’re always welcome! You wouldn’t believe the flowers I grow here!”
Well, yes, I would believe it…I do. My parents still inhabit this house where they lived out so many happy days, where there were so many warm family gatherings, where so many fabulous meals were cooked, shared, and eaten, where they gardened and proudly kept their house looking perfect inside and outside, where they experienced love, joy and sadness, where they grew old, and where they lived out their last days. Yes, I think mom and dad’s spirits live on at Harrison Street in Crown Point, Indiana!