There, together. June 2012, Pennsylvania.
My mom and my aunt took Pop Pop to the cemetery yesterday. It was no easy task. They had to schedule it with the nursing home, arrange the med van, make sure the weather cooperated, etc. etc. and more etc. But all stars aligned, and he made it there — to his parents, his brothers, his aunts, his uncles, his friends… and to his love, Ruth, my Dibi. It was a reunion of sorts, and it was his first trip there since Dibi passed in September.
Over the years, the cemetery has been a place of solace for Pop Pop. It’s a quiet, wooded couple acres, and the tombstones all look the same, per Jewish custom. When Pop Pop was still living at home and able to get around on his own, he used to go there often. He’d beg my aunt and his caregiver friend Michele to drive him there, and he’d never miss a Memorial or Veterans Day.
I took him there once, too, on my own. Or, I guess he took me there, even though I drove. The cemetery is about 30 minutes from Pop Pop’s town, so he guided me along the windy roads, up hills and around narrow bends overlooking fields and pastures. We made our way through the gate and, after showing me around a bit, he pointed.
“That’s where your grandmother and I will be, back there.”
It was so matter-of-fact — that’s where they’ll bury us, where you’ll come see me when I’m gone. No tears, no shaky voice. Just the truth. I loosened my grip on the wheel a little, letting my hands fall, and I nodded. Follow his lead, I told myself. Just follow his lead and be strong.
“I am glad we came,” Pop Pop told my mom and my aunt as they left yesterday. They could have rushed him back, but instead, they did the opposite. They ate lunch out — with red wine! — and took time to enjoy the afternoon and life and each other.