Today I tidied the gravesites of Jacob Vaness Young, his wife Leita and their two children, swapping out summer flowers for fall stuff. I took Clementine with me for the first time since late spring, when a cranky cop told me “No pets allowed in the cemetery” In other words, vacate and don’t come back (this, after several other officers over the years have chatted amicably with me there, never once mentioning the fact that I shouldn’t be walking my dog).
After that incident with the pesky policeman, I’ve since registered Clementine as an Emotional Support Dog. That’s what she is to me. If I hadn’t adopted her shortly after my son died, I might still be in bed. Please don’t get all judgy with me. I don’t intend to take her on an airplane or into a restaurant or anything; I just want to walk her through Mount Avon. I find comfort there, and I want my comfort creature with me.
Anyway, while I was pulling weeds, a man was polishing his Mercedes convertible nearby. He waved at me; I waved back. Then he said “Nice day, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I said. “It’s beautiful.”
“My parents are buried here.” He gestured in their apparent direction. “I like to polish my car in front of my mother.” He shrugged sheepishly and smiled. “I hope you don’t think I’m silly. It’s a little ritual of mine. She bought the car for me six months before she passed away.”
I smiled back. “A ritual like that is special. Things like that give life meaning.”
Kind of like having your support dog with you.
He asked whose graves I was taking care of, so I explained that I don’t actually know the Young family but, for some crazy reason, feel compelled to take care of their sites.
The full story
Maybe it was the fact that I thought what I did was a little crazy, because few minutes later, he walked over to me. “I just want to show you my mother’s driver’s license.” He then told me the story of how he’d taken care of her since her a heart attack shortly after his father died. When he was at a car show, he mentioned to her how much he loved a particular classic Mercedes. Then one day, she asked him to get her shoes and coat (which she wore over her silk pajamas: “They looked real nice”) and purse. “Where are we going, Mom?” he asked, but she just said “You’ll see.” She had him drive to a Mercedes dealership in Bloomfield Hills where she walked inside, picked out a car for him and paid in full.
He told me, “What was mine was hers and what was hers was mine, but this was over and above anything I ever expected.” That was twelve years ago. “It’s hard,” he said, close to tears, obviously still missing her. I completely understand. He also said he’s scheduled for hip replacement surgery, which he decided he needed after he drove up from his Florida home and could hardly get out of the car after all that sitting. He’s already had both knees replaced. He recently sold his house in Rochester and now lives in an apartment. He shared a lot with me.
We wished each other a good day, and he left, waving enthusiastically as he drove past.
Another loss, another story
On my way out of the cemetery, a man stopped his truck and rolled his window down. “Is that a Welsh corgi?” he asked. I half expected him to tell me pets weren’t allowed in the cemetery, but he said he’d lost his golden retriever six months ago. It was his third golden. He “loves goldens.” He opened his truck door and gingerly stepped out. “I want to get another dog soon but I need to get my bad back taken care of first.”
It must have been my day to hear about everyone else’s surgeries. “Dogs are the best. Are you going to get a puppy?” I asked.
“Hell no. I would look for a rescue dog. I don’t got time for all that puppy business. But finding a golden rescue isn’t all that easy.”
A pet’s purpose
I told him he could go to Houston; not everyone is going to be able to take care of their pets after the hurricane damage. “Oh, isn’t that something? So sad,” he said.
“Yes, but it’s wonderful that so many dogs were rescued along with their families. I imagine it’s a great comfort to have your pet after you’ve lost everything else.”
“Oh, you better believe it,” he said.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of In the Context of Love, about one women’s need to tell her story without shame. Adult contemporary fiction
2016 Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers Favorite Book Finalist
2016 USA Book News “Best Book” Finalist
Angelica Schirrick had always suspected there was something deeply disturbing about her family, but the truth was more than she bargained for.
“With tenderness, but without blinking, Linda K. Sienkiewicz turns her eye on the predator-prey savannah of the young and still somehow hopeful.” ~ Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of the #1 NY Times Bestseller, Deep End of the Ocean