Graveside Memories

imageThis is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make this a regular thing, but I decided that if the prompt fits, I’d give it a shot. This week’s prompt is ‘memory’ and a couple of Saturdays ago, I was dealing with a stream of memories, so I guess it fits.

My daughter and I were on a mini-vacation in Pittsburgh. We began Day-1 at one of Faith’s Pittsburgh memories, Eat’n Park for breakfast. She likes Eat’n Park because you can substitute fruit or one of three kinds of breakfast potatoes for meat in any of the breakfast combos. I like it because you can substitute bacon for sausage in any combo that comes with bacon and sausage. Then you have a combo of bacon and bacon which is good because the only thing better than bacon is more bacon.

After breakfast, we visited Melrose Cemetery where my father is buried. The graves were mostly bare, reduced to undecorated stones to facilitate the fall clean-up activities. Dad’s stone was crusted with dried grass and his VFW flag was leaning badly. I straighten the flag and Faith and I cleared off the grass. I looked down and said “are you happy now?” He was crazy meticulous when it came to grass and cemetery care; he would have wanted his stone to be cleaned.

The next stop was his father’s grave. Actually, his father and two sisters are buried there. They died together in an automobile accident in 1927. Also buried, at the foot of those others, is the brother I never knew, one whose life was measured in hours. Looking at the stone brought back memories of tending that grave with my dad. The soil of that grave was sinking 50 years ago. One year, my father dug up the grass, added a thick layer of dirt and topsoil and laid the grass back down. A few years later, he dug up the grave like a garden, tilling the grass in with more topsoil. He eventually covered the whole plot with rolls of sod that he had brought. I remember being afraid that we were going to dig up the bodies.

The grave is sinking again. I didn’t have any topsoil or any garden implements so we just made the observation. I also noted that the headstone has moved off the base – how does that happen? I wished I had brought my Porta-Power unit with me, and a section of strong chain. That could pull the headstone back onto the base 1-2-6. That would have made my dad happy.

From Melrose, we drove to St. George Cemetery and visited my grandmother’s grave. The last time we were there was in 2009 and we noticed that they had broken ground for a new church. Unfortunately, construction has not begun; they are still raising money. Fortunately, one of the ways they are raising money is with “The Feast from the East” a Mediterranean food festival at the original church. Actually, it isn’t the “original” church, my grandfather helped build the original on a street where he lived. The current church dates back to the late ‘40s. Anyway, we had just eaten breakfast with fruit double bacon, but the sign mentioned “take out” as being available, so off we went.

I mentioned to Faith that I hadn’t been in that church since 1972 when my grandmother died. She had six male grandchildren and someone thought it would be a good idea for us to serve as pallbearers. That was tough duty for me. I was the youngest and I didn’t know what a pallbearer was supposed to do. My brother and I were not raised in the Orthodox Church. I had been to Easter and Christmas services with my father but I had never been to a funeral. I’ll give it to you thumbnail, at least the parts that I will remember forever. Pallbearers sit in the first pew. I remember this because the priest spun the casket around during the mass and opened it. I was not prepared for that. There was a lot of incense and we stood at the grave while the casket was lowered. Yes, I skipped a lot of details there. Pallbearers wear white gloves, and after the coffin is lowered into the ground, we were told to toss the gloves into the grave. I remember not liking that part.

The food festival was being held in the basement of the church, a room with which I was familiar, having sat with my grandmother on many Thursday evenings as she played Bingo in that basement. We took stuffed grape leaves, a meat pie for me and a spinach pie for Faith and Faith snagged some Tabouleh. All good stuff. On our way out, I visited the church. I took some pictures to go with the memories I’ll still have after the new church is built.


The upper picture is Faith at Eat’n Park. The rest are captioned and you can click on any one picture in each group to begin a slide show.

About Dan Antion

Husband, father, woodworker, cyclist, photographer, geek - oh wait, I’m writing this like I only have 140 characters. I am all those things, and more, and all of these passions present me with opportunities to observe, and think about things that I can’t write about in other places. I have started this blog to catch the stuff that falls out, overflows and just plain doesn’t fit the other containers in my life.
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37 Responses to Graveside Memories

  1. Wendy Brydge says:

    Funny how good memories can be both a blessing and a curse sometimes. They bring joy, but also pain. You took some great pics, Dan, and I really enjoyed this post. I can certainly relate about pallbearer duty. I was one for both my mother and my grandmother. I certainly hope the new church gets all the funding it needs. Five years is a long time to have to wait!

    Like

    • Dan Antion says:

      My wife attends a Russian Orthodox Church that was making plans to build/buy a new building since about 2007. They just bought a church building earlier this year. It can take a long time to raise the money. Thanks for the comment. Pallbearer duty is an honor in done cases but not in all.

      Like

  2. Don says:

    Your post Dan reminded of my visits to my grandmother’s grave with my father when I was a child. We also used to do little bits of maintenance. Then the placing of the flowers, especially on her birthday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I would be doing more if I lived closer. Still, the next time we drive to Pittsburgh, I might toss the porta-power unit in the back and pull that headstone straight again. Lessons learned as a child run deep.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting to read about church activities. It reminds me of the community I grew up in with the church being the center. Your father and grandmother experienced so much loss with the car accident and the death of the little brother. It is nice that you took your daughter to see where you grew up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I took her there in 2009 for a whirlwind tour of every part of my childhood that remains. It was fun and meaningful for both of us, She was able to put an image along side stories she had heard. We’ve been back several times and she really does like the city. For my grandparents, the church was the center of everything. Lee so with my father’s generation but still very important. We spent a lot of time there and in the church in which we were raised. It’s good to see the church still doing well. I hope they are able to build the new church in the near future. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sammy D. says:

    This was nice, Dan. I love simple ‘slice of life’ narratives, and you speak so truly which flows through your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Sammy. The prompt allowed me to bring some things out that I might not have put into a blog post. It’s a little more of the “find your voice” thing which I struggle with and also kind of enjoy. I’m glad you liked it.

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  5. This is a lovely post, Dan. I always like the ones with Faith since they show how much you love her. I smiled when I read about your breakfast substitutions! And as a personal note, since today is the Day of All Saints in France, when people visit cemeteries to honor their loved ones, your post echoed mine. Thank you for sharing your personal family stories with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Evelyne. I am glad you enjoyed it. I did think of the All Saints connection when I read your blog earlier. I wish there was more emphasis here on remembering our loved ones who have passed on. I tend to get a lot of mileage out of the trips with Faith, she keeps me busy :)

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  6. Very nice post Dan! Remembering a few years back when my sister and I toured the grave sites of our family members. So many good memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Prajakta says:

    Perfect timing. Yesterday was my Grandpa’s birthday and he passed away last year, so was feeling weird. And in Hindu’s we cremate and do not bury, so as such no “resting place” except in our hearts and memories so to speak. Beautiful post!

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  8. lauramacky says:

    I don’t know anyone who is buried oddly enough. They are all cremated or inturned or I’m not even sure how to spell that but it’s basically when they slide you into a wall in a Mausoleum. I’ve only visited once….I guess I visit in my mind and heart often though. Beautiful post Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Debra says:

    What a beautiful and intimate post. Thanks so much for sharing this.

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  10. Paul says:

    “As long as people talk about you, you’re not really dead. As long as they speak your name, you continue.” (Twilight Zone, “A Game of Pool”)

    Very nice post, Dan. Keeping memories alive is so important. Connecting generations and remembering the good times. I love how a visit to a grave, which conventional wisdom suggests should always be sad (and often is) can also lead to smiles and laughs when we remember the happy times. I think about the things my father used to say — his sage advice, but also his witty remarks — and a visit to his grave often lifts me up.

    And whoa, did you say bacon with bacon? :D

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I think of that quote quite often with regard to my father Paul. I think it’s true. I felt like I could even joke with my dad about the grass because I was pretty sure he would be all: “what took you so long?”

      And yes, a combo with bacon and bacon – is that the best or what?

      Liked by 1 person

  11. LindaGHill says:

    I loved this post, Dan. A wonderful way to get to know you and your family, past and present. Thanks so much for being part of SoCS again and for gracing us with a lovely tribute. :D

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Jill's Scene says:

    Dan, I’ve been saving this post to read until I had a chance to be settled with a cup of tea and the time to savour your writing. And I’m glad I did! Another reader commented how your love for Faith shows – it does – and her love for you. What a neat thing for the two of you to do together! Probably because we’ve just had All Souls Day I’ve been thinking its time I visited my Mum and Dad – as you say the lessons from childhood run deep – my Dad would want their grave to be tidy as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Jill. I didn’t think about the All Souls connection until I read other posts about that subject. I do enjoy the concentrated time I get to spend with Faith on these trips. We don’t do them often but they are fun. I have one more post from this trip coming up. It is amazing how we know what (loved ones) they would want. I guess that’s the best tribute.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Peter Nena says:

    “the only thing better than bacon is more bacon”–that’s striking. I had to laugh aloud.
    What you did to those graves is remarkable, Dan. You have a great heart. Faith too.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. ellierayne says:

    I never seen the lights of day where family’s graves are so close to each other. One after the other.

    My late great grandparents are like two states away from where my family lives. My grandfather and grandmother from both sides are also buried like 4-5 states away from where I’m living. Deepest saddened it is for me. But the most liking thing is about your tombstones, that it is really nice, neat and well craved names. Not to mention it looks less haunting or spooky.

    Ours in Muslim religion is really really scary looking and well odd in terms of our graves in decoration and everything else it seems.

    Try googling ‘Muslim Graves’ in google under images, you’ll will understand what I meant. Good Day.

    Like

  15. Stan says:

    Well Dan, you caught me flat-footed with this one. I have many pleasant memories from times with family at Eat’n Park. More than I realized, so it seems, once I read your blog and it opened the flood-gates. Family dynamics are a tricky thing. I come from stout Pennsylvania Dutch, Bavarian Germanic roots where family discussions just did not happen – unless you happened to be at Eat’n Park. There seemed to be a “get out of jail free” card anytime we gathered at Eat’n Park. The atmosphere there was cleansing. We laughed, built memories and stretched our boundaries for a short time.
    Now that Mom and Dad have passed and families scatter, I have come to appreciate the treasured times at the Altoona Eat’n Park: Mom getting trapped by the newspaper vending machine trying to protect her purse and buy a paper at the same time, me – blatantly feeding the oldest grandson his first doughnut in clear view of his mother while she looked on in horror, being seated by some unsuspecting waitress, waiting for the entertainment to begin – the kids seemed to know when it was show-time at Eat’nPark.
    So, wherever you find your retreat, wherever you make your memories, protect that place – and go there often.
    -Stan

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Stan. I’m sure there is somebody who doesn’t like Eat’n Park, but I haven’t found one. It was always a real treat when we would go there as kids, starting off with the window service in the parking lot. Faith loves it. We have the Pittsburgh Edition of Monopoly, and she always has to be the one who owns Eat’n Park. It’s a great tradition to have passed along. Thanks for adding your story to mine, I can just about picture some of those scenes.

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  16. I can imagine your daughter years in the future, retracing those steps again. Sounded like a nice day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I can imagine that too. She already tends a local grave of a dear friend here in CT. Visiting my dad’s grave is important to me. Visiting his dad’s grave reminds me of him. Memories work in funny ways. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. In the religion I follow there are no graves so you can’t even go and visit such places. However, sometimes when I read such posts I do miss my parents badly. I remember my father’s words. He used to say, Sharukh, death can only take one’s soul from the world, but the words you utter, the deeds you do can make you live forever in people’s heart and mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Others commented about not having graves for one reason or another. I guess I knew this was the case in some places/religions but I’ve only come to know these stories through WordPress. One of the benefits of this vast community is developing a better understanding of other cultures. Your father was a very wise man (and, from what I read, his son listened). I miss my dad and I miss his mother, but I remember the things they did, the lessons they taught me and they do live forever. Thank you for sharing your story.

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      • Thank you for your kind words. I am still not as close as to what my father was. He was very social. He had more friends and acquaintances than what I have today on all social networking sites combined. I am quite the opposite in terms of opening up to people. I still remember the day of his funeral when I saw so many people coming in to pay him respect and to see his body. At that time I realize the amount of community work he must have done without glorifying it. In my case, its quite the opposite.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Dan Antion says:

          It was very much the same with my father. We had so many people come to pay respects that we had to have the viewing spread over two days. I have much to work on to reach his level of confidence and comfort with people.

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