“I know it’s morbid, my daughter says, “but I’ve been thinking about it, and so I’ll ask.
If you and Dad die, is there enough life insurance to fly you home and bury you?”
She asks him the same question over the phone,
and he assures her there is plenty and more.
I tell her I don’t want to be cremated, and please don’t smear red lipstick on me.
I want my fingers and toes to be manned and pedded and polished pretty.
I forget to tell her to fix my hair natural, like every day,
but make sure no gray is peeking from my part.
“Maybe we’ll stay in Florida,” I muse, “or you could just toss us into the ocean.”
“I thought about that,” she laughs, “but you don’t like the ocean.”
The truth is I do like the ocean,
but I don’t like the idea of being eaten by a shark–dead or alive.
I read there are man-eating Nile crocodiles down there now
besides alligators and Burmese pythons.
I might not be safe dead or alive.
I think about this conversation as I decorate the graves.
I’ve always said I want to lie in one of those empty spaces
under the family headstone in Maple Hill when I go.
Because I’m a King now, and this is where Kings live, here in section K.
This is home.
I smile because I remember my mom’s at home in section H in the place of my growing up.
Except I’m still growing up, and now I’m not sure where home is, where I’ll call home,
whether I’ll call home “home” again.
I mark it on my mental to-do list,
“Take at least one more long walk in this place before we go,”
and hope it’s a long time before I finally go.
When I’ve watered the red geraniums and white petunias
with a can that hangs from a nearby spigot,
I get back in the red Jeep where hope hangs from the rear-view mirror
and wind my way out of the cemetery to return home,
to prepare more for leaving home.
I want to stop and stand a while before the old family site,
where Erastus and Lurana and others have remained since the late 1800s,
but I can never remember where it is, and I need to get things done.
We’ll linger longer when my husband comes home and can lead me there.
When I round the final curve on the way out, I see the pond exposed
and a new drive that seems to circle around to the other side.
It looks like they’re expanding the homestead.
Three goose families swim in the center of the water,
and I think it might be nice to lie next to the shore.
I stop and get out, line up the best view in my lens and bring it into focus.
On the way home, I stop at Dairy Queen for a mini turtle Blizzard
and wonder if I’ll ever see another blizzard.
I sort more stuff, divide it into to-keep, throw-away and giveaway piles,
more of the latter,
and I feel lighter with less.
This morning a neighbor’s dog wakes me with its barking.
I hear some kind of chittering and think it might be raccoons having a disagreement.
I slip outside into the cool darkness.
Bird sections begin their warm-up.
I wonder what mornings will be like where we’re going.
Probably not like this. Or maybe just different, but still good.
I open Jeanne Murray Walker’s Helping the Morning. In her poem, “Centering,” I linger over these words:
“. . . Oh, after a while it feels inevitable,
the long blue pull of the mind
that keeps finding more in less
until the will bends and circles
home to stillness that feels final, true.”
Six generations. There were seven counting my nephew and son who aren’t pictured.
John established the farm in 1854 and for some reason returned home to New York to be buried.
Someday I’ll re-do this with a photo of my adult husband and maybe add my son.