A while back, I was whining about not seeing any of my Deadz in a long time. It was one of those times when all you really wanted to do was whine about things, really. I knew that I’d get around to seeing my grandparents, in some form or another, at some point in my life. It was just a matter of figuring out when and where and why and how. After my shit day yesterday, I was kind of thinking that working on things outside of my control (like fixing the insurance issue) wasn’t something I was willing to deal with today. You know how sometimes you know that you have pressing issues that should be taken care of but you just can’t be buggered to try to figure it all out? That’s how I felt this morning when I woke up. I realized that I needed to spend time for myself and in so doing, I decided it was time to see my grandmother and papa, after not seeing them in years.
And by years, I mean since they were buried in the cemetery. I had seen my grandmother’s grave when we buried her, obviously, since I was there. I remember driving to the cemetery in the back of Papa’s truck and thinking that was all right. (I was nine, at the time, so it was cool.) My great-grandmother, from Papa’s side, was buried in that cemetery as well. So, when she died when I was in my teens, I believe it was in 2000 or thereabouts, we stopped off to say a quick hello to my grandmother. And to be perfectly honest, I can’t remember stopping off at the cemetery to visit my Papa after he was buried at all. (There was a lot of family drama after my great-grandmother died and before my Papa went to join her and Gramma.) So, I hadn’t been to this cemetery in nearly ten years, if not more. I had vague recollections of where we had buried Gramma and I knew Papa was nearby and I was pretty sure I could diagonal my way over to Great-Grandma (who we called “Aunt Florence”) after the fact.
I was wrong.
I was so wrong.
My uncle, who works in the area, had told me that if I got lost or needed help, then I should give him a call. I wanted to try to find my grandmother on my own. I was looking back to Veggiewolf and her posting about visiting her loved ones. I had brought some bread, some water, some pennies (to pay the guardians) and the book by Richard Reidy. I didn’t think I would do anything like the ritual that’s in the book, but I brought it along just in case. I was setting off with the distinct idea that I was going to give to my grandparents (and hopefully, my Aunt Florence) the way a Kemetic would. I appreciate and love everything that the Vodou aspect to my practice has given to me, but right now, the Kemetic felt better than the Vodou stuff. But, I didn’t end up doing any of that because I couldn’t find my grandparents.
I went wandering along the gravestones that are towards the front of the cemetery, looking for a records office. And you know what? They don’t have one. There were two buildings in the Jewish area of the cemetery, which is right next door. But the only building at Saint Thomas Cemetery was the one that housed all of the lawn-mowing equipment. I was getting frustrated with my faulty memory. I mean, I know that we had buried my grandmother towards the back of the cemetery–why couldn’t I find her, then? While I waltzed up and down the rows for about a while, I stumbled upon something that was just as startling. I ended up finding a tombstone with my name emblazoned upon it. And it was really intricately done. I was startled and shocked because I wasn’t expecting it. Sure, I knew I had family in the area. I saw a few headstones with the name Davis on it, which stems from my maternal grandmother’s side (not the side of the family I was visiting) of the family. I thought about taking a picture, but it wasn’t until I saw my name, which I got because it’s a family name, that I pulled my camera out and took a picture. I posted a quicker version on my Facebook and my mom immediately texted me, “What are their names?” She still has access to our old family album of genealogical information.
And yep, it seems that they’re related to us in some way.
I kept waltzing up and down, looking for the LeFleur name. It was neat and unexpected to find some distant relation of mine, but I had a purpose. I needed to find my grandmother and my papa. I needed to find my great-grandmother, if that was even possible. I kept looking for a big monument that would tell me that it was Florence and Edward. I kept hoping that I would find them, but I ended up stumbling upon a second monument that my mom is pretty sure is also from our Aubrey relations. The family there is still kicking (apparently, they decided it was time to plunk down for a plot and their headstone?) around, as alive as could be. But I thought it was pretty neat and possibly of merit so I snapped another picture.
I was almost near tears by this point. I was so disappointed in myself and I was so upset. Why couldn’t I find my damn grandparents? I ended up calling my uncle John and saying, “I can’t find Gramma!” He started laughing at me and poking fun at me. “You misplaced your grandmother,” he cried. I laughed and asked if he could help. He told me he was on his way. (Owning your own business can be pretty awesome at times, although not really during a recession… especially if it’s a printing business. But, still.) He came on by and said that it had been a while since he had seen either Gramma or Papa. He said that he was pretty sure she was over in this direction, but all the headstones (flat ones) were facing the wrong way. He was sure she faced the opposite of all the ones we were finding. “Well, she always was a trend-setter, right?” I asked. He laughed and we kept walking and don’t you know, we finally found them.
On the left is my Papa. His epitaph reads, “A Man Who Loved Steam.” My Papa used to build cars from the ground up, one of which was a Stanley Steamer. He also rebuilt old clocks and whistles, but he was most famous around town (literally) for his Stanley Steamer. You could hear it screeching streets away whenever he let it go full steam. It was a beautiful cherry red and it was a real treat to go for a ride in his Stanley Steamer. I remember that we couldn’t put our feet on the floor boards because it could get so hot. It’s a good memory. On the right is my grandmother, which reads: “Beloved Wife of Edward F LeFleur, Mother of Richard (my dad), Alan, Carol, Susan, John; Her laughter was as warm as our memory of her.” And as my uncle pointed out, her epitaph goes hand-in-hand with her post on my personal blog.
Instead of giving a traditional offering, my uncle and I gave the offering of memory. He told me about how he found Papa, dead, and that it was not amusing then, though it is a funny story now. We talked about my dad and my grandmother. He told me about some juicy gossip in regards to my grandmother (SHE WAS STILL MARRIED TO MY GRAMPA WHEN SHE MARRIED MY PAPA!!!!!!). We talked about the family drama that happened between Papa and all of us after the death of my grandmother. He told me that, for some odd reason, Papa’s family changed their name at some point. He thinks it’s because they were wanted by the mob and I said that maybe they were German during WWII. Though, I did not give bread and water. Though I did not give incense and fire. Though I did none of the things I had intended, I’m glad I went and things happened as they did. The gift of memory, sometimes, is more important than the gift of food and libation.
This has cemented my desire to go back and visit, regularly. And this has cemented my resolve to go to my maternal grandmother and find her. And this has cemented my intention of finding my great-grandmother and her husband. And this has cemented my intention of continuing my grave-tending until I can no longer get down on my hands and knees to clean, to take pictures, and to love.
- What’s All This Stuff About the Akhu, Anyway?
- Cemetery Visiting by Veggiewolf.
- Reminiscing: The Grandmother Who Not Mine at DON’T PANIC.