Do You Hear That?

'The Wind' by David Robinson

‘The Wind’ by David Robinson

This morning we drove the side roads on the way back from Lake Geneva. We passed through some small burgs that sported gas stations, antique stores, small diners and maybe a bar or two. These are the sweet forgotten places, once on the main road to Lake Geneva, but left behind when the highway was built. They sit amidst the fields waiting for spring thaw and the plow. Barns populate the horizon. People drive slowly, turn slowly, stop slowly. They have a different rhythm than we urban dwellers.

During the drive I thought a lot about the last day I spent with Tom. He passed away in August. I didn’t see him in the last few years of his life so the reality of his passing has yet to hit me. He slipped into dementia and Marcia, his wife, asked me not to come. “Better to remember him as he was,” she said.

It was autumn when I last saw him. Tom was already deep into his dementia and he wanted to show me the small rural graveyard where his ancestor, Frankie, another lost boy, was buried. He’d shown me the site a few times but he didn’t remember and it was important to him that I saw it. I buckled him into my rental car and drove him down the road that cut between the fields, passed the tiny schoolhouse where he went to school as a boy, and stopped at the clump of valley oaks that marked the location of the little graveyard.

We wandered through the graves looking for Frankie’s stone; Tom couldn’t remember where it was.  I led him to it and said, “This one has Frankie written on it; is this it?” He looked hard at the stone before responding, “No. No. I don’t think so.” He stared at the ground, confused. The wind rustled the autumn oak leaves, though the trees were not quite ready to let them drop.

Tom and me a long time ago.

Tom and me a long time ago.

We stood still for several minutes. A man drove up, parked, and came into the graveyard. He carried a small bunch of flowers picked from a home garden and walked directly to a new grave. As we passed him I said, “Hello,” but he didn’t respond. Tom and I moved toward the arch that marked the exit. The man began to sob, deep guttural wails of loss. Tom stopped as if listening to the wind and asked me, “Do you hear that?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Poor Frankie,” he said, “I wish I remembered where he is? We always meant to move him so he’d be closer to the rest of the family.” He sighed and looked up at the leaves chattering in the breeze. “I love that sound!” he said, “Don’t you just love it?”

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