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Saturday, June 8, 2002

In one way I wanted to go with Mom and Nan to the cemetery in Hopland today, but at the same time I wanted to stay home and vegetate the way I always do on Saturdays. And Sunday through Friday as well, but that's another story. In the end I decided to shed the Cloak of Lethargy and make the trip.

It's been almost six months since my Uncle Tommy died, and the cemetery is so remote that it doesn't get a lot of attention. It's a beautiful setting, overlooking the hills and vineyards of Mendocino County, but it's a public facility and not a priority for the county maintenance department. Some of the families take some time to keep the plots from looking neglected, but many areas of the cemetery are lost to the memory of anyone still living.

The oldest graves that I could find there go back to the middle of the nineteenth century. Many are unmarked except for a weathered block of wood or a simple cross, and these may be even older. It's a remarkable cross-section of humanity. The last remains of forgotten lives mingle with the more recent graves of members of ancient local families.

Hopland Cemetery

Mom and Nan at the shady gravesite.

My uncle rests next to his parents, my grandparents. My grandfather died in 1957 when I was only eight, and he was only 49. My grandmother died in 1975, just before her first great-grandchild, Eric, was born. A few rows away are Mom's grandmother (my great-grandmother), who died in 1961, when I was twelve, and Mom's grandfather, who died a year before I was born.

He was the only one of these people that I didn't ever know, but he was a big part of my life because he was the most important person in my mother's childhood. His death was devastating to her, and it probably hastened her marriage to my father, as he sought to give her solace. Then I came along, and 53 years later there I was today looking at his final resting place.

Hopland Cemetery

The two white stones at center-right mark my great-grandparents' graves.

It's a drive of 45 minutes or so to get to the cemetery from Santa Rosa. We don't make the trip often. When we got there today we pulled the weeds growing between and across the graves. Some time, when we remember, we'll take the tools and equipment we need to tend to the grounds and clean up the stones. It's the least we can do to honor the memory of those we loved.

After our visit to the cemetery, we went into Hopland and had lunch at the Bluebird Café. Mom remembers the building from her childhood as the general store she visited with her grandfather. The benches where the old men sat and gave her nickels for candy are still there on the sidewalk. (Okay, maybe they're not exactly the same benches, since that was over sixty years ago.)

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