May 26, 2009

A long hello from Missouri

I arrived safe, sound, and un-slapped or otherwise punished or constrained by flight attendants. This was a bumpy flight with all of the thunderstorms between Los Angeles and Springfield, MO, but I've been on bumpier ones. I survived. I just about rubbed the wings off of Pam's doll she made me, but I got here fine.

My dad looks great, so much better than how I left him after the last surgery. That has made me feel better about this one. He looks strong and determined. My brother gets here tomorrow and Thursday we will be moving from Mountain Grove, where my Dad and his wife, Neva, live to Springfield about 65 miles away. I'll be staying with Neva in a motel near the hospital at night and in the hospital all day everyday the week or so my dad is there.

Yesterday I got to do something I hadn't done in years. When I was little and growing up in the Midwest, school got out before Memorial Day and started again after Labor Day - nice long summers. Now my kids go to school until late June and go back in late August. Anyway, when I was little we would come here to Mountain Grove to visit my grandparents and spend our 2 week family vacation in the Ozarks. We were almost always here for Memorial Day. Little temporary stores would pop up just for the purpose of selling silk flowers for folks to buy for Memorial Day. My mom, grandmother, and I would carefully choose dozens and dozens of flower bunches, pack up a picnic lunch, and the whole family would set off to visit all of the country cemeteries where my ancestors were buried. These are country cemeteries, on little bitty old country roads next to little bitty old country churches and one room school houses of long ago.

It was always a fun day. My dad would drive fast over the hills and curves of those little bitty old country roads and our tummies would drop like we were on a roller coaster. We'd giggle and my mom would scold my dad for driving too fast. We'd tour the old cemeteries a bit, plunk in the ground the new fresh flowers, if silk flowers can be considered fresh, and talk about who was who and how they died and how they lived. I loved those stories. I loved reading all the old fashioned names on the headstones. Since I didn't know most of the people, as they had died long before I came along, I imagined their lives as I looked at the dates on their headstones and saw them as romantic movies in my head . . . some tragic, some boring (based on their names, of course), some heroically long and exemplary for surviving the hardships of life before electricity and TV and fast food. As an adult, I have a hard time sifting through what may be stories I made up in my head about those people whose headstones I carefully inspected and what I was told and what of what I was told was true or embellished.

This year, it was a quicker trip. My mom and grandparents are long gone. My dad had already bought the flowers and it was decided half heartedly not to visit one of the cemeteries of my grandfather's family as it has somehow lost its importance to visit over the years - it's further away and the family more distant now. We didn't pack a lunch. We ate fast food. I drove and I don't think I drove quite fast enough that anyone lost their tummies on the little bitty old country roads. This time instead of remembering the people, it was more remembering the Memorial Day trips of years past. But it was good. Had I been alone or had the luxury of more time, I could have easily come up with a few romantic or tragic or heroic stories again. It was not the day, not the mood.

I did find this unusual headstone for which I am imagining all kinds of stories. It does not mark the place of any relation of mine but it is near my father's parents' graves in Koshkonong, MO. Right next to it was a headstone for two men with the last name of Johnson and just below their names and dates it read "Real Brothers" which I found interesting as well. There is no date on this stone and nothing on the other side. It appears to read John H Johnson with many letters backwards.

We toured the great metropolis of Koshkonong which took all of a few minutes. It was just so cool to hear my dad tell a few little stories of places we drove by, like the rock wall that still stands outside an old stone church where he sat and watched military vehicles drive by as men went off to war at the start of WWII, and to see the old battered store front of the general store where he worked at the ripe age of 8 stacking potatoes and delivering groceries in his wagon, and to see his childhood home where he lived with his mother and grandparents after his father died when he was 7, to hear about the peach orchards that grew between the houses and how his grandfather worked on the railroad right there by his house. That was the gift of yesterday and the things I hold so dearly about my occasional trips here and the ingredients for all of the stories I can imagine about the people whose names are still whispered to the soft summer winds on Memorial Day trips.

I am not a photographer and only brought my cheap little "purse camera" but I wanted to try and show you the brilliant color of the cemeteries and the new flowers placed over the weekend.

I haven't checked email or blogs and will try to in the next couple of days. My schedule is not my own here and there is lots of visiting to catch up on as well as the need to get the chores caught up so that all is well over the next couple of weeks around here. I miss you all! I thank you for your good thoughts and prayers that brought me safely here!


Jamie said...

I am so glad to hear you arrived safely sweetie! And to hear that your Dad looks good and is feeling determined. That's awesome and I know it eases your mind too. Your photos and story are lovely. Of course, now it is going to drive me crazy thinking about John Johnson and what "Real Brothers" means!! Stinker! Love, Jamie

Terri Kahrs said...

Yaaaay! You arrived safely on the wings of angels! Sorry to hear about your bumpy ride, but happy to hear that no restraints or sky marshalls were necessary!! LOL

Can't tell you how much I enjoyed this beautiful piece of prose, Marsha. Walking through your memories was an absolute delight. Thanks so much for sharing!

Stay safe and strong. Am relieved to hear that your Dad looks good, and will continue to send the "good vibes"! Hugs & Blessings, Terri xoxo

roc said...

well i'm almost a little sorry there are no stories about flight attendants slapping you silly but maybe on the ride home. a girl's gotta have hope, right?

so glad you arrived safe and sound and happy as a clam to hear your dad looks great.

i'll be praying for you all!

Shelly said...

SO glad to hear that you arrived safely and that your Dad is feeling strong. I'm hitting myself in the forehead (just like in the V8 commercial) because we just drove through Springfield yesterday on our way back home from Kansas. We could have stopped to say hello, and you could have hugged the dickens out of little Miss Harper. I didn't make the mental connection that you would be right smack dab in the middle of my path until it was too late.

I hope you have a good visit and that everything goes smoothly!

Hugs, Shelly

Nettie Edwards said...

Relieved to hear that you arrived safe and sane and that your dad is looking good. I've really enjoyed reading about your beautiful writing about the graveyard trip (don't you know that we genealogists LOVE grave yards?!) The Johnson stone is intriguing and beautiful x

Cathy said...

well i was a little surprised to read you made it without being slapped by a stewardess, but glad to hear you are safe and sound on the ground now.
many decades ago i lived in springfield, mo for a short while (2-3 months?). my grandmother lived in buffalo, mo for years and years.
the cemetery photos are great!
keeping your dad in prayer.

House of Hullabaloo said...

I love the grave stone! It is so crude!!!! Glad you are having a good time.

Sharon said...

Hi Girl, glad to hear you made it safe. I'm not much at flying either. But my son and his family live in Missouri, in Camdenton close to where I was raised in Rogersville and Springfield. My Mother and Grandparents on my Dad's side are in the cemetary close to Rogersville, Roller Cemetary and where I plan to be when I take off from this place. I always go to that cemetary when I visit. It is a different world back there in the sticks as i call it. Be safe and good wishes for you Dad. Sharon

aliceinparis said...

This was a lovely poignant post. Nice to hear the stories and wonder about the headstones. Thinking of you:)

Leslie said...

I love your post today! It reminded me of the many trips on "Decoration Day" that I took with my family here in Mississippi out to the country churchyards where some of my ancestors are buried. I've always loved to visit cemeteries. Your post brought back some good memories.

I'm so glad to hear that your daddy is feeling strong. I'm continuing to send good energy y'all's way!

BlueRidgeLady said...

Hi Marsha! Glad you got there safely and so glad to hear such good news about your Dad. How nice to see him that way! I sure enjoyed the cemetary stories, sounds like fun to me..I would have loved to have been with you! My Granddaddy was from Kearney, MO!
I will be thinking of you an your Dad, best best wishes for him!
Hugs! x0x

Becky Brown said...

What a lovely post! Glad to hear that you arrived safely and enjoyed real riches. Take care!

Unknown said...

Glad you arrived safely and none the worse for the wear.
Your journey sounds wonderful and your pictures are lovely reminding me of days of yore.
I am glad you didn't drive to fast as I would be sad if your tummy went more than bump in a fiery crash! TEE HEE!
Enjoy the visit with your family I will be glad to see your Marvelous artwork when you get home.

Renee (nayski) said...

What a great story you tell. Glad your dad is doing well, will keep you all in my prayers.

lilylovekin said...

What great memories and that you got to recreate them(sort of) is wonderful. I loved that old grave stone. And the photos of the cemeteries with all the bright flowers on them. I spent 12 years in KCMO. and much time in the Ozarks the pictures brought back memories of the green denseness back there.

Veronica said...

Fascinating story. Its interesting going back to a place from childhood and reliving the memories. They are always different arent they.

Linda Summerfield said...

Wishing your Father the very best. Does he know how many people in blogland are rooting for his speedy recovery, and sending him well wishes?
Your Pal,

Deb L. said...

I loved reading this post! I hope your Dad is doing well and recovers quickly ~ will keep him in my thoughts.
I so understand what you mean about trying to sort out memories that are actual from "embellished" ones. There were many stories in my family growing up about ancestors and to this day my brother or sister will look at me like I am from another planet (or family!) when I mention a memory I have - lol. Oh well - it keep life interesting!
You have a wonderful blog - mind if I add you to my links? Deb