Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Relatives found

We've lived in this area for 19 years. While Erin and I were transplants from Minnesota before that, my family on both sides is actually from Western New York State, from Buffalo, Rochester, Avon and all the way over to Schnectady. There are relatives scattered here and there from Cheektowaga to Oriskany. You have to love those Indian names, huh?

Anyway, in the 19 years we've lived here, we've visited a grand total of four relatives out of probably 15 or 20. Not a great total. In my/our defense, I never grew up around most of these people and I'm sure none of them could pick me out of a lineup. And vice versa. So getting together with the living ones hasn't really been a priority at any time.

Our friend Bridget and I took a guided hike in an area of our metropolis a couple months ago and the guide mentioned in passing that a large cemetery nearby (where my grandmother and grandfather on my mother's side are buried - that I remembered) had an interactive kiosk on which you could find the graves of the people buried there. Ever since, I've wanted to go there and check it out, finding my maternal grandparents.

So Johnnie and I went there yesterday on a little adventure. Obviously I know their names but my grandfather -- Edward Connor -- has a relatively common name, especially in a state where thousands of first and second generation Irish immigrants settled in the mid-1800s. Luckily, my grandmother's name, while still common, had a unique spelling, Kathryn Connor, so it helped narrow down the search.

The kiosk listed several Edward Connors but the death dates didn't work except for a couple of them. We found my grandmother quickly and printed maps that gave us great directions to both of their supposed gravesites and we were on our way. The first Edward Connor had passed at about the right time (according to my more-than-hazy recollection, almost 45 years later) but my grandmother wasn't buried next to him and I was pretty certain she would be.

We then went in search of Kathryn and found both of them snuggled up to the base of a huge tree that couldn't have been there when they were buried. So we had the wrong Edward Connor to begin with but found them both within the space of half an hour. The neat thing is that, while I doubt that any relatives have visited their graves in at least a decade, the flat in-the-ground markers were cleaned off and easily visible so it was not difficult to read the inscription on their graves or any of their cemetery neighbors.

It was big deal for me who has so few relatives of whom I am aware. It also got me to thinking that I haven't any idea where my paternal grandmother (who lived with us in the Detroit area when she died in the late 1960s) and grandfather (who died in about 1952 or so) are buried. Could be in Buffalo. Could be (grandmother only) in Michigan. But it's a cinch that no one has visited their graves in several decades -- wherever they are. And there's no one left to ask who might have a clue.

So that led to a conversation between Johnnie and me about where (and how) we want to be buried. John's parents are in suburban Ohio but he and I have little reason to be buried there. My mother is interred in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and my dad is buried in Dearborn, Michigan. No relatives living anywhere near those places and fairly far-flung from any destination we ever visit. We haven't been to my mother's grave since she died in 2001. We get to my father's grave about one every decade when we are in Michigan to visit Erin's dad and stepmother.

So figuring out where to plop our remains is a bit of a conundrum. I drive past a cemetery nearby to our house where I see people all the time visiting and tending graves to put up markers or flowers. Our little family is so spread out that I/we have no illusions of frequent visits to pay respects or take care of putting flowers or holiday wreaths on our graves. I've always joked that we're kind of a bunch of nomads and that's true. But it would be nice to think that at least someone in our family was in the vicinity and might stop by once in a while. At least until our granddaughters are grown and they (and/or their offspring) lose the memory and continuity with our lives.

One of those things that causes me to go hmmmmm.We're all going to face it some day. How 'bout you -- any thoughts or great solutions to this issue?

No comments: