I am happy to report the Poppo, as we have lovingly nicknamed my father, and I are on it.
We had our Memorial Day flowers purchased a full week in advance, and it may well be a record. They are loaded, along with rags, soap, a jug of water and a bucket for cleaning stones, in preparation of what is one of my favorite holiday weekends.
We will repeat a family tradition, following the same route and routines we have for years. It will be a journey through family history and memory much the same as I recall from my earliest days.
It will be a day of somber beauty as we take in the blanket of color that has descended on the cemeteries where our roots rest, while recounting with both heavy hearts and laughter the old family stories.
It will be much the same as it was back when Mom and Grandma and Grandpa Franklin would join us and we’d load up in the car together and make our rounds to visit rural cemeteries of family significance.
We’ll head up Mo. 83, past the old Franklin homeplace at Dry Fork.
Back then, as we neared the curve, I’d urge Dad to slow down. I’d crane my neck to catch a glimpse of the roof of the old homeplace, which had been in disrepair since at least the 1960s and at that time was barely still standing. I will undoubtedly do the same this week, though it will be me behind the wheel and there will be no structure left to see.
On to the cemeteries at Rondo and Flemington we’ll go. We’ll do our best to recount the stories told time and again by voices we no longer hear — tales about life behind the counter of the little store my grandparents had at Rondo in the 1940s and the nearby prime strawberry patch.
On toward Flemington Cemetery, we’ll traverse the 25-Mile Prairie and take a detour in Flemington, where Grandma grew up. We’ll pass what remains of the old Flemington school both my grandparents attended and the place where my great-grandfather’s realty office stood. And we’ll remember my grandparents talking about the filming of the 1910 Tom Mix film. (Grandpa was only an infant then and Grandma was yet to be born, but it was an event that their generation believed had put Flemington on the map.)
On our trip back to Bolivar, we’ll take a different route, stopping by the old Moore cemetery near Center Point. We’ll end at Bolivar’s Greenwood Cemetery, where Grandma, Grandpa and my mother lie.
And at all the cemeteries, we’ll hope to bump into long-lost neighbors, distant relations and descendants of long-ago family friends, whom we owe more than just pats on the back and financial contributions for the work they do maintaining those plots of ground. They deserve our deepest gratitude for making our trek — our traditions — possible.
But as much as the day will be about remembering the old days and the previous generations, the fundamental meaning behind the holiday will remain forefront in our minds. The flags decorating so many graves — also made possible by the volunteer effort of others — will make that a certainty.