Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Memories Bring Comfort As We Move to the Unknown

Shavings of green Styrofoam lifted in the breeze as I forced the folded business card into the florist foam. Two bouquets of silk daisies, red poppies, and purple blossoms from Wal-Mart brighten the brass urn making Grandma and Grandpa’s grave in the Garden of Devotions section of Greenwood Cemetery in Indiana, PA. Grandma’s been gone since 1980 and Grandpa since 1966. I remember them both dearly, especially when I visit southwestern Pennsylvania.

The graves are close to the oncology center where the offices of the American Cancer Society had been housed. From there, I fought the disease with fundraising to support research, education, and patient services. Cancer took Grandma’s life, and eventually my Dad’s life too, just one more reason I’d been so dedicated to my career there in 1990’s.

Many memories are tied to Indiana, memories that I’d been seeking out as comfort as Ed and I move into the unknown. On this particular Friday, we searched backcountry roads unsuccessfully for the old family farm. There, as a kid, I remember our family feasted on bacon roasted over a wood fire, toasted marshmallows, and plucked Concord grapes off the vines covering the arbor frame. Geese chased my cousins and me and pecked our legs. Hayrides bumped us through the fields. At sunset, we use to ride in Grandpa’s blue ’62 Oldsmobile with cherry lollipops in our mouths, heads and arms poking out the back seat windows on the ride from the farm to the city house on Maple Avenue.

Kovalchick’s junkyard was our playground behind the city house. And, when we got tired of weaving through the heaps of scrap metal and jumping over the rainbow pools of truck oil, we’d wander to Great-Grandma Sanford’s house in the adjoining yard to poke carrots and fingers through the wire mesh cages of her pet rabbits.

We’d eventually make our way to Great-Grandma Sanford’s kitchen screen door and press our noses on the wires to get a welcome call to come inside. Grandma Sanford had canaries in a cage and we’d reverently sit on her sofa waiting for a snack or the offer of a dime each to visit the dairy next door.

Aunt May worked at the dairy and would help us reach deep into the freezer case to find a drumstick cone or banana Popsicle. From the dairy, we could see Uncle Bob’s car at Breezy Point where he’d drink his beer to feed his beer belly and loosen his sense of humor. We weren’t allowed to cross Wayne Avenue to the bar because of the fast moving traffic there.

Still full of energy, we’d race back to Grandma’s house where a pot of Hungarian dumplings spiced with paprika simmered on the stove. We’d eat our fill, and then, lounge on the front porch steps competing with each other by keeping score counting the number of cars of selected colors going by Maple Avenue.

So many of these memories came alive as I visited the countryside and the place where family homes once stood. Later, the memories also came alive as I paged through old photo albums with my cousin Becky and excavated family history from the black and white prints. And, then watched the 8 mm home movies Dad filmed in the ‘60’s.

These experiences, places, and the family members long passed are memories that bring comfort as we move to the unknown. And, as I leave my card “Patricia M. Sanford Lonsbary, Global Tourism Solutions, Inc.” at Grandma and Grandpa’s grave, I am telling them goodbye and thank you for the memories and that I’ll carry a part of them with me as my travels carry me to places unknown.

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