Susie got in her car and I took Jennie with me in my truck. We went to Molly and Nate’s graves first, since Susie had not seen them. Jennie commented how the whole cemetery looked like a rich person’s back yard. The grass had grown too long and the groundskeepers were being on clearing the leaves.
Most of the graves had stones, but there was still none on Molly’s or Nate’s. The stones had been ordered, but they probably wouldn’t be put in until spring. But they were next to their son, little Paul Martin. He had been so
small that they kept his marker small too, not much bigger than an office nameplate. It made me wish we had stopped for flowers.
I reached in my pocket and found a piece of blue salt-water taffy, something I would’ve given to him if he had grown old enough to eat it. I couldn’t help but wonder how different everything might be if this little boy had lived. I wiped a tear from my eye and started walking towards the place where my mother was buried. Susie had been to her grave site, but had never seen the stone.
“Dorothy Ann Ferguson – Over the Rainbow,” Susie read aloud.
“What does that mean?” Jennie asked. “Over the rainbow?”
“It’s from The Wizard of Oz,” Susie explained.
“Oh,” Jennie said. “I’ve heard of that. Mama would never let me watch it. She said there were witches in it.”
Susie and I looked at each other and chuckled. “I’m sorry, Jennie,” she said. “But your Mama must’ve seen that movie a hundred times. Our Mom once told her she looked like Judy Garland-the girl who played Dorothy-
with her dark hair and it went to your Mama’s head. She insisted on acting out scenes from the movie. She made Taffy dress as the scarecrow. I was Glenda, the good which of the North, and your Aunt Lucy had to be the Wicked Witch of the West, ‘Oh, what a world!”
Lucy may have been cast as the witch of the west, but Susie had the voice down perfectly. I tried, unsuccessfully to hold back a full laugh.
“Susie, stop,” I said. “We’re in the cemetery for crying out loud.”
I looked over and Jennie was crying. I knelt down on the grass. “Are you okay, Sweetie? You know we don’t mean any harm laughing. We’re just celebrating our memories. I’m sorry if we upset you.”
Jennie shook her head. “It’s not that,” she said. “There’s so much about Mama I never knew about. She was always hiding.”
“Lots of people have secrets,” Susie told her. “It’s not always bad. Sometimes we don’t need to know everything.”
I looked at her. I wondered exactly what she meant, but I knew this wasn’t the right time to ask.
Jennie pointed at a tag that was next to Mom’s gravestone, it read “reserved.”
“What does that mean?” she asked. I let Susie answer the question.
“That’s for our father, when he goes,” she explained.
“Mrs. Brahn asked me if you were going to see him while you were in Chicago.” I told her.
“I doubt it,” she said. “I mentioned I’d be in town, but I doubt if we’ll get together.”
“You talked to him?”
“I left a message on his answering machine,” she said.
I stayed quiet.
“He’s our dad,” Susie said. “I’m leaving the door open. It’s up to him whether or not he wants to walk through it.”
“I don’t see why you keep a place for him at all after he took off on Mom when she was sick. I can’t imagine it. Running off on someone who needs you like that,” I said.
Susie put an arm around me. “Did I ever thank you for taking care of her?” she asked.
“You may have at the time, but it’s a blur. At any rate, it’s nice to hear it again,” I told her.
“We must’ve got that from Mom, I guess, that need to take care of people in trouble.”
“I guess,” I said.
“You forgave Lucy for leaving,” Susie reminded me.
“Not entirely,” I confessed.
“You know, Denny, if you had been the one in Minneapolis, she would’ve come to you.”
“But I wasn’t, and she didn’t. I got to take care of Molly and Nate instead, and we all know how well that went.”
Jennie grabbed my hand. “I’m glad you were here,” she said.
I looked at her and smiled. “Thank you, Jennie,” I told her.
Susie looked at her watch and announced she should be getting on the road if she was going to make her meeting in Chicago.
“You can stay the night if you want,” I offered. “You and Jennie can have my room. I’ll take the davenport,” I said.
“You’re too tall for the davenport,” Susie told me. “Besides, if I leave from here in the morning I’ll never cover enough ground. Thanks anyway, though.”
“You aren’t driving all the way to Chicago tonight, are you?” I asked. Susie could be independent to a fault sometimes.
“No,” she told me. “I’ll get a ways into Iowa and stay somewhere.”
“Call me when you check in,” I said.
“I will,” she promised.
I gave her a hug, told her to drive safe, and thanked her again for bringing Jennie.
“You guys have a good weekend,” she said. “I’ll see you Sunday.”
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