Every week I stop by the cemetery where my mom and dad are buried side by side, in a double plot. I know that the departed don't hang around in cemeteries. That you're more likely to encounter a criminal element than the spirit of a loved one. But having a place to go to pay my respects, have a one-sided chat, a moment of meditation, keeps me grounded.
It's not a hardship. The cemetery is right on the way to Walmart. So convenient. Sometimes The Pony is with me. Sometimes I go by myself. Today The Pony was off competing in the district Scholar Bowl match with his school team. So I went alone.
Ever since Mom's flower urn thingy was stolen by scrap metal thieves, we have had a problem keeping flowers on the grave. The cemetery-runners provided a replacement flower urn thingy, not metal, which theoretically operates the same way, and screws into the top of the flat headstone. However, we have also had that go missing, probably a slip-up by the grounds crew, and even when another flower urn thingy was provided, the flowers disappeared.
The cemetery sits on a hill, and sometimes a strong wind carries flower arrangements across a section, and even across the road. My sister the ex-mayor's wife, and the ex-mayor himself, usually put the flowers in the flower urn thingy. Way back early in his pre-ex-mayor days, the ex-mayor ran a florist business. So he knows what looks good, even plastically-speaking, and how to secure the fake stems in that green Styrofoamy stuff to hold them in place. I had mentioned to Sis that the flowers went missing again a while back. You know how life gets in the way of living. Her granddaughter, Babe, was in the hospital for almost a month with pneumonia, and grave flowers were the last thing on everybody's mind.
Today I stopped by and had a quiet one-sided chat with Mom. It went well.
I proceeded to Walmart to pick up a couple of necessities from the pharmacy end. No matter how hot Val gets under the collar, she prefers never to let her collar-heaters see her sweat. As I was pushing my cart (it doubles as a walker, you know!) down the main aisle to the checkout, I saw an end cap display of fake flowers for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday. What better time to pick up a fake bouquet for Mom? I could drop it off on my way back by the cemetery. Easy peasy. I grabbed a pretty pink-and-purple arrangement, and tossed it the cart.
With just a few items in my bag, I threw it on the seat behind me, today without The Pony's hindquarters in it. At the cemetery, I reached back to get that fake arrangement. I saw two white tags taped on a couple of stems. Mom was no Minnie Pearl. It wouldn't do to leave the tags on her fake flowers. The tags tore off easily. One was the ingredients in the plastic, I think. And the other was the price tag.
The plastic bouquet that I picked up for Mom on the spur of the moment cost $5.00. Not $4.97, as Walmart usually likes to label. The tag read $5.00.
You may or may not recall how Mom used to give me $5.00 all the time. Like when I met her at the bowling alley parking lot and handed her our leftover Chinese food, and the tabloids I had read the week before, and a box of Crunch 'N' Munch I picked up for her at Save A Lot. Or when we went to the movies and she wanted to pay for part of the boys' snacks. Or if she said she had taken my niece out to lunch, and wanted me to use that money to get The Pony fast food, to be fair. Or for spending money for one of the boys going on a school field trip. Always, always, always...$5.00.
Val will forever be the $5.00 daughter.