We loaded the car at 8:30 and headed toward the valley. We formed a mini caravan of two cars, driving down state highways, me in front trying to time the lights so I wouldn’t lose my parents behind me. My two were in the backseat, my daughter playing the roll of emcee for MadLibs.
We rolled into the small Shenandoah town around 11:15. Driving down the narrow cemetery paths, my father, now in front, stopped and stepped out. Dad helped Mom out, who walks with the help of a cane.
My kids quickly found the stone indicating where my grandfather and grandmother are burried. They never knew them, having passed well before I was married. I never knew my grandfather, and my grandmother was a caricature of someone from my childhood. Here, my mom began to recall, aloud, bits of her own childhood, and the relationships between the names on the various markers.
A cousin arrived, one who lives nearby. Her father was my mom’s brother, and she was here to bury some of his ashes next to his parents. A small, square hole had been prepared. Polite and fun conversation returned to relationships and memories. This church and that cabin.
My great grandmother was born in a cabin that is now maintained by the PATC and rented to vacationers. This mountain and that road all had names that were shared by branches on my family tree.
We drove about ten miles up the road, where we found my great grandparents’ graves in a small churchyard. Casual conversations with a few people coming from the service turned into a half hour of connections and hazy memories.
My kids were getting antsy, and so was I. After our goodbyes, my parents left on their return to the midwest. I drove my kids to show them a piece of land I had been interested in buying. After a long winding ascent up a gravel road, we found the property, which was as I had remembered: more like the side of a mountain than a residential site, a steep and tree covered 5 acre plot: beautiful, but not able to be built on, even for a small cabin.
We went to the nearby town and found a little river rafting outfit, and spent the next hour floating and laughing our way down the river.
On the way home, after ice cream and drying off, we took a scenic route through the hills. We saw a few deer, some goat farms, and Cooter’s Dukes of Hazard annual festival. There must have been 300 orange cars parked there.
Arriving home, we were exhausted and happy. Hot dogs on the grill and then to bed, quickly snoozing before the sun had fully set.