Scene One – YOU’LL FIND HER – Summerset Nursing Home, Madison, Wisconsin, June 2008
“Dad, where’s your mother buried?” I ask.
“Mother or step-mother?” He lifts his head from the pillow. His face is the color of the pale white bedsheet like a shroud draped over his thin body. “Why do you ask, Bobbie?”
h“Here let me help you,” I say as Dad struggles to raise and lean against the bed frame. “Your mother, Meta,” I say. “I never met her. You’ve told me stories and we used to visit her grave when I was a kid. I feel I hardly know her. I might want to visit her when, well you know, when you’re gone.”
“Yeah, sure.” He looks outside his window beyond the beige walls of confinement at the freshly mowed grass. “Wood Lawn Cemetery in Milwaukee. She’s buried in Section 12, way in the back about 20 paces off the road under a big Red Oak tree, maybe 200 years old. You’ll find her.”
Scene Two – I HEAR YOU – Wood Lawn Cemetery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 2012
“Hi, my name is Robert Williams.” I remove black leather gloves and shake hands with a blond-haired man behind the desk. “I called for directions to find my grandmother’s grave and was told to stop by your office.”
“Of, course, Mr. Williams. I’m Todd Lewis.” He runs thin fingers through thick hair. “Welcome to Wood Lawn. Here’s a map of burial plots I copied for you after you called. Your grandmother rests in Plot 28, Section 12, beside your grandfather. We don’t have gravestones, you know, only plaques flush to the ground mark the graves. When you leave, take our driveway to Road H, then head to the left on Road M to Section 12. You’ll find Plot 28 at the far end, near the tree line. You can’t miss it.”
I take the driveway to what I assume to be Road H, due to missing road signs, and make another assumption about Road M. I’ll do better on foot, more able to see grave plot numbers. Exiting my Oldsmobile Cutlass, I remember that walking on graves is disrespectful. I walk fifty paces down the road, then cut at a right angle between graves.
An early winter wind hacks through buttonholes and up the sleeves of my wool topcoat. Should I come back in spring? Resolve to visit the grandmother I never knew pushes me on. I must find her. I reach the back of the cemetery as Dad said, near the tree line Todd Lewis described. No big oaks are anywhere to be seen. Maybe I have the wrong section? Wind continues her pull testing my resolve. “Meta, where are you?” I yell into the gale.
“Rat-tat-tat,” a Red Headed woodpecker taps on a white birch ten paces beyond where I stand. “Rat-tat-tat.”
“You’re not pecking on an oak tree, crazy bird,” I yell.
“Rat-tat-tat. Rat-tat-tat,” the messenger drums.
“Okay, Okay, I hear you,” I yell.
My gaze drops beneath me to the circumference of a dried oak stump, more than 30-inches in knurly diameter, cut flush with earth, just below the top of the grass. I fall to my knees. Wind knifes my bare hands as I rub the bronze marker feeling raised letters as if touching grandmother. Meta J. Williams. Dad never mentioned Meta’s middle name. I press my numb forefinger on the letter J. Energy of indecipherable words flows through me. “Meta, Meta, tell me more.”
Scene Three – WHO HE IS – Madison, Wisconsin, January 2013
“He doesn’t bite anyone else’s feet except yours, Bobby,” my writing buddy, Dan says. “Only yours.”
I sidestep the Corgi’s persistent lunge. “Biscuit doesn’t like me.”
“Okay, Biscuit, that’s enough.” Dan waives a scolding finger as doggie retreats to the living room corner. “No, he likes you. Maybe it’s your lamb’s wool-lined slippers?”
“That makes sense.” I slowly begin walking and Biscuit resumes attack. “Whoa, boy. Corgis are herding dogs, aren’t they?”
“Yup, he’s never seen a lamb in his life,” Dan says. “He’s telling you who he is.”
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Creativity Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
Richard Wilberg is a creativity coach, musician, writer, photographer, and former business leader who lives in Madison, Wisconsin.