Trip to a small town

Lobby of the cemetery.
Lobby of the cemetery.

OUR DUTIES for the Day of the Dead continued on Monday. The third of November is when we drive to a small town down the mountainside to tidy up my child bride’s parents’ graves.

The two of them are not side by side. Mama died at age 31 in childbirth, and Papa remarried. When he died decades later, leaving a second wife who still lives today, he was buried elsewhere in the same graveyard. I imagine the second wife intends to rest at his side one day.

The three of them were born in this little town, and my wife lived there until age 3. That was when Mama died. With five children to care for, Papa remarried quite hastily. Then the restocked family moved to another small town, although larger, in the same state where he continued working as a physician.

I enjoy this annual trip to the graveyard. Though it’s only about a 30-minute drive down an autopista, you move from our cool, mountain world to a tropical, mountain world. The difference is dramatic. Leaving the autopista, we wind down a narrow road through lush greenery full of avocados, bananas and flowers.

Passing a convoy of heavily armed soldiers parked on the roadside, I give them a thumbs-up, but they ignore me. This is what is called La Tierra Caliente. It is where troubles concentrate.

It’s warm, balmy and sultry, reminding me of Puerto Rico where I lived long ago.

While my wife tended to the two tombstones — cleaning, thinking, remembering — I sat a spell on a stone bench in a covered area just inside the cemetery’s entrance. That’s where I took the top photo.

Mama’s spot.

Mama’s grave, being decades older than Papa’s, is in need of basic upkeep. The marble is sinking, and there are cracks. Every year, my wife says we need to do something, and she is correct.

But by the next day, many miles away, it’s slipped off our to-do list. We said the same thing on Monday. Must take action. Yet again.

By pure luck, a man who’s head honcho of the cemetery, the caretaker, happened to appear while I was sitting in the entrance lobby. My wife hailed him, and they spoke.

A Town Hall permit must be obtained, but that is easy, he said. He then made some suggestions for the renovations, which he can do.

It’s quite economical, absurdly so by U.S. standards, and we got his phone number. Perhaps this year will be different. Maybe on the third of November 2015, Mama will sport new digs. It would be nice.

That would not change the annual drive into this tropical world, however. Sometimes, after our graveyard duties are done, we sit in the town’s central plaza and eat ice cream, which tastes particularly sweet in the heat.