We were warmly received at my parents' door with hugs and excitement. There were snacks, and a tour of what is blooming in their yard. There were the gifts of a parsley plant, an astilbe, and some white violets whose decendents had graced my great Aunt Phebe's yard. There was discussion of my dad's tomato plants, and his quiet assurance that they were hearty enough to be in the ground already.
We all rode to my mothers "old stomping grounds", to the house where my grandparents lived when I was growing up. I could hear the playful squeals of my cousins still echoing through the path to the beach, smell the honeysuckle long gone, feel the sand chafing between the toes of my flip flopped feet. We drove along the shore route, finding a place to eat on the marina. My mother directed us to the beach she frequented as a child, to her old grammar school, (now a town office building), to her childhood home, (now a restaraunt). Finally, we stopped at the cemetary where most of her family is buried. We found my grandparents' graves, and Phebe of the white violets. We found great aunts, uncles and grandparents. We found children whose lives were far too short. I watched as my mother cleared a low stone with her foot, noting that it needs to be edged, that her friend's wife can no longer do it. I wished I'd packed my garden tools.
It was as good a time as any to ask the questions about their final wishes. Not surprisingly, my mother wants to be scattered into Long Island Sound. My dad's answer did surprise me. His short term memory is beginning to challenge him. "Not that I'll remember", his words washed over me carrying a rip tide of memories, "but I'd like to be scattered along one of the old trails we used to hike." I know the one, up the hill from the river, home to old rail road tracks and hushed solitude. We once walked for hours up there, he and I, and said very little. When we did speak, it was usually him who broke the silence to point out the difference between a white birch and a silver one, or to observe the call of a bird or the rustle of a snake nearby. It occured to me that while my mother passed on her love for the ocean, for being the first one in the water in May and the last one out in October, while she has shared her recipes for potato salad and lasagna, her creativity and her advice for weathering the storms of parenting; my dad's legacy is the quiet strength to her exuberant ways. He and I were bonded by music and nature. His steady piano to accompany my squeaky violin, his strong base to balance out my shy attempt at singing. His ability to work through his thoughts with a long walk, his inability to express feelings easily.