I traveled to Trion, Georgia yesterday for my uncle's funeral. I made the trip alone because my father was already there, Trey is working in Gainesville, and my mother was getting ready to return to Atlanta today for her next chemo treatment. I don't really mind driving somewhere by myself. Sometimes I use the time to think about things, and other times I turn the radio up and try not to think about anything. I knew my uncle's service would be an emotional time, but I wasn't prepared for the memories that came flooding back during my trip. I was born in Trion and lived there and in Rome until I was almost eight years old. Both sets of my grandparents lived in that area while I was growing up. I spent many nights and weekends with them over the years. I remember playing "Mother May I" on the steps in front of the house, going to Lake Winnapasoka (a local amusement park), and playing with my Barbie dolls when I was with my father's parents. When I stayed with my mother's parents we made home-made ice cream, went to the lake, and attended church where my grandfather preached. I used to sit on the bench beside my grandmother in church while she played the piano. I hadn't thought about any of those things in years until yesterday.
At some point on the drive, I think it was somewhere between Bremen and Rome, I came to the top of a little rise in the road and for the first time could really see the north Georgia mountains covered with trees in different colors. It was then that all of the memories started. I remembered a place in the road between Rome and Trion called Taylor's Ridge that I was always scared to travel across because I thought the car would go over the side of the mountain! My parents have told me about one time in particular when it had snowed, and I pitched such a fit about crossing the ridge that they had to take the back roads (which added MANY miles to the trip) to take me to and from my grandparents' house. When I reached Taylor's Ridge yesterday I still felt a little flutter of nervousness as I went around it. I think I actually held my breath until it was behind me. As I drove through Rome I looked for the pond where I used to go to feed the ducks when I was little, but I couldn't find it. When I went through Summerville I thought about the times I used to go to school with my grandmother who was a teacher. I slowed down but didn't stop as I passed the church in Pennville where my grandfather preached.
The hardest part was when I got to the cemetery in Trion. I arrived early so I had a little time there before other people came. When I reached the Magnolia tree under which my uncle was going to be buried I could see the graves of my cousin Hugh who died in 1970, my grandfather who died in 1982, my grandmother who died in 1983 (the day before my birthday), as well as the spot that had been prepared for Kenneth. As I stood there looking at so many family members together I wondered for the first time if I had made a mistake in not allowing Eddie to be buried at the cemetery in Fleming where his family plots are. I thought I was doing the right thing at the time, but now I'm not so sure.
After the service and a get-together at a cousin's house, I started the trip back home. I made one stop on my way at a small park just outside of Summerville called Veteran's Memorial Park. At the entrance there is a monument similar to the Vietnam Memorial Wall with the names of veterans from the Trion and Summerville area. My grandfather on my father's side was a war veteran, and I knew his name was somewhere on the wall. I searched the wall until I located his name. I stood there looking at it for a long time then said a final good-bye and left. I didn't want to think on the ride back home so I put in my Zac Brown and Kid Rock cds and turned them up as loud as I could. As I pulled into the driveway of my house and turned off the car, I thought about how lonely, empty, and quiet it would be when I went inside. I realized this was what it was going to be like for my aunt Brenda now, too, and my heart ached for her. I've always heard the saying "silence is golden" - sometimes this is true - but not always.
Memory Rendezvous by Helen Steiner Rice
Memory builds a little pathway
that goes winding through my heart.
It's a lovely, quiet, gentle trail
from other things apart.
I only meet, when traveling there,
the folks I like the best,
For this road I call remembrance
is hidden from the rest.
But I hope I'll always find you
in my memory rendezvous,
For I keep this little secret place
to meet with folks like you.