Friday, May 12, 2006
My grandmother and grandfather had a house in Truro, on Cape Cod. It was a beach house, about 40 yards from the beach. We grew up going there in the off season because they rented it out for the summer when they were in Canada.
Several years ago, my dad and aunt were given the house. Dad sold his half to his sister and after several more years, she sold the place outright. (It was a grueling decision, I know. Logistically it made sense, since she lives in New Jersey. It was tough for my brother and I who loved it and live about 1 1/2 hours away. But we couldn't afford it then and couldn't now.)
When my grandmother died a couple of years ago, we made a pilgrimage to the house in Canada to close it before it sold. We scattered some of her ashes. My dad carved an inscription in a huge rock by the boat house. It rained and snowed (in May!) for four days straight. We were there with no heat, huddling around a tiny pot bellied stove in the living room. Cleaning out drawers and closets and cupboards. Hauling out trash and treasures and pieces of our history. And the day after we left, my father and aunt went to the lawyers and signed away the island that had been in our family since the 1930s. We were crushed. And as we had no more access to the place, we really had no where to 'visit' a grave site.
But over the many years that my grandparents owned the house in Truro, they were very close friends with their neighbors, the Heiberg's. And the Heiberg's had a little plot in the cemetary in Truro, where they are now buried. And the plot had a little extra room, so their children offered to let us set a stone there for Granny and Grandpa.
Over the winter, my dad carved a beautiful slate headstone for them. It had an image of a loon taking flight on one side and a gorgeous moon snail on the other.
For the last few days, we gathered on the Cape to set the stone, place the remaining, combined, ashes of my grandmother and grandfather, and spend time together as a family in the place where, for years, we gathered.
We rented a couple of beach cottages for two nights, and despite the grey weather, had a great time. In two, tiny beach cottages, we stuffed 7 adults, two young boys, three dogs and a rabbit. It felt a little like Noah's Ark. Fortunately, the rain was gentle and intermittent (unlike RI, where it was, apparently, torrential and constant.) On Thursday afternoon, after drinking a toast in my Grandparent's honor, we went to the beach near their old house for a picnic. And sure enough, the sun broke through the clouds, the sky cleared and there was a gorgeous breeze off the water.
For awhile, I went and sat alone near the shore, listening to the waves lapping against the sand, smelling the grass and seaweed and ocean. Hearing only the vague mumble of the conversation of our picnic party. I lay on my back and held my scarf over my face to protect it from the sun.
I thought of God.
I felt grateful.
Helen Ritchie Hegnauer
Albert Henry Hegnauer
Rest in peace, you two. I'll see you again on the other side.