Memorial day for me meant visiting many grave sites in Salt Lake City with my family followed by a family dinner at my Grandpa & Ma Woolley’s house. Prior to our departure to Salt Lake, my dad would clip flowers from the row of plants that were between our house and our neighbors the Williams. We would first head out to my Grandpa Martin’s grave site, followed by visits to my Brady great-grandparents graves. Dad would tell us once again the story of how his father died when he was three and how he would spend summers at his Grandma Martins where his aunties called him “Glenny.” Grandpa Martin’s grave was white marble with military markings as he was in the Navy. We would see my great-aunts and uncles there on occasion and other relatives I didn’t know well. Dad would clean the graves and display the flowers. We would sometimes arrive when the military would discharge their rifles on command. Then, we would trek across the valley to my Uncle Desmond’s grave and my Woolley great grandparents and Grandma Great Layton. There too, we would see relatives and visit at the grave sites. I would explore the river nearby the graves and always visited the little area they had reserved for children who had passed away. I loved to look at other gravesites and read about these many individuals. They would become people in my mind.
I love my relatives and knew most everyone who had passed on quite well. My mom’s brother died when I was just a few weeks old. I have heard many stories about him and it is clear my mom has a tender spot for this brother. My great grandparents have all passed on during my lifetime. I have fond memories of reading stories to my Grandma Great Woolley because she was blind near the end and couldn’t read. Grandma and Grandpa Woolley cared for her in their home and each time I pass the bedroom she was in I still consider it hers. I remember visiting my Grandma Great Layton in her apartment where she always had a meal to offer us or a treat from a treat jar as we sat in her living room. We loved to climb the stairs in her apartment complex and visit the used clothing store next door. We also would play in the back parking lot or sit in her covered patio. We all argued over who got to twist her “ding-a-ling” bell. She walked everywhere and was so skinny. Grandpa and Grandma Great Brady would have us over to visit in their living room. Grandma Brady always wore a dress and I remember Grandpa Brady attached to oxygen near the end. Personally, I disliked the smell of their home. It was an “old” smell. Funny how you can remember smells. I would bolt outside and play in the apple trees or the irrigation ditch in the yard. My dad would tell me how all of the Brady’s lived on the same street and he could go to house to house to house and play with cousins. Grandma and Grandpa Great Martin died later in my adolescence. They were buried in an old barren cemetery in the west hills of Magna. I probably have my fondest memories of them. We would go to their little home where decorations made out of old milk jugs hung from the awning. Rocks were displayed as decorations on the ground. We would sit in their humble living room where the rocker would be missing an arm but still rocked so why replace it? These grandparents only spoke spanish so my dad and mom would chat away while we kids staired off into oblivion. Lots of pictures hung on the walls and I would study each of them looking for my link in history. Grandma Great Martin would always bring out new pictures of other kids/grandkids and also give us a treat that who knew how old it was. We loved visiting these grandparents because they had a little farm. I have many memories chasing geese and chickens. Trying to ride the sheep, hoping Great Uncle Billy was home and would put us on a pony. The chicken coops would be back in the dark corners of an old shed and we always had to check them out. Grandma Great Martin also had bunnies, dogs, and any strays that came along. My brother Cameron and I would not leave any part of their little farm undiscovered. My great grandparents had given my dad a strip of land as his inheritence from his father’s estate. It was developed years later and the street was named Martin. I always had to go see that too. These visits gave me my link to my Grandpa Martin. My cousin Heather died at the age of 3. She had heart problems and had multiple corrective open heart surgeries. I remember her clearly tethered to her oxygen at family get togethers and running around a picnic table while my Uncle Raymond watched cautiously and protectively as she played. Seeing my cousin Jason’s daughter Emily brings floods of memories to me of Heather.
I loved Memorial Day. I loved visiting these gravesites and rehearing these stories. It wasn’t a holiday where we left on vacation or went boating or shopping, it was a day of reflection about my family. I fear that my own children won’t have this opportunity now that we live so far away from our relatives graves. Brian’s family is all buried in Nova Scotia or Annis Idaho and mine are in Salt Lake City Utah. This Memorial Day we spent it baling hay and it looks like this will be our new tradition as the hay will always be ready this time of year. Hopefully we can still try to instill in our children a love for our ancestors and war veterans during this holiday. We’ll see what happens next year.