I’ve decided to rescue my mother and father’s ashes from their joint grave at the Chapel of the Chimes cemetery in Hayward, California.
How to do this, I am not sure. And I suppose I ought to run it by my three siblings.
Dad has been mulling around in that joint (as he would surely call it) since 1995. Mom, poor dear, joined him 2.5 years ago. She, of course, makes the best of whatever her circumstances, so unselfish that she has yet to complain that we four, for whom she did SO MUCH, have not installed her graveside plaque, a solemn stone tablet which in seven (prepaid) words, captures the her entire 84-year life.
So Dad and Mom sit or huddle or nest or sink or do whatever ashes do– Dad with a glowing, albeit brief, report of his astounding life; mother, with a grassy roof and no words.
It seems to me they wait for rescue.
My decision to abscond with their ashes and scatter them in Lake Tahoe, where we as a family enjoyed so many hilarious moments, came last month on a dreary grey day when I journeyed to the Chapel of the Chimes and by graveside, reminded myself that my biggest cheerleaders are really (for sure) gone and would not be returning to tell me how special I am.
I rarely visit the Chapel of the Chimes because seeing the markers of all who rest there in the Jewish section is akin to being at Temple Beth Torah on Yom Kippur in 1961 listening to an anti-war sermon instead of a spiritual one. I fantasize that after the sun sets and we visitors to the cemetery are fast asleep, the whole congregation buried there arises and complains about how long and boring the rabbi’s sermons were.
My feet try their best to avoid stepping on my parents’ friends.
Ahh…yes…there are the Levitts. I wonder how you are, Sarah? and you Sam?
And dear Bobbie Swedelson and Marv Cohen (what a great guy) and even my high school chum, Cindy Newman. Gosh, I had just attended your wedding on Treasure Island, with a view of the Golden Gate. Within a week I learned that you had died in a car accident on your honeymoon. And here you are, at the Chapel of the Chimes of all places! When we made mischief in Mr. Blum’s chemistry class, we could never have imagined this odd reunion.
I zig-zag among the graves, not wanting to offend my 5th grade Sunday school teacher or disturb Harry Feinberg, one of the nicest jewelers who ever wore a saffron-colored suit (when he was 80). God Bless Harry. Thanks for selling Ron that little chip of a diamond for my engagement ring. Oh, and I wonder where Harry’s lavender suit went. I should ask Eva, his wife. Oh there you are, Eva. Where did Harry get that suit?
The temperature in the Jewish section of the Chapel of the Chimes is lovely and austere.
However. The entrance to the cemetery is NOT.
The wide lawn with the iron fence along Mission Blvd is now covered with grave site decorations that make the entrance to Chapel of the Chimes look either like a junior high science fair, with corrugated cardboard displays and kitschy paper mache volcanoes, or a three-ring circus in miniature, with balloons, whirling ribbons, popcorn and a good old hotdog, slathered with relish and mustard.
Were I a gopher, a vole, or a feral cat and I approached this scene, I would know, without a doubt, that I had died and gone to heaven or at least gone to the midway of the Alameda County Fair with rides, games, and colorful stuff.
A circus atmosphere for sure.
Dad and Mom, I think you would like Lake Tahoe instead.