To the editor:
My mom died in early March. She was cremated. When my father died, it was February and a blizzard. We went to the cemetery and stood in 50-mile-an-hour winds with the snow pelting us.
I cuddled my frail mother in my coat as we laid him to rest. The service over, we piled into the car. From the back seat mom said, in a determined voiced, “If I die in the winter, save me until spring. Don’t bury me in frozen ground. Don’t make anyone battle the cold.”
So she rested in my home from the cold March until last weekend. I took her from her shelf and tucked her into the van. Friday she attended a festival with us. After our performance at the fest, our friend Charlie Parr played. Joe and I listened. Mom slept in the van.
Charlie sang a song. One line in the song was, “You can’t bury mother in the winter time.” Joe and I wondered, How did Charlie know?
Saturday she traveled through the Driftless country she and father loved. Following the hills to the Mississippi valley. Sunday I cradled her in my arms and met my sisters at the cemetery. We laid her to rest next to our father. The two side by side, where they belonged. We toasted them both with a beer.
Then my sisters and I did something we had not done in years. A road trip, the time honored tour of the gravel. We followed the North Fork road out of Waukon to the Old Stage Postville road.
We passed the places of our childhood, our grandmother’s home place, our aunts’ and uncles’ farms. We crossed the Yellow River and past the spot where the Forest Mill used to stand, the mill where the locals brought their grain, where we ice skated on the mill pond as children.
We continued on past the Forest Mills Church, the country church where my father was baptized, where my sisters and I were dedicated and later baptized, the church every member of the Ewing family attended, the church that the Reverend Curtis Webster brought to life, the church where my mother played piano and then organ for every service, Sunday service, weddings and funerals for 56 years, the church where my sister Connie and I sang duets on the special occasions, Easter and Christmas Eve.
“He’s got the whole world in His hands . . . .”
We sisters crossed the Yellow River again, the old bridge where Connie and I used to spear suckers with our Cousin Ronnie, a bow in hand, an arrow with spiked prongs and a rope attached.
We gazed at the water from atop the bridge. We spied the fish suspended in the current. We let fly the arrow and hauled the fish through the air and over the rail of the bridge, the bridge where my little sister Amy and cousin Hillary forced their horses to cross.
Just past the second bridge, the sucker bridge, to the left, on top of the hill is the home place, the farm my dad’s parents worked, the farm where my aunts and uncles grew up, the farm we went to every Sunday after church, where we gathered for dinner and said Grace, the farm where Ronnie pushed me into the pig pen, where we found a nest of snakes in the bunk of the original homestead cabin still standing in the field, the farm where grandma and grandpa raised eight children, buried one child, survived the depression and provided for us all.
We sisters followed the gravel to Rossville, past the intersection where our cousin, dad’s nephew, had the horrible accident, to the old store, the Roseville store, the venue for wedding dances and good times,the gathering place for the weekend,the place where my father and siblings fought barroom brawls and, a generation later, I would fight a barroom brawl, the place where we still gather to eat when we are all back in Iowa.
Out of Roseville to Waterville, past Aunt Tiny’s home, Jerry and Anna Marie’s place, all family, the entire drive, the roads lined with family. Into Waterville, the place my parents met all those years ago, the Edgewood Ballroom, dad just out of the Korean War, still in uniform, mom tall and slim and green eyed. They met the first part of December in that ballroom. They married in January, two days after mom turned 18.
We rode the old roads this weekend, my sisters and I. We gave honor to our parents, our family, our home. Sleep well, mom. Sleep well, dad.