My wife, son and I just spent our family vacation in upstate New York. It was four days in total with one day spent driving in, one day driving out and forty-eight hours to visit the dead relatives.
This tradition started nearly twenty years ago when our daughter passed. We interred her in the family plot in Richfield Springs with a stone for her, Kit and I for economical considerations. Each year after that, we made sure to visit, if no longer than a weekend. Other relations on my wife’s side passed away over the years until there were more family members beneath the turf than above it.
I like dead relatives. They hang out in graveyards. They’re quiet. They don’t espouse embarrassing political opinions. Of all my relatives by blood and marriage, I think I like the dead ones best.
Kit had become the family genealogist and chronicler, if only because she was the only one who had any interest. She had in the previous years found many graves scattered all across the upstate area from Cooperstown to Croghan and beyond. This year she wanted to re-visit some of the sites she had incomplete notes on and tend to the graves.
I enjoyed helping with this. Though my primary super-power is Disappearing in a Crowded Room, I’m pretty good at Finding Things. Several times we’ve had exchanges along the lines of: “Keep an eye out for such-and-such stone.” “You mean this one here?” “Yeah, that one.” One particular graveyard this week was thwarting our every attempt to locate it. We had pictures of it, but no name or address. Only scanning of her Family Treemaker files narrowed it down to which city.
Our son and his GPS guided us to a cemetery in New Bremen, but this was not the one with Kit’s great-great-great-great grandfather who fought in the Civil War. There was a baseball field across the road from the churchyard. Knowing that baseball moms just love to be questioned by out-of-towners about graveyards, we stopped and asked a couple.
Oddly enough, no luck with that.
Then we noticed that the town offices were situated in the double-wide trailer at the back of the diamond’s parking lot. We scooted over to one of the employees coming out and showed him the images we had of the graveyard. They showed nineteenth-century headstones, a partially buried vault used for storing bodies over the upstate winter and the corner of somebody’s house beyond that.
The town employee, a very nice young man, immediately recognized the house as belonging to the second employee that had just come through the door. After a minute’s consultation, the first young man lead us to the graveyard. Kit was re-united with her Union artilleryman ancestor and we all drove back to our hotel in Cooperstown.
Kit and I sang along loudly to the oldies on the radio, because that is what middle-aged parents do when they’ve had a good day visiting the dead relatives.