There is an old Jewish tradition of leaving rocks on gravestones––I think to mark your visit. Seth and I left these two stones at the marker of my family’s plot in Westbury, New York, on Wednesday. It’s our first visit since my dad died in February, 2017. It was strange and sad at first, to sit there in the grass atop my father’s resting place. The cemetery was our first stop once we landed in New York, but then we got ourselves up, got a bite to eat at a diner where the chowder is Manhattan style (red, tomato based), and afterward we went to a garden center and picked up a small trowel and two celiosa plants blooming purple flowers and we returned to the cemetery with a project: I planted the flowers, one on the side where my dad is buried and one on the side where my grandparents are buried, and Seth began cleaning the stone. We didn’t have much with us to do that, but there was water nearby and I offered the toothbrush out of my backpack and so Seth brushed the green algae off the black granite stone, brushed the letters, brushed the carved image of St. Anthony of Padua, and it was good to have these projects. Dad, Grandma, Grandpa––they all appreciated things clean and orderly, and so I know this simple act of cleaning and planting would be appreciated, even now. Afterward, we lay there in the grass a long time, Seth and me… and then we set those stones atop the gravestone, said our goodbyes, and headed off to visit my cousin in Brooklyn (Brook-a-leen, as my Italian grandparents would have pronounced it). Our trips are usually like this: visits to family and friends, living and dead.
The day before, I was at my mom’s house, mowing the lawn. I like this task. It is a job that reminds me of Dad, for it’s something we did together often. Many times this summer while I’ve been there tackling this job, riding the mower, thinking of Dad, a big wood stork would fly down from the heavens, land by the pond near the house, and there the bird would stand or sit, at the bank of the pond, under a tree, watching me. Large wading birds are not uncommon in the swampy lands near the family homestead, but to see a wood stork is rare. This one, though, he’s been coming around since July. We have our almost weekly visit together. If I get too close, the stork takes a few big steps away. He’s a good four feet tall, and so his stride is large. But I look at him lately and I wonder where he’s come from, and why he’s chosen to hang out at our pond. I’m glad he’s there.
But that’s back home in Florida, which is not where we are now. Your Convivio Boys are on an autumnal jaunt, and if you know us, you know jaunts are not something we do often. First stop is New York, for just a few days, then onward to Maine. I’ll write when I can.