Saturday, November 17, 2012

finding aj's grave

i left cape cod yesterday morning with margaret, headed for vermont. we had barely left the cape behind when we came upon an exit for bridgewater. 'i used to live in west bridgewater,' i announced.  margaret  asked if i wanted to see my old house again. i said 'yes.' i love advcentures with margaret.  soon, we were negotiating through lunchtime traffic around the rotary in the center of bridgewater. where was west bridgewater?  i struggled to recall landmarks. 'i remember hockamock farms,' i finally said. it was a grocery store i would pass on my way home. margaret laughed. "hockamock???'

suddenly, margaret shouted excitedly, 'hockanock plaza!' the grocery store had been replaced by a tired old strip mall but it had kept the funny name. we drove past a shiny new market basket shopping center and a few more strip malls, and there was the old white church...i recognized that church. we had found my old neighborhood. the little neighborhood store that once handed out free gallons of ice cream when hurricanes threatened was now a pizza restaurant. our house with the huge forsythia bush on the front lawn was gone, demolished for the pizza patrons. they pave paradise and put up a parking lot. my heart sank.

i was 8 years old the summer of '62 and visiting my nana metcalf in boston. on july 13th, my 7 year old brother, aj (alan jay), was hit by a car in front of our west bridgewater house. he died two days later and he was buried in a cemetary on the road to brockton. 'would you like to visit aj's grave?' margaret asked. i didn't attend the funeral but i had accompanied nana and aunt ruth to the cemetary once or twice. i went once with mom. and margaret and i had stopped there 25 or 30 years ago. yes, i did. something in me needed this moment...

the cemetary was not hard to find but it had expanded to the point where, there were so many graves, nothing looked familiar. margaret and i started wandering around, in search of aj's marker (he didn't have a headstone), and the longer we searched, the more dejected i became. the cemetary was huge. finally, i wheeled my walker onto some grass and margaret and i looked around. i told her i felt that we were close, that the grave was near.  she took a few steps and paused, glancing down. 'deb,' she said softly, 'it's aj's marker.' we looked at each other and both burst into tears.

the marker was partially covered so we pulled grass and cleaned the marker. we placed a small gourd on top and we lined the marker with acorns margaret had retrieved from the trunk of her car (they had decorated her niece's wedding reception). it looked presentable. i smiled.  finally, i felt a sense of peace. i had connected with my little brother. time had passed, everything had changed but i had not forgotten. thank you, margaret, for sharing that moment...

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