Five years ago, I wrote this:

Somewhere in the north end of Cleveland County, Oklahoma, under a neat patch of grass gone brown in the Sooner sun, lie the ashes and dust that once were Brenda Jean Hill Imoe, forevermore aged twenty-two and a half, a woman who was — who is — my sister.

But that doesn't tell you the whole story. That "neat patch of grass" business is certainly true; what you don't know is how excruciatingly accurate it was. Unless you knew exactly which patch, you'd never find her. Somewhere in the confusion following her funeral, nobody got around to ordering so much as the smallest marker for the poor girl's grave. It was understood, they tell me, that Dear Old Dad would take care of this, inasmuch as the grieving widower was in the service and had little or no money to spare for such things, but hours turned to days turned to months and then years and the grass grew and died and grew again until one day in 2000 when I was there and went totally to pieces and still nothing had been done.

It has now.

Last month, I visited with the staff of the burial park and requested a small (but of course expensive) marker: name, dates, and "We miss you so." No problem, they said: we'll get right on it. That was a Saturday. Come Monday, there was a problem: legally, the aforementioned grieving widower has to sign off on any additions or changes to the grave site. There was a workaround — if, after a good-faith effort, he couldn't be found, the park would install the marker anyway, subject to removal should he at any time raise any objections.

So I started on my good-faith effort. I remembered where he used to live, within a block or so; I hit up the real-estate records for the county and found an entry for the family name. His mother, I reckoned, and fired off a letter to her at the address given, explaining the situation.

A week later, an unfamiliar voice rang in on my landline — unfamiliar because it wasn't the squeak David had had in his twenties. Of course, he was fifty now, but memories don't automatically update. He'd gotten the letter — Mom had passed away, sorry to say — and yes, he'd be happy to approve the new addition to the grave site. We did the usual updates, rang off, and the following weekend, he met with park staff and gave his official consent.

The full-fledged stone will take a while, as these things must. For now, there's a temporary marker in place. The MasterCard bill (in the low four figures) will show up eventually, and I will shrug. It's my sister's 50th birthday, and I'm buying her a present — to make up for the twenty-some-odd years when I couldn't.

Sleep well, sis. We love you.

And thanks, David. I hope your life today is a happy one.

The Vent

  18 November 2005

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 Copyright © 2005 by Charles G. Hill