Friday, August 22, 2008

Dead by the side of the road

My so-called job slinging pizzas always allows me time to think; quiet time behind the wheel when it's easy to string together what I see and what is on my mind. Once in a while what I see and what I think coincide for something memorable.

On the way back from a too-long delivery, I noticed two different instances of roadkill. An armadillo first (possum on the half-shell if you like) and then a skunk...I think. Then, my route back to the store took me by one of the area big cemeteries, and then, by heartbreakingly sad collection of memorial flowers put up in the highway right-of-way by the kin and friends of someone who died in a traffic accident near that spot. I usually like to have photos in these blog posts, but you've seen what I am talking about: sometimes the arrangements have stands, other times the words 'mom' or 'dad' are decorated with flowers and mementos; still other times they even have photos and posters.

For some reason tonight, all at once I was disgusted and a bit angered by the roadside memorial. I know it came from the hearts of people mourning who meant well. In fact, I know that better than most people ever will, having lost my best friend Mark in a car wreck with me driving So I not only sympathize with those who put flowers by the side of the road, I empathize. In times of tragedy, people want to do something, anything, whatever they can to honor the memory of the person they lost.

But if they stopped and thought about it, is it really that honorable to be remembered dead by the side of the road? I guess passing the cemetery after seeing roadkill animals made that click for me tonight. We have places to put flowers, places to remember those we have lost, where there is not a constant stream of traffic roaring by, uncut weeds and trash thrown out by people who didn't know and don't care about who died there. Those places are often cemeteries--Mark's widow picked a marker that stands out enough to be seen from the highway, and I always make a point to look at it when I pass where he was laid to rest.

Of course I know the exact spot where The Wreck happened, but I don't consider it special enough to decorate it. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt it's not where he'd want anyone to remember him, or the cemetery, either, for that matter.

I remember Mark with the good times we had. I can close my eyes and be in his studio, smell the oil paint he used in his art, hear us laughing, and talking serious once in a while, too. I can see the gadgets we showed off to one another when we got new toys, and feel the sense of satisfaction when we discovered how to clean up an old gun, reassemble something we fixed, or plot out an easy way to finish a project he had planned out. Those are the things we liked, those are bits and pieces of this world that made him who he was, and that's the way I like it.

I am not going to do it, but I am tempted to go put the weedeater and trash bags in my trunk, and drive from one roadside memorial to the next. I'd collect the flowers and mementos, cut the weeds where they had stood, and leave the spot clear with no trace of the memorial. Then, I'd take the stuff to where the person was buried, and leave it there. I am not going to do it, but soon enough a road department worker is going to, and they won't bother taking the stuff to the burial place. It'll go in the garbage.

Which may be just as well, and let that be food for thought: Would you want to be remembered dead by the side of the road, or with quiet dignity and respect?

Griffin in the paper

I was pleasantly surprised Thursday morning as I scoped out the front page of The Daily Home. There was the usual smattering of local news, then below the fold sat my son Griffin!

It seems a safety-oriented presentation by the name of Buster the School Bus had visited his school, and either the presenter or school principal had notified the local press of the photo opportunity. It just so happened that Griffin's class was getting see Buster at the same time the newspaper man was there.

The paper is the same one I used to work for (has it really been five years???) and I know the photographer Bob Crisp well, having worked with him many times in multiple capacities. But even knowing the pic was just another routine feature shot, I still felt the wave of pride seeing my kid in the paper! And now I have a new desktop image for my PC (thanks Bob!)