Thursday, September 15, 2011

9.15 Set in Stone


A leaf from the Garden of Memory:
I call in the 3-line “personal sentiment” to Calverton National Cemetery, where Mom was buried on Monday. I am happy that they will take this message over the phone – after all, these words are set in stone – rather than asking for a fax, or something in writing.
So, here goes.
-- First line, I say: “Loving wife and”
-- That’s too long, the voice on the phone says. “And” won’t fit.
-- It fits.
-- Did you count?
-- I counted.
(She counts). -- It just fits.
(Oh, was I not supposed to use the last character? Is there a setback rule?)
-- Next line, I say: “Mother. Colon. Space –“
-- They won’t do that. No punctuation.
-- No punctuation? Why is that?
-- It’s military. It’s a military cemetery.
(Who knew the military gets along without punctuation? That might explain a few things.)
-- Can we have two spaces after “mother” and before the next word, “look.”
-- I can ask the engravers. But I can’t say they’ll do it.

So, we lose the comma in the third line after “homeward” too. Apologies to Thomas Wolfe, whose title for his first and most famous novel – “Look Homeward, Angel” – I borrowed for Mom, desiring it for the connotations of both “home” and “angel.” And to John Milton, from whom Wolfe in turn harvested the phrase, taking it from Milton’s “Lycidas,” a poem about the loss of a beautiful youth.
But the voice on the phone assures me the inscription on Mom’s headstone will done within 30 to 60 days. They wont notify us when it’s ready (“because there are so many”).
After those 30 to 60 days we will pay Calverton a visit. Maybe on Mom’s birthday.