It has been four months since I left Algonac, and the home that Raymond and I shared. It’s also been 4 months since I have visited Raymond’s grave. I’ve wanted to get out there and tend to it since spring, but my anxiety about driving on the expressway made the journey daunting and overwhelming.
Today, my dear brother, Bruce, drove me back to Algonac!
When you get off the freeway, you still have a half hour drive down a two-lane road. Lake St. Clair is on one side and a beautiful grassy marsh on the other. I was flooded with memories.
Memories of Raymond and I living out here, together. Often, he would say, “Let’s go for a ride!” Simple things we shared, like a ride in the car, are the memories I cherish. There was always so much joy and laughter on our “day trips.” We’d drive around looking at homes and cottages along the water. We stopped at fruit and vegetable stands to by fresh corn for dinner. We would do a “drop in” visit to his cousins. We’d stop at the boardwalk or Lega’s pier (which were our favorite places to fish). He took his time driving and I’d often look in my rear view mirror to see a line of traffic behind us as we slowly enjoyed the scenery.
It almost seems like a dream now. That fragment of time from February of 2010 to May of 2012. He came into my life, consumed every aspect of it, and then he was gone. It was a two-year love affair that changed my life forever. How blessed we both were to have found each other. My whole family loved him dearly. Every time anyone shares a memory of him, it is always conveyed with a laugh. He was charming, full of charisma and quite the character.
Today was a beautiful sunny day. The lake was like glass and the reflection of the sun and clouds danced on its surface. Bruce and I talked about Raymond as we got closer to town. First, I asked Bruce to drive through our little wooded trailer park. It was quiet, as usual. When I saw the trailer, more memories flooded into my heart. Memories of Raymond working out in the shed, puttering on some project. Memories of the vegetable garden he planted before I moved in, which I turned into a wildflower garden after he was gone. Memories of sitting on the deck, in the shade of the trees that surrounded the trailer; listening to the wind rustle the leaves, the birds singing and the squirrels scampering from limb to limb. Memories of myself, spending weeks, months, years—on the couch, distraught with grief, after he was gone. The trailer looked good. I could tell that the new owners love it and are happy there.
Next, we were off to the cemetery. More memories…. It used to be so easy for me to go there. It was just around the corner from our home. Now, if I get back a couple of times a year, I’ll be lucky. He was laid to rest there, but he is not there. I am sure he is here with me (and my kitty boy), in Northville.
I had a plan! Bruce helped me plant a couple of perennials close to his headstone so that even though I am not there as often as I used to be, the plants will continue to grow every year. I took a shepherd hook, which I placed right behind his headstone and hung a couple of crystals from it. Maybe next summer I will take a plant to hang on it, but I like the rainbows the crystals make. The final thing I did was take a picture of Raymond wrapped in a zip lock bag and placed in a plastic frame. I laid that picture in the arms of the angel statue that’s next to his headstone. I’m not sure why, but I wanted a picture of him by his grave. I wonder if anyone ever goes to visit his grave? His sister, his friends? Now if they do, they will see him in the arms of an angel.
With my mission complete, Bruce and I drove the hour and a half back to “our side of town.” On the ride home, I got to thinking about how different my life is now days. The condo is decorated pretty much like the trailer was but I am no longer glued to the couch. My weeks are more active. I go to cardio rehab 3 times a week. I’m making jewelry again. I see family and friends. I renewed my membership at the private lake that I used to belong to (which Raymond and my Dad both loved) and I get out there a couple times a week. My condo has a pool, which I have been to a few times. And, although my patio isn’t surrounded by trees, my condo is the last unit in the complex and there is a row of trees on a little berm about 30 feet to the right of the patio. Colorful tiny finches live in those trees and little chipmunks are often scampering into my sitting area. When I sit outside in the evening, the solar lights glow from my potted plants and I look over to the grass. It is like a fairyland, lit up as far as I can see with the flickering of fireflies!
This is not the resort town of Algonac, by the water, but it is home. I have come back to my family. My life is full, happy and peaceful.