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Monday, June 21, 2010

No Stone

We’ve been cemetery hunting. I decided one rainy afternoon when we held a mini family reunion at a restaurant in Portland that afterwards we would program “Jane” our GPS to take us to the cemetery where my Grammy’s baby boy was buried, the uncle who lived only a couple of weeks. I was curious to see his grave, since when I was a child hanging around my older relatives, they never spoke of Earl and nobody I knew ever had visited his grave.

We found the cemetery easily. It is one of those that some kind genealogically-minded soul has catalogued and put online, so I had a map of all the graves and the correct coordinates for the one I sought.

It should have been easy: count four rows from Holgate and then five plots in from the edge. But old graves tend to shift or something, and there were several spaces with no stones or signs that they had been used, and they weren’t reflected on the map. It was raining (of course, this is Oregon after all), and I was wearing sandals, and my feet were getting muddy. I couldn’t find any trace of the grave for the baby.

Perhaps my grandparents, just 21 and 23 years old and with a toddler daughter, were too poor to afford a gravestone at the time their baby died. Perhaps as the years passed, and the jobs were scarce, and they moved a lot, and there were more and more children to provide for, it was less and less a priority to mark the place.

A few years ago when I was working and we could spend money on pretty much anything we wanted to, I would have immediately ordered a modest little stone to mark this place. But the economy has tanked, and although they say it’s recovering, I haven’t. I am not working and we are on a very tight budget, and the place will have to remain unmarked. I can’t see my aunts and uncles wanting to buy a marker for the brother they never knew when their parents didn’t mark the place or even visit it.

At least it is recorded on the Internet for those who seek him:
R.I.P. Earl Lester Read, born and died in January 1914.

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