MapQuest takes me along I-80 from Indiana, east past Youngstown, Ohio, and then onto Pennsylvania Highway 38. I turn right on Emlenton Clintonville Road, left on Main Street and onto Main Hill Road, which becomes Queenstown Road. I veer left onto PA 68, which becomes Clarion Street and left again on East 2nd Street.
I am trying to find Saint Eusebius Cemetery in East Brady, PA, where my parents are buried.
On my way through the Allegheny Mountains, I experience recurring bouts of grief. This is the closest physically I will be to my parents since their ashes were transported here from California a little more than a year ago. This is my first visit.
East Brady is an unassuming little town in Western Pennsylvania, hidden away down several winding roads. It possess all the amenities of not-so-remote places. Quick shops, pizza places, bars and beauty salons busily line Main Street, which skirts a mountain ridge along the broad and meandering Allegheny River.
Not far from here, my dad and mom were born: Dad in Rimersburg, PA, Mom in Punxsutawney. It is in this area they went to school, married, started our family, and this is where they wanted to be buried.
As I look for signs for the cemetery, I imagine every adult child at one time or another doing this: searching for that final resting place of their parents.
After getting lost, backtracking, stopping for directions and calling my uncle for the exact location, I finally arrive at Saint Eusebius Cemetery, a medium-sized stretch perched on a hillside with pastoral views below.
Once inside the iron gates, and finally locating their plot, I slowly read their names, dates of birth, dates of death and cannot imagine how 85 years of life passed through them so quickly.
I kneel as close as I can get to their headstones, stroking their names, running my fingers along the rough edges of the granite marker. It is now clear that this is where they had been journeying to all along and I am overwhelmed.
I have traveled to this place more than 1,000 miles from my home in South Dakota. I want them to see me, a dutiful middle child of six, paying homage to all their work in bringing me life.
I want them to see me here, missing them while honoring their wishes to be placed side-by-side near where they started life. I am here.
A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her blog at www.my-story-your-story.blogspot.com and find her on Facebook.
2009© Paula Damon