I remember going with my parents to Pioneer Cemetery on Memorial Day when I was a kid. Dad would bring some yard tools and work gloves along in the car; Mom would bring flowers from our yard at home. We’d spend some time raking and pulling weeds, and sprucing up the area where my grandparents are buried. Then the flowers would go next to the headstones. I’d look around and see other people doing similar things at some of the other graves, too.
I wondered what my grandparents were like. I still do. That’s normal if you never knew somebody, but you still had some kind of connection to them. I know that life was not easy for them. I know they met and started their family in Nebraska, and during the Depression they moved here, in search of better opportunities for themselves and their five kids. They arrived in Salem, where they remained until their deaths. My dad was ten when his father died, and barely twenty when he lost his mom. I suspect that life was much, much harder than Dad has ever let on.
This past Sunday I decided to ride to Downtown Salem, then south through Fairview neighborhood, to Pioneer Cemetery to visit my grandparents’ grave sites. It’s been years since I’ve done that. Along the way I also considered the route you take to get there when you’re on a bike.
Ugh...what cyclists have to do to traverse this part of town. Yes, a path would make so much more sense, and would be much, much safer than riding on Commercial.
I pulled into Pioneer Cemetery, and after a lengthy search I finally found the grave sites again. Yes, it’s been that long. I was sitting there and staring at their head stones, but mostly I was thinking about those memories of my dad, sprucing up his parents' graves. What a mental picture for “Honor thy father and mother...”
I left as I arrived, on my bike. I understand a little more about what this cemetery means to people who have a connection and come here to visit. I also see how a path would help people who are riding or walking through the area. I wonder about all the potential--the good and the bad--and why people might have strong opinions on one side or the other. Being there helps me to better understand why this conversation has been such a challenge. Yep, it’s complicated.
One thing’s clear, though: I really hope the City doesn’t shut down this important conversation. That’s a decision they’ll make at their next meeting.
Let’s keep talking.