We had a tearful conversation about the whole situation, and discussed the pros and cons of my visiting him, and left it with her thinking it probably best that I didn't see him the way he is. And my saying I'd only want to see him if that's what he wanted, otherwise I'm happy to keep my (selfish) memories of him in better days.
I drove south to Lillington and spent a couple of hours in Raven Rock State Park alone with memories of my ex-brother-in-law in happier times and contemplating life in general. It's amazing how much a walk in the woods can be a metaphor for life when you're looking for it to be.
I'd packed a pad and pen with me in hopes of finding a picnic table deep in the woods on which to write a letter to my ex-inlaws, but I never found one. This seat was at the beginning of the trail, and coming upon it, I had no idea it really would be about the only place to sit and write, but it wouldn't have been comfortable, as I didn't want to hold the pad on my lap to write.
I walked for a ways, following blue circles intermittently nailed to trees, but not knowing the name of the trail I was on until I came upon this sign:
I proceeded on the Campbell Creek Loop Trail the likes of:
Eventually, I came upon this bridge and thought about "crossing bridges" and them "taking unknown turns."
And once turning that corner, another turn appeared, which seemed to lead into the shadows of...
It was such a beautiful day—with temperatures in the low 80s—to enjoy some contemplation and solitude while hiking. I only came across maybe ten people the entire two hours I was there, as most people, I assume, were at the shore for this holiday weekend.
I came to a place where two roads diverged in the wood, and I followed the path indicating the Cape Fear River, in hopes of finding a place to sit and write. It was not to be, though, as when I eventually arrived there, it was just a small opening to the river, and there was a couple there playing fetch with their two dogs, one of which you can barely see here bringing his prize home:
Not finding a place to write there, I forged on, hoping that the "Family Wilderness Camp" in .3 miles would have a picnic table. Arriving there, I walked down the entrance to the deserted place, and just before passing a slightly cleared area marked "1," I ran into a huge spiderweb that I didn't see—right in my face.
In response to my irrational fear of spiders, I did a crazy dance with flailing arms to make sure there hadn't been a spider in that web that might now be about my person somewhere that I couldn't see. Not finding one, I walked a little further until, passing site "2" and running into another web around my legs, and I concluded that there was not going to be any picnic tables in this deserted camping area, which obviously enough people don't walk through to keep webs from forming across the trail.
Disappointed, I walked out of the camp area, back to the main trail, and after a few minutes came upon this sign:
I was so grateful for this sign and for the person who was thoughtful enough to realize its need and to have seen through having it erected. I looked back and realized I'd been so deep in thought that I'd completely missed the turn at which this sign was posted:
I never did write that letter, but I thought a lot about it, and once I got back into Raleigh, I decided to make a stop in the Montlawn Cemetery, where my friends Jeanie-baby and Milton, along with Jeanie-baby's daughter, have a grave site.
I lay in the grass before Jeanie and Milton's stone, and I listened to all five versions of Amazing Grace that I have on my iTouch. I remember being so struck by the line, at Milton's funeral, since he was blind, "Was blind, but now I see."
While I was there, two women walked up to a grave site about 100 feet from me to the left, where one of them, the younger of the two, and the daughter of the other I suspected, used a rubber mallet to hammer a small American flag into the ground at the foot of a grave. I turned off my music and pulled my ear bud out enough that it looked like it was still in my ear, but out enough that I could hear what they were saying.
The older woman said something about having wished she'd named her boys differently, but I couldn't make out any more than that. After they left, I walked over there to see what the marker said, but there wasn't one there, nor was there grass there. It was somewhat of a "fresh" grave, and I imagined another war casualty.
And speaking of "fresh ones," there was a tent not far away with a huge amount of flowers, complete with four big arrangements on stands, and I strolled over there checking out grave markers along the way.
Leaving there, I saw this sort of close-together clump of several grave markers in a nearby corner of the cemetery and I walked over there to see what that was all about. It turned out to be, at least what appeared to be, a "baby" section. There were markers after markers with one date on them (was born and died) and many others with dates that indicated short, short lives of one day, five days, three weeks, two years, five years, and so on.
There was one couple who had a baby that was born and died on the same day in one year, then had another one that was born and died on the same day in the next year, and then had another one that lived for three months. Tragic.
I stopped back by Milton's, Jeanie's, and Marti's graves before leaving and just as I turned to go, I heard a lot of honking. We were not alone:
Back home, I slept for a couple of hours, waking up at 10:00, when I made some Scrabble moves in the several online games I'm in the midst of, and then I caught up my Thursday and Friday entries, as well as devised this one.