We have been gone from Missouri for several days. We have dealt with a few more mishaps, but that is for a later blog.
We spent exactly two weeks in St. Peters, Missouri, which is just outside the St. Louis area. I was born and raised in the St. Louis area. Other than a 9 month stint in Kansas, I have lived in the area until I married Dennis and moved to Fulton, MO, in 2013, and then to Arizona.
Our two weeks were spent at the 370 Lakeside Park. It is a city park owned by the city of St. Peters, and has a whole section for RV camping. This park has a large lake with a walking trail around it. The back side of the lake has protected wetlands. Dennis and I rented a two seater bike (the kind you sit side by side). This bike has two gears—stop and go. We were pretty pathetic peddling around the lake, but it was fun. We love the trail, and this time we had a lot of wildlife to see.
Our two weeks were spent mainly visiting with friends and family. We attended a lunch of friends from my high school class, Lindbergh High School, Class of 1966. Yes, we still like seeing each other. It was the first class get-together since the Covid-19 shutdown. Everyone felt safe being together again. We just felt good to see our old friends again.
We spent many meals with our children, cousins, nephews and family, and friends from my childhood. What a great two weeks it was, but we barely scratched the surface of all the people we would have loved to see while there. One of the main purposes of our St. Louis stop, was my granddaughter’s high school graduation. We were so fortunate to spend time with three of the young adult grandchildren. Oh, how I love my grandchildren!
When Memorial Day rolled around, we had no plans. We ran some errands, and then decided to go to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. I have been there several times, because this is where my parents are buried. This visit was different because it was Memorial Day. I knew that the Boy Scouts go there Memorial Day Weekend and place an American flag at each grave. I have never been there Memorial Day. As we neared the cemetery the traffic was heavy and it took a while to drive through the entrance. The roads within the cemetery were made one way roads that day, and as one slowly drives around with a long line of cars, there were volunteers at each intersection to help those of us who didn’t know how to get to the area of graves we were searching.
As we were driving through this most impressive cemetery, we spotted the deer that are often seen wandering around the graves. Every grave in this cemetery is numbered with a section letter and number. It is engraved on the back of each tombstone. We were searching for section I. We knew it was towards the back and on top of a hill. Getting there was tricky, so at each intersection I asked the volunteer again so I could find my way.
We had looked up my parents’ grave number online, and Dennis thought he read section H. Fortunately, section H is next to section I—glad to know the military knows their alphabet. After wondering around the wrong section for a while, we looked it up again, and noted we were in the wrong section. Dennis headed out ahead of me to find the correct grave.
There is something calming about a national cemetery. The graves are perfectly lined up. All the tombstones are the same size and shape, and the beauty and peacefulness of the hallowed ground is felt.
I always feel a little odd visiting the grave of my parents. The first time I went to the grave was shortly after my mom passed away in 1995. I stood in front of this grave, not quite 47 years old, and it felt strange. I knew my mom’s body was interred in this spot, but I also knew she was not there. Her spirit was gone when she passed. She was now in the presence of Jesus.
There are people who tried comforting me that my mom and dad are looking down on me. I struggle with that. After one of my uncles passed away, my aunt told me years later that people would tell her that he was looking down on her. She said, jokingly, “I hope not. He will see me spending all his hard-earned money.” I got a chuckle out of that. My uncle was very successful, and he was happy to have my aunt enjoy his success. She also told me that when he was very ill, before she went out, and with nursing care for him, she always went to his bed to tell him she was going out. One time he looked at her and stated, “You look like a rich woman.” (My aunt was always well dressed). She said she smiled at him, and reminded him that it was his success that they both enjoyed.
Theologically, I have a hard time with the idea that our ancestors are watching over us. My parents are in the presence of God, and there are no tears or sadness. What if they would be watching when we are not making good choices and not doing the right thing? Wouldn’t that make them sad? I don’t know. I guess I’ll know that answer when I get to Heaven. I think we say that because we want to feel like they are still with us. My memories of my parents will always be with me.
After we stopped at my parents’ graves, we moved on to find my aunt and uncle’s grave (the same aunt and uncle referred in the above story). I knew he was down the hill from my folks. Dennis had a better memory of the location, and I followed him. We had also looked up the grave number, to be sure we were in the correct section. The numbering in this section seemed cockeyed to us, but after much searching, we found Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary’s grave.
As we drove around the national cemetery, we saw people of all ages and ethnicities paying respect. It broke my heart when I saw a young women sitting in the grass in front of a grave. I assume this was her husband or fiancé. How her heart must ache at loosing someone so young.
All these graves represent our freedom. Some died in service to our country. That is what Memorial Day is about—those who died while serving in the military. Veterans Day is about all those who served in the military. Although my father survived his time in the service during World War 2, I wanted to go there not just for my parents, but also to pay tribute to those who fought and died for us to have this amazing freedom we have in the United States.
My dad came from Romania to the United States at age 10. He served in World War 2 along with several of his brothers. There were seven brothers in his family. All but one served in the military. My dad was a medic. He spent several months in Miami Beach driving an ambulance and working in the medical clinic. I used to say he served at the Battle of Miami Beach! Although he did serve there, he eventually served oversees in New Guinea. He was part of the Army Air Corp, and they built air strips in New Guinea. New Guinea is in Asia and part of the battles in the Pacific. He saw action while overseas. Like most World War 2 Vets, he didn’t talk much about his time overseas.
My dad and my uncles appreciated the opportunities afforded them as Americans. Coming to the United States in 1930, his family saw opportunities that they did not have elsewhere. They were poor, and they worked hard. Some of them were educated through high school, but my dad being the oldest, quit school in the 9th grade to help support the family. My dad, along with several of his brothers, started their own businesses and became successful.
Visiting the national cemetery was one of the highlights of our time in St. Louis. It was a great reminder of all those who served our country. There is almost 250,000 souls buried at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. Not all of them perished while serving, but they all honorably served the United States of America to secure the freedoms we enjoy today.
After spending time with family and friends, it was time for us to move on. We left Missouri, and are on our slow way to Georgia. We have had more mishaps as rookie RVers. We are learning. Mostly, we are having a wonderful adventure.