Of history and memories

Written by Dorothy J. (Swart) Fleshman June 05, 2009 01:08 pm

Dear Diary,

Ted Kramer asked me to come in to The Observer to have my picture taken so it could be run with my first column.

I hate to have their camera record what it sees when it’s aimed my way, but then a thought struck me. Few would recognize the picture. Why? Because I had my hair cut short. Isn’t that clever? No more curly top.

More assured at being incognito, I posed for Phil to take innumerable attempts at catching something printable for posterity and went blithely on my way...

I was walking on clouds when Editor/Publisher Ted accepted my first column submission and even asked for more. He hadn’t known how I had missed being part of the media because the insecure person inside of me never told him.

It may have had something to do with my perception of age and lack of talent for the new world. Covering events and being responsible for accurate reporting that once had sparked my energy level now drained it.

Besides, I wasn’t computer-savvy beyond sending and receiving e-mails and I didn’t carry a cell-phone. No, I told myself over the years, there was no place for me at The Observer.

On the day I walked into The Observer office on an entirely different matter, little did I realize that the lagging economy offered an opportunity that, perhaps, rather than being too old, I was finally old enough. You see, I am part of the past, the past we call history. Those days have already been recorded. The facts as they had been known at the time were in the memories of older folk like myself and facts as we thought of them at the time could have been seen a little differently by various individuals.

At least I wouldn’t have to start over. It would be a matter of telling it like I remember it.

In so doing, could I open the diary of my mind to paper for all to see?

Could I touch a cord within the lives of others to remember, to see, to feel, to know? If not, the column would disappear, but it wouldn’t matter.

For the moment I would be back at The Observer where I had first made contact as one of their paper carriers so many, many years ago. It could be fun.

I smiled all day.

•••••

Two elderly women drove separately into the cemetery bearing flowers for their loved ones on the day recognized as Memorial Day.

The 82-year-old noticed that the 92-year-old was having a little difficulty finding her husband’s grave, so the younger one offered her help to the stranger. Together they searched, looking for a bench near the gravestone and also near a well-known deceased person’s location.

Able to move a little more easily than the older lady, the younger one looked further a-field and finally located the spot. Sure enough, there was a bench nearby and flowers spoke of the nearness of the other gravestone.

It was also near a tall evergreen tree that could later become a landmark.

One with a cane and the other with arms tucked together for the elder’s balance support, they slowly made their way across the uneven ground toward the desired location, visiting as they went.

“Why don’t they have Memorial Day on the 31st of May?” the elder lady spoke, fretfully.

“I’ve always come to the cemetery on the 31st of May for Memorial Day and I wasn’t going to come until then this year, but...”

This was a point upon which they agreed, for the lilacs, peonies and other flowers were not yet blooming and the earlier daffodils and tulips had passed their peak.

The younger lady agreed.

“Must be something about Monday being their legal holiday, I guess. It has to come in May with Memorial Day, so that pushes it up a week. I don’t really know or understand why they change all of our legal observances.”

The last pot of spring flowers was laid gently on the grave and they stood back to look at the names and dates on the stone. One was reflecting the long life she and her husband had had together and the other felt her pain along with her own, for her loss was still sharp in her heart.

Together they made their way slowly back to their individual cars. The elder lady gave her grateful thanks for the help and the younger of the two went on to place her own flowers.

Then they drove away, separately, filled with their moment of blending the two spirits into one and defining the humanness of us all.

The small, simple act of kindness melded two strangers, the act becoming its own reward.


Veteran newspaperwoman Dorothy Swart Fleshman is a La Grande native whose column, “Dory’s Diary,’’ will run every other Friday.