Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Brother, the Tree

I haven’t been to Denver in quite a while.  I really need to go. My brother is buried there. 
The last time I visited Dennis’s grave I was on a cross-country trip from DC to LA.  None of us lives anywhere near Denver so we don’t get to see him often.  The first time I went alone I couldn’t find his grave.  The church was locked, and I had no way to find his plot.  I wandered aimlessly for a while before I had to make some peace with my conscience and leave before it got too dark. 
The next time I went through Denver I stopped, stayed overnight and headed out to the cemetery early.  A nice woman at the church looked through the records, gave me the plot and site data and a map.  I parked on the side of the road and walked to the place he should have been, but there was nothing there but a large oak tree.  Confused, I asked a grounds keeper named Bob Vaughn if he could help me find it.  I felt sick inside.  How on earth was I supposed to tell my mother that I couldn’t find him again? Bob went to his truck and spoke to someone on the radio.  When he came back I half-expected him to say, “Sorry”, or some such platitude. Instead, he pointed to the oak and said, “He’s right here!” 
I cannot tell you how unbelievably happy this made me.  I know my face couldn’t conceal it.  I think I actually clapped my hands in front of my chest like a child when she sees something amazing. I know I felt like I was 5 years old again.
When Dennis was buried back in 1972, a baby of just a few days, the tree was small.  Both of them were small.  Now, over 30 years had passed and that tree was Dennis. He and the tree were one - big and strong and forever watching the Rocky Mountains.   
I spent the next 2 hours taking pictures of my brother, Dennis the Tree, and talking to groundskeeper Bob, a Vietnam Vet who used to work on the railroad.  I grabbed a few acorns to give to my mom.  I knew she’d like that. 

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