The place were my parents met in college, and also where my grandparents on my father’s side are buried is Blair, Nebraska. From the Neihardt Center to Blair was an hour away. I took the 51 east to the 75 south.
The college where my parents met was called Dana. My father was a year older than my mother. She was one of a set of twins. My father came schmoozing around with his guitar and book of poems. Later his grades fell, and he dropped out of school. After taking a year off to work, he got into Peru State College, where my mother eventually joined him.
Now Dana College was closed down. The campus was still being kept up, but there were no students there. I walked around the grounds, past Pioneer Memorial Hall, and the Hunt Student Center. Trinity Chapel was empty. There were circles of stained glass at the top of both windows, one with a dove in it, the other with a cross. It was a different time when my parents met and went to school. The girls had not been allowed to wear pants or smoke. Half of the guys had crewcuts and horn-rimmed glasses.
Uphill from the campus, is the Black Elk Nature Trail, the centerpiece of it being the Tower of the Four Winds. I’d been there before, with my father and brother, after graduating from college, and found it interesting that fate had brought me back again. Near the end of his life, Black Elk converted to Christianity, without finding it necessary to refute his earlier experiences and beliefs. The world is always as inclusive as we allow it to be. The Tower of the Four Winds then, depicts a cross that can also be seen as a Tree of Life. It is quartered like a medicine wheel, the red road intersecting with the black.
The four directions of the medicine wheel are interpreted as such. The east is the source of the day and the home of the morning star. From the light comes wisdom and peace. The symbols are the peace pipe and the morning star. The color is red. The south is the summer and the power to grow. The color is yellow, and the symbol is the flowering stick. The west is the home of the thunder beings. The colors are blue and black. The symbols are the rain and the bow and arrow. Lastly, the north is the abode of the Great White Giant. It is the source of cold winds and cleansing snows. The color is white. The symbols are the wind of the goose and the stem bearing four blossoms.
There were family members living in Blair at one time, not any that I would know or think to look up if they remained. All there was left to see was the grave of my grandparents. My grandmother outlived my grandfather by eighteen years. I remember his funeral. I remember being at the cemetery. When I tracked it down, however, I wondered if I was at the right place. It had grown significantly. There were headstones all over the place. My remembrance of their headstone was of it being in an isolated corner. Now they were surrounded by neighbors. It was almost a fluke I found their grave at all.
I parked the car and went up to it. The headstone states our family name, then theirs and the dates of their births and deaths beneath it. My grandmother is buried on the left. My grandfather is on the right. Beneath their names is a scripture from the Bible. It says, Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Standing over their graves, it was hard to believe their remains were in two coffins beneath my feet. I remembered them talking and sitting in the dining room at their house in Lincoln. I remembered Grandpa taking us out in the lake with his fishing boat. I remembered Grandma, bringing in tomatoes from her garden. Now they were mingled with the grass beneath my feet.
Going around to the opposite side of the headstone, there is just our family surname. Looking at it, I saw that my reflection was captured in it, reminding me that just like my grandparents, my time was surely coming. Then where would I be? Beneath the ground? Ashes in the breeze? Off on another adventure? A stone skipping across the sea? I could look behind, and could look in front, but I couldn’t look beyond. Off in the distance were the graves of more ancestors. The trees overlooking the valley started dancing in the wind.