After a daylong computer search and two trips to the Los Angeles County archives in Norwalk, we discovered the location of the grave of our mother's grandmother Alma McNeal, and visited her in Monrovia (also near Los Angeles). For the Monrovia visit, we bought three roses: one for our mother and one for each of us.
Mom was very close to her grandmother Alma but never visited her grave. She said, "She isn't there." Mom was very afraid of topics around death, maybe because her dad, Myron, died when she was nine and her mother, Ethel, died when she was 18. I can't recall ever attending a funeral when I was a child. And as an adult, I didn't learn about the deaths of my grandmother, my uncle or my aunt until several weeks later. It just wasn't a topic for discussion in our family.
I've done enough genealogy to have an idea of some of the circumstances of my family. When we were standing by our grandparents' graves in Inglewood Park Cemetery, I told Alyx the story of how our grandmother's mother died when our grandmother was three weeks old, and how by the time she was four she was living with her older sister Irene and Irene's husband Ned. I hadn't realized until last week that she was buried, beside her husband, in the same plot as Irene and Ned. I wonder if my grandmother was dependent on her sister all her life.
And our great grandmother Alma, divorced from her husband, is buried next to her sister and brother-in-law, who had moved from Colorado to California in 1909. After her divorce in the 1920s, I suspect she moved to California as well, to be near family.
The best part of the trip, though, was the time I spent with Alyx. This was our first time traveling together without our mother or our husbands. We stayed with two sets of friends (in Santa Barbara and Lake Arrowhead) and in two hotels (in Whittier and Ontario). We had a grand time - from the splurge to upgrade our rental car from the midsize sedan I booked to the Cadillac SUV we ended up with, to the early morning airport dropoff on Wednesday, when I came home, we talked and laughed and ate and talked and pondered and ate and teased and talked and geocached and grave visited and watched TV and ate. We had a few mild squabbles but we talked through every single one of them.
Not bad for two women who never had much of a personal relationship until our mother died in 2008.
This is my sister Alyx. After half a lifetime in California working as a marketer in the healthcare industry, she moved to Alaska three years ago. At age 56, she's just finished her first year of nursing school at the University of Alaska in Anchorage.
Here's to you, Sister! And thanks for the California memories.