If you've driven anywhere in this country, you've seen them. Perhaps you never gave them much thought, but you've definitely seen them. Tragic crash + grieving family = the cross by the side of the road.
Eventually the wooden cross was completely overgrown with grass and not visible from the road. Not having any experience in Roadside Memorial Construction, we had no idea to what scale we should build it. So we scrapped that cross and built a new, larger one, this time made from white plastic that we got from Lowe's made to look like wood.
It's virtually indestructible. And the road maintenance crews of the state of Ohio (or whoever maintains the mowing schedule for that section of road) kindly mow around Max's cross, which means it's always visible to passersby.
This gives me a strange kind of satisfaction. My son died. But his cross is there to say that his life matters and you should SLOW THE EFF DOWN. Also, hug your loved ones. And watch out for semi-trucks traveling too fast. Just be careful. I mean it.
But one of the things about maintaining a roadside memorial for your son is that the atmosphere does terrible things to it. The flowers that you carefully select from the craft store in his favorite colors of red and black will fade in mere weeks. The black ink that your husband painstakingly hand draws will soon be unreadable. The very nature of a roadside memorial is its inherent temporariness.
And that shit kills me: That time still moves, that everything tends toward entropy, that I have to agonize over silk flowers in the middle of holiday shoppers at Joann's. It's just wrong.
On the way home from church this past Sunday, Roger and I set out to spruce up the cross. The old flowers were sapped of color and the letters that spelled out his name and dates were faint. It was beyond time to fix it. Usually, it's just Roger and I doing this while the kids wait in the van. It's a busy road and rough walking terrain to get to the site and honestly, I can't imagine why anyone would want to spend time there unless they had to.
But this time, instead of waiting in the van, Lucy asked if she could come with us. We're indulgent parents of the last baby, so naturally we said yes. She watched as we gathered the faded silk flowers, replacing them with new ones, and as Roger slowly inked over the faded letters of Maxwell's name. Then she asked the two questions foremost in her mind: What kind of car did Max drive, and what kind of truck ran into him?
She's six years old. This shit kills me.