The maps app led us to an entrance I’ve never used before, closer to the Pentagon. I slowed the car to greet the guard, and show her the pass that allows us to drive in. Coming in from this side had me all turned around. In 23 years I’ve only ever come across the bridge and through the main entrance. As usual I was kicking myself for not recalling exactly which section we needed to find on Eisenhower Drive. And as usual, as we inched along, passing sections 68 and 67, I suddenly remembered we were looking for 66. Even that wasn’t immediately helpful. How many rows back from the road? I thought three. I was wrong. Just two. How close to the gravel path? Not too. Near a tree I think. Now there are more trees so that wasn’t helpful either.
I haven’t been in over a year and no matter how many times I visit, I’m always awed by the beauty of this place and I forget to concentrate on memorizing the location I’m looking for. Rows and rows of simple white headstones spreading in every direction. Section 66 was fairly empty in November of 1996. It’s full now.
We pulled the car over and got out so that we could begin hunting on foot. Frances went one direction, I headed the other. No luck. We moved to the next part of section 66. I looked along the third row. She headed further back.
“I don’t think he’s that far back,” I said. She began walking toward the road.
“Found him,” she suddenly called out. I breathed out, relieved. We both approached the grave site. The lettering on the headstone is no longer black like some of the newer ones. A small stone rested on top of it. Someone had been to visit. “Who?” I wondered and reached out my hand to touch the cold marble.
“Hi Daddy,” I said. “I miss you.”