Both my parents lie in unmarked graves.
My father has lain in anonimity for the past 47 years. I don't know why my mother erected no headstone. It is likely the organisation of a memorial would have been beyond her at the time. Probably she couldn't afford it. My one and only visit to his grave was in 1984, the 25th anniversary of his death. The graveyard in urban Essex was bleak and unfriendly. It took me a long time to track down his grave. I found him surrounded by upturned gravestones and graffitti. Nearby was a rusting, abandoned pram. I knelt beside him and asked for his forgiveness, told him how much I loved him, how desperately I missed him. I knelt until my knees hurt and longer. I have never felt so desolate, before or since. I cried uncontrollably. Later, on the train back to London, I decided against putting up a headstone. I wanted to leave him undisturbed, at peace. The peace my mother had denied him in life.
My mother died four years ago. She lies in an unmarked grave that overlooks the River Spey, a beautiful setting. My decision not to erect a headstone is probably motivated mainly by vindictiveness and spite. Or maybe revenge. Whatever the reason, I want to forget her, not remember her. That's why I'm writing a book about her, a desperate attempt to expunge her memory.
I imagine I am the last person alive who remembers my father. I think about him often, always fondly. When I die all trace of him will be erased from this earth, as if he had never lived. That doesn't seem right. My mother, on the other hand, must be remembered by as many as a dozen people, twice as many as attended her funeral. I suppose not all of them feel bitterness towards her. She had some friends, although they didn't attend the funeral.
I think the looming shadow of mortality is one of the reasons I write. I want to leave something behind, some fading memory of me that will outlast my immediate family and friends. I don't want to inherit the anonimity that shrouds my father. My beloved father. Maybe through my writing his memory will live on a little longer.
I owe him that at least.