Toby stepped out of his car, leaning back in to grab the bag off the passenger seat. He locked the car and walked deeper into the cemetery. This had become routine. Not just today. He came here at least three times a year, to lay flowers on Edward’s grave.
Marrying Toby’s mom hadn’t meant Edward had to take him on as well. He could have just been a stepfather, but he’d been so much more than that. He’d saved Toby, and he wasn’t sure he’d ever thanked the man while he was living for doing that.
It wasn’t the main reason he was here today, but still he knelt in front of Edward’s grave and set the vase he’d brought long against the base of the headstone. “Thank you,” he said softly. “Not just for your service to this country, but for taking on a punk kid like me. You taught me everything I know about honor, integrity, and duty. I’m not sure I ever said thank you for making me the man I am. If I didn’t, I’m sorry.”
He stood there in silence for a moment then stepped back and retrieved his bag. He had a few other stones to visit. He headed toward a section of the cemetery where he knew too many of the people who were buried. As he approached, he saw another figure kneeling in front of one of the stones. It took him only another moment to recognize the man. he was a little surprised to see Patrick here. Maybe he shouldn’t be. The man was a veteran, too, and would likely want to honor those who had fallen just as Toby did. But, if he was visiting graves, he’d thought he’d do it back in New Mexico where he’d moved from recently.
He saw which grave he was kneeling before and took another step forward. He would have left the man alone, but it was one of the ones he’d come to visit anyway. “I served with him,” he said, taking another step toward the man and the grave.
Patrick looked up at him, and Toby had the feeling the other man had known he was there. “I went to school with him. He was a year ahead of me, but he was still a good friend. His parents moved up here right after he graduated. I heard about his death just as I was being deployed the first time.”
Toby could still remember that day. He didn’t think he’d ever forget. He’d lost many friends in one single ambush. “He was a good man,” Toby said, setting one of the small wreaths he carried against the stone.
“Yes,” Patrick said, “he always was.”
They started walking off together, and Toby glanced over at Patrick. “I figured you’d be going home for the holiday.”
Patrick glanced back at him and smiled a little. “This is home now. But, I get what you mean. I’ve said good-bye to the ones I’ve lost enough times. And the doctor put Kellie on bedrest. I didn’t want to leave town and leave her alone.”
Toby had heard Kellie was pregnant but not that she was having any issues. He needed to get out of his head and back to his friends. Especially those who were still living.
For today’s Story a Day, I went with a story specifically written for Memorial Day.