What the old philosophers called the association of ideas is a curious thing. My father died last Friday — on his and my mother’s fifty-fifth wedding anniversary — and we buried him on Monday, in a windy hilltop cemetery in Hanceville, Alabama. The next day, as Barack Obama was taking (for the first of two times) the oath of his office as President of the United States, I was standing with my mother on that hilltop, in the sun and uncharacteristic cold, with the wind again snapping the hems of our coats. She picked a few flowers off the grave to take home, and then we, along with my wife and son, went to have lunch down the road at Top Hat Barbeque, which sits by itself on a beautiful wooded winding stretch of U. S. Highway 31. We ate and talked for a while, oblivious to the ceremonies in Washington, and then we went home.
So from now on, when people talk about that memorable Inauguration, no images of President Obama will appear before me. Instead, my mind will cast itself back to the open hillside, my lips chapping in the wind, my mother’s huddled figure beside the grave, and the taste of meat cooked over a hickory fire.