Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Ernest Hemingway's Grave

We couldn't leave Ketchum, Idaho, without paying our respects to Papa Hemingway.  At the Visitor's Center we asked how to get to his grave site and were told to go north on Highway 75 to the cemetery and find a clump of pine trees right smack dab in the middle.

"You can't miss it," the man said, "Just look for the empty rum bottle."

And there it was.

Someone had also placed a ball point pen on the grave and there were several pennies.  Throwing pennies on a gravestone is a common custom.  It means simply that you were there paying your respects, but in this case, it might mean something more personal and humorous.  When the author and his second wife were building a pool in the back of their luxurious Key West home, the expense began to grow and grow.  In a fit of frustration, Ernest Hemingway threw a penny into the pool and shouted, "Pauline, you've spent all but my last penny, so you might as well have that!"

I'd like to think this was the case.  I imagine, too, that people who take the time to find his tombstone, have also taken the time to read his books and short stories.  Like us, they had probably even been to his home in Key West.

Much has been written about his suicide.  New articles and conjectures occur even 57 years later.  I'm not sure we will ever know the real reason behind it.  Depression?  Mental illness?  Pain?  Hemochromatosis?  Does it really matter?

My travel buddy and I felt both confused and sad looking down at that plain flat slab of granite.  We are both older than he was when he took his life on July 2, 1961. Why would such a brilliant man who seemed to have it all, want to end it?

We left the Ketchum Cemetery and drove up to Galena Lodge for a day of skiing.  Our sadness soon disappeared.  Here we were in our 60's, kicking and gliding through the snow with the sun on our backs, so happy to be alive.  We might be nobodies and immortality might not be our destiny, but we were enjoying this beautiful state of Idaho--just like Ernest Hemingway did . . . once upon a time.

Damn.  I wish I had thrown a penny on his grave.  May he rest in peace.

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