My older nieces and nephews were little ones at the time. Thomas, who just graduated high school this month, was maybe seven. His partner-in-crime, Alex, was about eight. And the third amigo? He was in his 50s. And their grandpa.
It was Memorial Day weekend and we were all in St. Benedict at a cemetery next to the small country church my mom attended as a child. All of us were placing flowers next to the headstones of loved ones who had gone to heaven before us, walking around the cemetery trying to remember who was related to whom and how they were related to us.
And off in the back corner huddled Dad with his two oldest grandsons. You could tell by the way Dad was standing and gesturing with his hands that he was telling a big story and those boys were paying close attention.
Before too long, Thomas came running over to his mom and I, declaring, "Mom! You aren't going to believe it! Grandpa used to hide sunshine in these stones!"
We'd all heard the stories before, so it didn't take long to realize Grandpa had been telling inappropriate stories of his own youth to the youth whose ears were too young to be listening.
The intricate tale Dad wove was of long ago, when alcohol was outlawed and people made their own brews in bathtubs and bottled up liquor on the sly. He told of secret stashes and horse riding and whatever else he could throw in his true story to make it just a little more lively.
Dad explained to these impressionable little lads that some of the headstones were hollow inside. And he showed them the panels on the sides that could be unscrewed, and told of the times they would sneak into the graveyards to hide their stashes of tub-brewed liquor inside the headstones of people who had long since left the earth.
He told them of moonshine.
Thomas told us of sunshine.
And none of us corrected him as we all scolded Dad and knew it would do no good.
I have to admit, thinking of it today, a little part of me wishes there was a panel on the side of Dad's headstone so we could lay down flowers and hide a little moonshine in there just for him.
And I hope those tales that we hushed him from telling back then get told years down the road when those kids come back to visit him on Memorial Day. When they tell their own grandkids about their Grandpa Mike who weaved them stories of moonshine and filled their spirits with sunshine.
I would lay flowers there today if I could.
But I'll spread his sunshine through stories in their stead.