It was Sunday and Fred and Hope Watson were in the section of Santa Rosa Memorial Park Cemetery called Garden of Peace, near the park's south edge.
The granite gravestone in the ground beside them was 1-foot by 3-foot. It read:
Walter Dean Watson
Beloved Son to Fred & Hope
Beloved Brother to Debra, Lori & Curt
In its lower left corner was a pair of engraved hands clasped in prayer on the lower left corner.
"It's my son. He died in 1986, from a drug overdose," Fred Watson said. "He was 25."
Walter was the middle child and he was born in Brawley, Imperial County, the year before the family moved to Santa Rosa.
When the couple left the cemetery, after about 45 minutes, Fred Watson, 75, carried in a plastic Wal-Mart shopping bag a white towel striped in blue and brown and a pair of scissors. Mrs. Watson, 74, moved gingerly, leaning on a four-wheeled walker.
The couple had brought with them a can that Fred Watson had filled with water from a standing faucet. Then he buried it in the earth before the grave and placed in it a dozen red roses they had bought at Safeway. A few clumps of sod lay nearby after that.
Windsor residents now, the Watsons come three or four times a year to tend Walter's grave, slightly less than in years past, but always for Memorial Day.
"I think any grave is for the living," said Fred Watson. "You've got to come out here and keep 'em up."
The sun came and went with the clouds. Now and then Watson wiped his brow. A steady breeze tickled a windchime in a nearby tree and lifted thousands of small U.S. flags that had been planted by grave after grave into the distance.
A rider on a motorcyle revved his engine. Some 250 motorcycles were parked across the cemetery, maybe 500 feet from Walter Watson's grave.
"Must be a biker's funeral," Fred Watson said.
He was told that the group was organized by the Good Ol' Boys, part of the E Clampus Vitus fraternal order. The event was a fundraiser to benefit veterans organizations, and the bikers had gathered for a color guard ceremony.
"I'm a veteran myself," Fred Watson said. "The Marines."
Walter had joined the Marines, too, looking for a new path. But it had been a brief interlude.
"He had done it once," Mr. Watson said, referring to the heroin his son had used, "and we found out about it. He cleaned himself up and went into the service."
But the Marines learned of Walter's drug use, Fred Watson said, and so his son had to leave the service. Then he took a job with Watson's Santa Rosa excavating company.
"He worked for me and he was straight," said Watson, who is still a solid man. He was kneeling by the grave, clipping back the grass with his scissors.
"He went out on April 14, I remember because it was tax day. And we got a call from the hospital," Watson said.
The doctor told the Watsons that their son had injected pure heroin — a so-called "hot shot" — and, perhaps because he'd been clean for some time, his heart couldn't take it.