April 25, 2014

Strange Spring…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:54 pm


The years flow by like water, and one day it is spring again.
Shall we ever ride out of the gates of the East again, as we
did once at morning, and seek again, as we did then, new
lands…and glory, joy, and triumph, and a shining city?

—Thomas Wolfe

It’s been an odd spring so far. Just different. Strange, actually. Part of it is just me, probably. And the way I’ve absorbed things this past month or so. Life, all of it, seems so much more intense. The color and flow and flavor of it. My grasp of how it’s all so fleeting. And all so real. That’s how it’s been, ever since that little incident with my heart.

It’s been a little odd at work, too. I mean, some of the people that wander through those doors, it’s just been different. Not calling the people odd. No paying customer is ever odd, not that you could tell from me. Just the things that come down sometimes are.

A few weeks back, I was sitting at my desk right at noon, getting ready to dig into my salad. I usually eat at my desk, and I’m usually alone in the office for a while. Everyone else heads to the lunch room, or out of there to their favorite spots. And someone’s got to keep the store open. That someone is usually me. And that day, just as I’d taken a few bites, the door bell jingled. A customer. I looked up, mildly irritated. Can’t I have a moment of peace, here? But I smiled at the man, and got up and met him at the counter.

He was slim, rather short, bearded, and dressed plain. But something about him was a little different. He had a very bright smile. “I’d like to talk to someone about a pole garage I need,” he said. Great, I said. I can help you, right here. The salad sat on my desk behind me, wilting in the air. And I kind of felt it out, what he was looking for. Or at least what he thought he needed. There was something just different about the man.

He smiled and smiled intensely. I gotta say, it was a little unnerving. But as usual, I got to chatting. Are you local? The way he was dressed, I figured he might not be. But he was. And I just couldn’t help myself. So I asked. What group are you with? You look a little different than most plain people here in Lancaster County.

He smiled very brightly again. “I’m with no group,” he said. I gaped. You’re with no church group, and you dress plain like that? “Yes,” he said. “It’s just me and my family. We have two children. We’ve been this way for years.” And then he settled in to tell me why.

They came from a non-plain background, him and his wife. He served in the military, way back. They have a child, a son, who is mentally challenged. Or mentally handicapped. Not sure what the accepted term is for that condition these days. The boy can walk and speak. And as he was growing into young adulthood, there were problems. The man and his wife tried to join a couple of different plain groups. Charity. Eastern. But their son caused issues, stirred things up. And the man didn’t make any excuses for that. His boy was a big boy, and as he got into his upper teens, he got into trouble a lot. It wasn’t specified exactly what that trouble was, and I didn’t ask. The law was involved a few times, from what I took from it.

And so it just didn’t work, to try to join those plain groups. Aside from his troubled behavior, the boy had a habit of standing around in crowds and just staring at people. Staring intently. In church, too, he did it. I can see where that would be a bit unnerving. And those plain groups just didn’t have a fit for them. For that man, and his family. I’m not criticizing any group, here. Just telling a story a man told me happened to him. And then only because I asked. There was no place for them, with those groups. So they slivered off, on their own. And today, they just live there, in their home, all alone.

I sensed no resentment in the man at all. Sure, he told of how it was, what the preachers said, some such details. He had some rage in him, back there at some point, I think, at what all happened. He just let it go, long term. And his smile was real, there was no denying that. Almost a little too bright. But you could see it in his eyes, that the man had seen and lived painful things. I stood there, fascinated, and just listened to him talk. The salad could wilt all it wanted to. Here was a guy unlike any I’d ever met before. And I asked him.

How can you live all alone, with no other families to hang with? I mean, doesn’t that just get lonely, a lot? I’d think it would have to. Is there no social structure, except you and your wife and your two children? It’s not like you don’t have neighbors. You’re living right there, among people. Any connection, much, to any of them?

“Well,” he said. “I’m a very social person. And my job is my social life. (He said what he did, but I won’t divulge that. Definitely a job where he interacts with people.) And my children are both grown. My daughter has a full time job that she loves. She’s a computer whiz.” I can understand a little bit about that, I said. I get a lot of social value out of my job right here, too. And I’m pretty much an introvert, outside of here. I mean, I can sit at home and do nothing all by myself and be totally content. But still, I just can’t imagine being an island, all alone, like that. I just can’t. You have to have a social structure, somewhere. You just have to.

They don’t though. He made that pretty clear. They worship by themselves, of a Sunday morning. And it became pretty clear, too, just from how he talked. It was for their son, that they did that. For his protection, for his growth. Somehow, they got the boy straightened out, from the troubles he got into years ago. He’s in his 30s, now. A full-fledged adult. And for his sake, the family lives, cut off from all others, all alone. It’s almost more than I can fathom, although I understand and respect the man’s right to make the best choices he knows to make.

And the man stood there, in front of the counter, and just talked and talked. The stories just rolled right out of him. He talked about a lot of other things, too. Why they dress plain, and why they dress a little different from most other groups out there. His wife wears a vest, over her cape dress. He had his reasons for that. And I just stood there, almost entranced, and listened to him speak. I never even thought of my salad.

Somehow, through it all, I got his quote together, for the little building he was interested in. I printed it out and handed it to him. Went over it, explained everything I had included. And he seemed very impressed by the price. “This looks doable,” he said. He seemed pleased. It was time to wind it down, then. I think we both sensed it. He smiled his too-bright smile and offered his hand across the counter. “It was an absolute delight to talk to you,” he said.

I shook his hand. And smiled at him. Same here, I said. He turned and walked out. And I turned back to my salad.

There have been a few other odd conversations, lately at work. None worth telling, not right this moment, I don’t think. But the other day, I got one of the stranger phone calls I’ve had in quite a while.

We’re busy at work, right now. Real busy. Spring weather, or at least building weather, has finally busted loose. And now everybody wants everything yesterday. It’s about all I can do, to keep the trucks rolling out, loaded with heavy loads. We just hired a new driver last week, and boy, was it way past time. I’m pretty much all set, now, except for the odd day when I just can’t get everything to where it needs to go.

So it’s busy. And when the phone rings, sometimes the guys have to answer, because Rosita’s on another line. And that happened the other day, earlier this week. It rang. I answered. It was an Amish guy. Often, but not always, you can tell just from hearing them talk.

And he told me. He’d just bought a place, and moved in. The garage had an overhead door in it, with a Graber sticker stuck to it. That’s where he got the number. But he was just wondering. There was an electric opener for the door. And he didn’t have electric. Did I think Graber would be interested in buying that old opener back?

I didn’t think I was hearing right, at first. What? I asked. Do I want to buy back an old opener that’s been installed for years? Nah, I got no interest in that. Take it to a mud sale, and get what you can for it. “Oh, so you don’t think it’s worth much?” He asked. I can’t imagine that it would be, no, I said. And then we hung up.

And I just got to thinking. How asinine was that? I mean, if you move into a house, and it’s got an old dishwasher, would you call the dealer and ask if he wants to buy it back? Apply that little formula to just about anything. I thought the whole incident was just silly. Sometimes people just don’t think, I guess, before doing something so stupid. But I couldn’t help but laugh about it.

And then there’s another little milestone that came along this spring. I mentioned it before, I think. Dad’s working on his memoirs. And just real recently, he came out with the first little sliver of a volume. Hardcover. Self-published, of course. The First 20 Years. That’s the title. My signed copy just got here earlier this week.

Dad is ninety-two years old. I don’t expect to ever get anywhere close to that age. I don’t even want to. But, here, at that age, he’s publishing a book. And I read it through, pretty much, that first night I had it. Like I said, it’s a slim little volume. 190 pages, I think. And to me, it’s fascinating and interesting. The stories of his childhood, things I’ve never heard before. Well, that’s probably not entirely true. I’m sure he told us some of those stories, back when we were growing up. We just weren’t listening, because that kind of thing wasn’t very important to us. Which was our loss.

I remember telling him, back when I visited him last June. He was working hard, to get it all together. And I told him. Don’t worry about the lessons. Just tell the story. Just tell it like it was, with all the faults and failures. And all the good things, too. I knew it wouldn’t be that way, though, after he got done. Bless the man’s heart, he just can’t help himself. Most of his stuff has always been laced with didacticism. The lessons that need to get through. In the book, almost every little tale has some sort of moral conclusion. But he sidestepped a whole lot of critical events, without really saying anything.

His grandfather, Christian Wagler, a deeply troubled man, shot himself in the head. That’s completely glossed over in the book, to where Christian was sick a lot and the children (including my father’s father) had to work in the fields a lot. They were told while working in the fields that their father had died. I mean, come on. Just tell the story. Christian was way more than just sick. He shot himself. And they buried him outside the graveyard. Why gloss that over? I don’t know how you can write any honest story of where you come from, if you can’t just tell it like it was. And let the readers make their own conclusions. He does include some decently touching scenes of how he met my Mom. And some details of their courtship.

And here, in his old age, Dad is still as strident as ever, about how right the Amish are. And how that is the only way to live, for sure at least for those who were born that way. And no, I’m not upset about that. I’m just saying how it is. He’ll never change from that way of thinking, I guess. It all just is what it is.

He has ambitious plans, to produce a five-volume set. The First 20 Years is just that, and the first volume. I’m hoping he’ll get the story written, at least to the point where I got here. After I was born, I could see for myself, how it was. I want to read all he’s got to say, however sparsely, about what all happened before I was born. And I hope he gets all five volumes done. He probably will. He’s a pretty tough old man.

So here it is. Dad’s latest book. I’m happy he’s producing. If you want to see the other side of my perspective, buy it. There’s always more than one perspective to any story. And here’s the opposite side of mine.

Dad's book
You can order your copy by sending $10.00 to:
Gospel Book Store, P.O. Box 320, Berlin, OH 44610.
Or order by phone: 330-893-2523.

Spring means the Amish around here are having Big Church. And here and there, as happens every spring and fall, they’re ordaining ministers. And the young married men are looking nervous. I got to talking about all that with an Amish friend earlier this week. And he got to telling me a few tales.

“Yep,” he said. “Over at my brother-in-law’s church, they’ve made preacher last week, last fall, and last spring. It’s a new district, and when they divided it, all the preachers happened to live on one side of the line. So that meant they had to ordain all new preachers.” And he told me. His brother-in-law was in the lot, all three times. And it never hit him. Man, that would be nerve-wracking, I said. I can’t even begin to grasp that kind of pressure.

“Oh, there’s crazier things that have happened around here,” my friend said. “Once in a while, they’ll put the little slip of paper on the wrong page. They go all around and open every book. And the slip’s not there, where it’s supposed to be, in any book. So they have to start all over again, and go through all the books again. Can you imagine? You think you’re off, free, and all of a sudden it’s all coming around again.” Nope, I can’t imagine that, I said. That would be pretty brutal, for anyone to go through.

Like I said, it’s been a real strange spring. And I can’t tell you this for sure. Or maybe I can. There’s some serious writing coming on, real soon. I’m not sure what it will all turn out to be. I’m not promising another book, or anything. And none of it is anything that anyone’s gonna see, not for a while, anyway. But there’s some serious writing coming on. That much I can say, because I can feel it stirring around down there, deep inside.

I don’t know how it will all come out. And I don’t know if any publisher will even be interested in it. But it’s coming. Oh, yeah. It’s coming. The hard stuff that I haven’t managed to face, so far. Because I couldn’t find a way to tell it. Father issues, big time. And relationship issues, big time, too, with a woman. All kinds of fires going on, in all kinds of “rooms.” It’s just so hard, to think of walking back through those rooms, and telling it like I felt it back then. But I’m ready pretty soon, I think. Ready to walk through those rooms. Ready to tell it like it all came down.

I don’t know if I can ever get it told like I think I need to, though. And that’s the scary part about even mentioning this much here. I know it’s coming, the telling of it. But I just don’t quite know if I’ll ever throw it out to the publishing world. Part of it is fear. Part of it is just a big mixture of a big jumble of things. There’s no way a second book will be anywhere near as successful as my first one was.

But I’ve found a place inside where none of that matters, as long as I’m satisfied with the writing that comes. And unless I am satisfied with what comes, no one’s ever gonna see any of it anyway. I guess I’ll worry about all that after the writing actually gets here. It’s right at my doorstep. I’m fixing to invite it all in real soon.

April 11, 2014

Uncle Ezra…(Sketch #17)

Category: News — Ira @ 6:12 pm


I’ve had choices since the day that I was born,
There were voices that told me right from wrong.
If I had listened, no, I wouldn’t be here today,
Living and dying with the choices I’ve made.

George Jones, lyrics

I hadn’t thought about the man in years. There was no reason to, really. He had moved with his family from Daviess, I don’t know, probably sixty years ago. To a level of the Amish world way lower than ours. And we never got to see that much of him. In the few rare times when our families stopped by each other’s place to visit, we looked at him with a good deal of fascination. He was my father’s older brother. And we called him Uncle Ezra.

Well, we called him by other descriptive names, too. Everybody gets a nickname, that’s written in the Wagler code of laws somewhere. The one I remember for Uncle Ezra is “Cave Man.” He was a good-sized man, like my father. But it was his hair that we stared at. It waved in long oily coils. Waved way down his back, down almost to his shoulder blades. And he had that big bushy beard. He always wore a flat wide brimmed hat. I don’t remember ever seeing him smile much. Not saying he didn’t. Just that he always looked pretty grim, whether I saw him in his world or my own.

And there would be little reason to remember much of who he was, because he was pretty much a stranger to me. But that changed, a few weeks back. In rather dramatic fashion. Right there, when I was stretched out on the table in the LGH emergency room. When the doctor and his team were pretty convinced I was having a heart attack. They were swarming around, prodding and stabbing me with all sorts of needles. The doctor shot the questions, rat-a-tat. “Does your family have a history of heart problems?” No, not that I can think of, I said. Then I thought of it. Uncle Ezra. Yes, there was an uncle who died from a heart attack. “When?” I don’t know, back in the eighties sometime. “How old was he?” I don’t know, probably in his sixties. And from that little exchange, the memories stirred in me later. And I got to thinking. And then I got to writing.

He was born in Daviess in 1916, five years before my father came along. He wasn’t the oldest child, or even the oldest son. He was filled with all that Wagler piss and vinegar, and grew into quite the wild young man. Got into all sorts of mischief. He was a wild son. I’ve always found it hard to connect the stories of his youth with the grim bear of a man I saw when he came around. And, oh, yes, those stories were told, mostly in hushed tones, of who he was when he was young.

He didn’t listen very well to his parents. And I’m not being critical, here. Lord knows I didn’t listen very well to mine, either, when I was young. I’m not talking down at anyone. It’s just a story. He was pretty wild. He insisted on cutting his hair way short and shingled. They could never figure out where the boy was getting his hair cut. He never got to town much, and didn’t have money for such trifles when he did get there. And then one day someone walked into his bedroom. Somehow, he had forgotten to lock the door. And there sat Ezra, surrounded by mirrors, carefully snipping away, giving himself that verboten haircut. And thus he was caught. I don’t think that fazed him a bit, or that he quit cutting his hair the way he wanted it, even after that.

I don’t know how he looked, what his features were like in his youth. There are no pictures. He had the high-boned Wagler face, I think. Later you could never tell, because of his burly beard. And he ran wild, then, in Rumspringa. Back then, the youth didn’t tend to leave home, as me and my buddies did decades later. Daviess was a raggedy and uncouth place in those days. And their youth partied hard. And this story has trickled down through the years. Dad’s older brother, Noah, married Fannie Raber. I don’t know if Ezra didn’t particularly care for her, or what. But on the day of the wedding, he loudly made fun of Fannie’s dress. I can’t imagine what he was thinking, or why anyone would ever do such a thing. Fannie remembered that slight for the rest of her life. She muttered about it, way into her later years, when we’d come around. I guess she chose to hold onto that, and shouldn’t have. Ezra could have made it right, too. I don’t know if he ever did or didn’t, just that Fannie held on to that slight for as long as she lived. She died, just a year ago, or so. But back to Ezra. It’s always been a mystery to me, why anyone would make fun of the bride’s dress on her wedding day. He must have been dealing with some pretty deep emotional issues of some sort. That’s all I can figure out.

I don’t know when Ezra found the love of his life. It was there, in Daviess. A girl named Rosie. I have almost no memories of what she looked like. A buxom woman, as I recall. But that was after she had borne sons and daughters. And after they were married, the man truly settled down. At some point, then, he took a real hard turn to a real hard plainness, maybe to atone for all those sins of his wild youth. I’m not saying that had anything to do with it. But from here, I wonder.

Sons and daughters were born to them. Four sons, two daughters. And from what I’m told, it never was Ezra’s intention, to ever leave Daviess. He was pretty settled there, as he was. It was my Dad who was restless, and wanting to get out of there. And it was my Dad who wanted to go check out a rather plain community in Missouri. Bowling Green. So he bought a bus ticket, to go. And Ezra decided to go along, just for anyhow, and to keep my father company.

And the two of them headed out, to check the place out over a Sunday. Bowling Green is a fairly old settlement, for the Midwest. Not sure when it was founded, but at that time, it was rolling along pretty good. And I’m not saying anything disparaging about what the place is today. From what I hear, they’ve modernized a little bit. But back in those days, it was a cesspool, a hard-core lower end Amish settlement. Very plain. From when we visited when I was a child, I don’t recall that they had running water in the houses, even. I might be wrong about that. But it was hard-core, a place of low repute among the larger blue-blood settlements. Kind of like Daviess, maybe. But even worse.

Thankfully, Dad recoiled from the place. He was not impressed. I can never be grateful enough for that. Growing up in Bowling Green would have been a whole lot different than growing up in Aylmer and Bloomfield. I give Dad a lot of credit, for seeing what the place was. And for not moving there.

And strangely, Uncle Ezra, who only went along to keep Dad company, found himself drawn to the place. They traveled back home to Daviess. And in time, Dad moved his family to Piketon, Ohio. And Uncle Ezra and Rosie moved with theirs to Bowling Green. It boggles my mind, that he did such a thing. And again, I can’t help but wonder if the man was somehow trying to atone for his wild and wicked youth. He would suffer before God. Make life harder for himself. I may be off on a totally wild tangent, here. But something, some psychological pull, had to draw the man to such a plain and brutally austere place.

So they moved there, with their family. Eventually their sons took wives to themselves, good Bowling Green stock. And in time, Uncle Ezra was ordained as a deacon there, like his father was before him. It’s rare, for a Wagler of my direct lineage to be a preacher. My brother Joseph is pretty much an exception. But a deacon? That little job goes way back, generations.

The preachers are all to be feared, in any Amish settlement. But especially the deacon. He is the enforcer. When he comes knocking at your door, you can bet it’s not a social call. That kind of conditioning follows you all your life, if you come from the Amish. I still always have a brief, but intense rush of panic when my pastor, Mark Potter, suggests on a given Sunday that we get together for breakfast that following week. What did I do wrong, now? That’s the first, fleeting thought. And I always catch myself. He wants to get together for breakfast, not to chew you out, but because he just wants to get together for breakfast. It’s a pretty brutal thing, to come out of such a mindset. And from what little I’ve ever heard, Uncle Ezra fulfilled his role as deacon and enforcer quite efficiently. If people needed to be straightened out, brought back into line, or otherwise disciplined, he went and did it. That’s what he was ordained for.

And it’s kind of strange, in the Amish world. Well, I guess it’s that way in any setting. From an established settlement like Daviess, my father and a couple of his brothers emigrated to various places. And because of where they moved to and how they lived, their families rarely hung around each other. Ezra moved his family to a hard-core, plain Amish world. And I can’t say that I even know my first cousins. I wouldn’t know them if I met them. Because there was almost no crossing of boundaries, between their world and ours. And now Waglers are sprinkled throughout all kinds of really plain settlements in the Midwest. Ezra’s offspring. It’s still rare, that anyone from their world crosses over to the one I came from, or vice versa. Maybe for funerals, once in a while. But increasingly, not even for that. Not bemoaning anything, here. It’s just how it is.

Tragedy struck Ezra in 1973, when we still lived in Aylmer. He and his wife Rosie had traveled this state, to Snyder County, PA. And real early one morning, they got up to catch the bus in town. Ezra wanted to travel over here to Lancaster, to visit a few people he knew. And somehow, in the little town where they were to catch their bus ride, they had to cross the street. It was early and dark. Ezra looked, and the road was clear. He strode across, thinking Rosie was right behind him. And somehow, no one knows quite how it happened, she held back, and tried to cross back. She was struck by a car right on that spot. And killed instantly.

I remember hearing the news, there in Aylmer. And how my parents and others got ready and headed to Bowling Green for the funeral. Ezra was almost beyond consolation. A man of the hills, he had never trusted modern towns, or modern transportation. And now one of those modern places had claimed his wife. He wept and wept and grieved her.

Ezra never did have much use for my father’s writings. I don’t know if he allowed Family Life in his home or not. He wasn’t impressed by Dad’s fame at all. But the man got involved in a few little publishing ventures of his own. The main one that I remember was Die Botschaft. The Message. Ezra didn’t like The Budget, because a lot of people who wrote in that weekly paper came from car churches. He longed for something more pure, something where the car church people wouldn’t be allowed to participate. And somehow, he got it together, got all the principals lined up. I don’t know when exactly that happened. Late 70s, maybe. And Die Botschaft has been a success. It gets published every week, and no one from any car church writes for it. It’s totally for horse and buggy people. Ezra’s vision was a little different, from my father’s. But still, he had one, and followed through on it. You gotta respect that.

My father had a wanderlust. He moved from Daviess, to Piketon, to Aylmer, to Bloomfield. All in the span of about twenty-five years. Ezra didn’t wander quite that much. But still, he did move out of Bowling Green, to pursue one last vision that would fail. I guess he finally saw it, that Bowling Green was not a good place for any man to plant his roots. And he dreamed of starting a new community. Just him and his sons and daughters and their families. And a few hangers-on. And again, I’m not exactly sure of the exact date, when it happened. Late 70s, early 80s, near as I can tell without doing a whole lot of specific research.

And Uncle Ezra was the founding patriarch of a new little community in Prairie Home, Missouri. He and his sons bought farms there, and settled in. My sister Rachel recalls that some in our family traveled over to help for a few days, to build Ezra’s house. I don’t know what all the rules were, in Prairie Home. But it was an extremely plain settlement. From out of one frying pan, right into another, that’s where Ezra tumbled. I look at who he was, and what his hopes and dreams were, and my heart feels for the man.

Prairie Home was an unmitigated disaster, right from the start. The strong Wagler blood stirred in Ezra’s sons, and they took to squabbling with each other. The plainer the community, the sillier the squabbles, usually. I don’t know a whole lot of details, or a whole lot of specific stories. And if I did, I probably wouldn’t write them. They’re not important. The specifics rarely are. It’s the condition of people’s hearts that really matters.

And here we get to where I was always going, in this story. The thing that was triggered in me, there in that brutal emergency room at LGH. At some point right along in here, Uncle Ezra developed a serious heart condition. It was the plumbing. His veins were clogged up. He went and took all sorts of tests, and the doctor told him. “It’s serious, Ezra. You really need to let us go in and clean out those veins. If you walk out of here like this, you could easily keel over at any moment.”

And for whatever reason, Uncle Ezra just flat out rejected the doctor’s advice. I figure the man was just weary and half worn out and tired of life, missing his Rosie. He didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money, trying to hang on. And he chose to reject the doctor’s recommended treatments. I don’t know what he was thinking. I don’t know if he felt fear in his heart. Something tells me the man just made up his mind, and that was the way it was. If he lived, he lived. If he died, he died.

He did take some kind of natural treatment, to clear his veins. And it happened right while he was in Kansas City, taking those treatments. The stories claim that Ezra asked for a double dose of whatever it was they were shooting through him. And that double dose loosened the plaque in his veins. Might be hearsay. Might be true. But on December 16, 1983, the man went into a full blown heart attack in the clinic where he was taking treatments. And he died right there on the spot, there in Kansas City. He was sixty-seven years old.

I remember the day of the funeral. I didn’t go. I stayed home to be with Titus, and to do the chores, the milking and such. Eli Yutzy came over to help me. It was bitterly, bitterly cold. Snowing down, full blast. They took Ezra back to Bowling Green, and buried him beside his beloved Rosie. And those who were there still talk about how brutally cold it all was. How, at the graveside, the Bishop’s teeth were chattering so hard he could barely speak.

The little settlement he had founded in Prairie Home was in the process of blowing up when Ezra died. His sons all moved out soon after. A few other families hung on for another ten years or so. But the dissension that was rooted at the birth of the place would not go away. Today Prairie Home is an extinct settlement. As far as I know, no vestiges remain of Uncle Ezra’s little band of settlors. The people all scattered to the winds, moved to other places.

And so passed away the man who was my uncle, a man I barely knew. And yeah, from here, it might seem like he was a fool, to make the choices he did. He could have lived for another good ten to twenty years, had he just taken care of himself a bit. Made different choices. I don’t think he was a fool, though. I respect the right of any person to choose the conditions in which he will pass through this earth. Sure, I would have made different choices, from where I am. But he wasn’t where I am. And I’m not where he was.

That’s the blood I come from, right there. Stubborn, absolutely stubborn blood. Mildly unhinged, probably, with just a touch of madness. Waglers have held the reputation of being slightly mad for generations, at least the ones on the fringes. And I concur. We probably are. We live intensely. We feel things deeply. And mostly, it doesn’t matter much what anyone else says or thinks, we will always insist on walking our own paths. And we will live and die by the choices we make.

That’s who Uncle Ezra was, a man like that.

OK. A brief update on my heart situation. I don’t like the word “condition,” as in heart condition. So situation it is. After something like that comes down, it takes about a week to work out of freak-out mode. You’re all jumpy and touchy. I measured my pulse rate many times, just to make sure the heart was beating right. It always was. I went to work the first Monday morning, the Saturday after getting home. Sure, I was a bit tense and tired. But I figured I could sit home, all tense and tired. Or just go to work, and get done what I could. I haven’t missed a day of work since that two-day break at the hospital.

And it was really strange, that first week, to realize something. I used to get dog-tired by late afternoon into evening. Every day. It was that flutter heart, beating way out there. And I realized, during the afternoons, that I’m not nearly as tired as I was used to being. Not saying I’m not tired, in the afternoon at work. I am. But it’s not the dog-tiredness I was used to. I’m pretty happy about that.

The Coumadin and I are not getting along so well. And that’s by far the most depressing thing that came out of this whole ordeal. By far the most depressing. They got me penned in, taking that pharmaceutical rat poison. Right now, I’m on a pretty heavy daily dose, to get my body leveled out. The stuff makes me lethargic. I’m always cold. It hurts my stomach now and then. And it tends to make me drool, right out both sides of my mouth. And you don’t want to nick or bump into anything, because the cuts and bruises won’t go away. It’s pretty maddening. And no, I’m not pulling an “Uncle Ezra” and going off and ignoring the doctors. So don’t start squawking at me, all you medical people. I will have my first full checkup sometime next month. At that point, I figure I’ll tell the doctor exactly what I think of it all. There has to be a better, more natural way, without all those disastrous side effects. There has to be.

And, of course, since I can’t take my Superfood like my body’s been used to, I came down with a full fledged deep chest and head cold this week, complete with a savage hacking cough. With Superfood, I’d get maybe one cold a year. Sometimes not even that. Well, here’s the first one without it. I’m on Maximum Strength Mucinex 24 hours a day, or I wouldn’t be breathing at all. Again, it makes me crazy, how you can’t take natural things to help your body, because the Coumadin people tell you not to. And again. It’s maddening.

Last week, early, I texted my friend, Dwylin the plumber. Hey, think you can get over and get my softner system set up? He called right back. Yeah, he’d try to make it by late week. I knew he had good intentions. But the man is so overwhelmed with work that I half expected him not to show up. And last Friday morning, he texted me. He was there, in my basement, working. He never had time to be there, the first time, when I was in the hospital. But he took the time, because he’s my friend. And he came back as he’d promised, because he’s my friend. And he installed two new water heaters, one for me and one for the tenant. And the new softner system. The water heaters will pay for themselves in about a year or so, he told me. So now I won’t be heating any more water with all that expensive oil through my furnace.

It’s going to take a little chunk of change, to pay for all that. Funny thing is, the day before Dwylin showed up, my biannual royalty check arrived from Tyndale. I had planned on traveling a bit this summer, with some of that. And I still will. But a few of those planned trips just kind of went away, lately. They ain’t gonna happen. They never were gonna happen, they were always meant to be a mirage. It just took me way too long to figure that out. And now here’s the check. I figure after taxes, there should be just about enough to pay for the whole water system, and maybe I’ll have enough left over for a trip to Bloomfield this summer sometime.

I know I like to grumble now and then. But deep down, I also know this. The Lord provides, just as He always promised He would. And I am thankful.