July 19, 2013

The Lion in Winter…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:47 pm

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Suddenly, at the green heart of June, I heard my father’s
voice again…For a moment he seemed to live again in his
full prime…And for a moment we believed that all would be
for us as it had been, that he could never grow old and die…

—Thomas Wolfe
_______________

I fretted a bit as May passed on and June approached, then came sliding right on in. I had to pick a date, soon, to go up to Aylmer. To see Dad. I had told him, back when he called before I left for Germany. I’d come in June sometime. And he was expecting me. It sure would be nice, I thought, if someone could go with me. I figured Janice would be busy, and I didn’t want to pester her. But I texted her anyway. Can’t hurt to try, I figured. Hey, I’m leaving to see Dad next Friday, the 14th. Any chance you’re in the region somewhere, so I can pick you up? Like we did last summer? And she answered what I knew she would. “Sorry, they got me in Houston that week. I would if I could. I just can’t.” That’s OK, I said. It’s probably one of those things I need to do alone, anyway, I thought. It was what it was. I’d go alone.

The next Thursday after work I stopped at Enterprise in New Holland, to pick up my rental car. Something like a Ford Fusion, I’d told the guy earlier over the phone. But I asked when I got there, like I always do. Any Chargers on the lot? “Sorry, not this time,” the nice young man told me. “I got a new Fusion, though, just brought it over from the dealer’s lot. Brand new. You’re the first driver to take it.” Wow, I thought. If I can’t have a Charger, that’s gotta be second best. A brand new car. He went out and brought it up, a sleek silver bullet. “It’s got three miles on it,” he said, handing me the keys. It took me a few minutes to figure out all the glitzy controls. It’s like driving a rocket ship in there, new cars like that. I drove it home, and packed my bags that evening. Ready to leave the next morning for the long slog up north over the border.

And it is a long old slog, especially if you’re alone. The next morning by seven, I was on the road. Heading west and north, up Rt. 11 and Rt. 15. The interstate, then, to Buffalo. There, the border. It lurked in the back of my mind, how long it had taken Janice and me to cross last summer. We had putzed along in clogged lanes for over an hour. The Fusion glided along. Decent car, except for its low headroom. I had to set the seat all the way to the floor to keep my head from brushing the ceiling. But I adapted, and it drove real nice.

And once again, in upstate New York, my GPS insisted on dragging me off the interstate onto two-lane back roads. I’d meant to look at a real Atlas, before I left. To see the layout of the interstate, to see if I couldn’t just stay on it. But I forgot. The GPS led off. I’d better follow those roads. All the way over almost to Buffalo, the back roads led me. I had the time, I thought. This is back country, small towns you’ll never see from the interstate. I stopped for fuel and a greasy slice of pizza at some little hick town place. All the pumps had crude paper signs taped to them. You couldn’t pay with a credit card. You could pump gas, but you had to prepay inside. Amazingly enough, it looked to be a hopping little place.

Less than an hour later, I was looping through Buffalo, toward the Peace Bridge. Different place, from where Janice and I had crossed last summer. And it was a breeze, right through. A two-car wait. I’ll take that any time. I crossed into Canada and headed out to connect with Highway 3 into Aylmer. It was a beautiful sunny day. A few clouds shifted about above. I felt good, but a little strange. I was on a new road, here.

It sure would be nice to have Janice along, I thought. But I don’t. And I just sat back and cruised along and thought of things, back through so many years. How I had so desperately longed to reach my father’s heart after I left the Amish. How I had tried, again and again and again, stories that were never written and never told. How we simply could not communicate, not outside the boundaries of his world. And it’s probably not that he didn’t want to, at least I can think that, from where I am today. He just didn’t know how. And neither did I.

It’s a universally powerful thing, one of the most powerful of things, the yearning of a child for his father’s blessing and acceptance. The heart can be rejected and crushed and rejected and crushed, over and over, year after year. Until that yearning just sinks down, somewhere deep down inside, and you think it went away. And you give up. But the seed of that yearning never dies. Not in the heart. It never dies.

And it was all so real to me in those moments as the miles flowed along, the memories of all those hurts, of all the frustrations and bitterness and rage. How it was for all those long years. And how, at this late date, something had changed. And why. My father is old now, there is no other word for it. And he has been tired for a long time, really, when you look back and remember. Sure, he held onto the fire of who he was for as long as he could grasp it. But then it just came seeping in with age, a certain mellowness. That’s what age does, when you think about it. It grinds things down. All the way down to where I was going to see Dad because he wanted me to come. There was a wall there, once, a wall of solid rock he could never reach through. Now he wants me to come, he wants all of us to come. Now he wants to see his children, all of them, even the ones who left the Amish. Now. And you think back to all those years and wonder what it would have been like, had it always been this way. The thing is, though, it couldn’t have always been this way.

Because it wasn’t. Because it all happened as it did. The wall was what it was. There are a lot of old wounds buried in the rubble of that wall. And not just mine. They are the wounds of all his children. But that wall couldn’t have come down any other way, I don’t think. That’s the only way to look at it. It couldn’t have, because it didn’t.

And it’s not that I was all that tense or pensive, getting close. I really wasn’t. But it was different, this time. I could feel it, a new road rising. And the ghosts hovered, in my head. Memories of what was versus a little glimpse of what might have been. I was eager and excited to see my father, and just talk to him. About a lot of things. About Germany. And Switzerland. And about something I never thought I would. My book.

Because he had read it. He didn’t, for a long time. Refused to, for a year and a half. But late last year, he got a notion to. Well, he got a notion that was fed to him by poisonous whispers in his ear. He’d always bragged about my writing. “Ira will not write bad things about me.” And the poisonous voices whispered. Ira did write bad things about you. Blamed everyone but himself for his problems. He really blames you. He was very disrespectful. And those vicious little whispers stirred in my father’s brain and worked his blood into a rage. He locked in. He wanted to read the book, he declared. Now. They tried to deflect him. My sister Rosemary, to her huge credit, refused to give him a copy. “Not in this state of mind,” she told him. “Not until you calm down.” Which, by some miracle, he eventually did. Calmed way down. Then, when she saw that he was ready, she gave him my book. And my father sat down to read what I had written from my heart.

And it moved me deeply, what they told me happened next. It was the dead of winter, January, when he read it. Bitter cold and snow. He was pretty much housebound. The winter just went on and on, the cold seeped in and dulled everything it touched. And there he was, in his little house, reading. His reaction after finishing the book? They told me. There wasn’t a whole lot of reaction. Just silence, and quiet sadness.

Somehow that hit me hard, and I felt sad with him. Seeing it, feeling it from his perspective. His son had told the whole world some pretty heavy stuff. About a lot of things. I don’t know how you’d deal with that, being confronted with that, from where he was. After all he’d seen and done. After who he had been, after all he had written. And now, when he’s gray and bent and old, now comes this. I just don’t know how that would have been. But I knew he was sad. And that moved me. I felt his sadness with him.

The Fusion sliced along Highway 3, a nice two-lane road running over the rich black flat lands of southern Ontario. Through little towns and villages. I pushed along, pulling out and around lumbering tractor-trailers that clogged the road now and then. The afternoon slipped by as I drove and drove. And shortly after four, I pulled into Aylmer. It was just impossibly small, from the great metropolis I’d remembered as a child. A bare little town, with a little row of shops huddled forlornly around a stop light at a crossroad. I crossed through the light and headed on out west toward St. Thomas.

St. Thomas is a bigger place than Aylmer. I remember the name from my childhood, but I don’t remember the town. Because it was out there, just a bit outside the edges of my world. And I was going there now to find a motel room. I’d looked it up on the web, and knew there was a good selection. And sure enough, right there on the east side of town as I approached, right there was a brand new Comfort Inn. I’ve seen some trashy Comfort Inns. This wasn’t one. I pulled in and chatted with the clerk, a nice lady. I’m here from PA, to see family, I told her. Turned out she was the auctioneer Les Shackleton’s niece. Les Shackleton, the guy who had sold our stuff at the farm sale in 1976, when we moved to Bloomfield. I remember Les, I told the clerk. How is he? “He’s doing pretty good, just getting up there in age,” she said. And I booked a room for two nights. It was late afternoon, past five. I carried in my bag, and settled in a bit, then headed out to my sister Rosemary’s farm to hang out for the evening.

I headed back east to Aylmer, then out through the main road through the community. It’s barely recognizable, from the place I knew as a child all those years ago. Way more built up, with a lot more Amish homes scattered along the way. No one knew me, or knew I was there. I passed through the heart of the settlement, then left on the road to my sister Rosemary’s home farm. They’d be looking for me. I pulled in and walked into her home. She smiled and welcomed me. “I’m so glad you came,” she said. Yeah, me too. And we just sat there and caught up. I hadn’t seen her since last August, when we went up to see Mom. “Joe will be home soon,” she said. “Just stay here for supper, then you can go over to see Dad for the evening.” So that’s what I did. Mom was not feeling well, Rosemary told me. She had a fever now, for the second day. The nurse was stopping by that evening, to check it out. Soon Joe arrived home from Tillsonburg, where he had been peddling strawberries door to door. Some things never change. I used to do that as a child. And we sat down at their little table to eat. A simple meal. Soup and homemade sausage. Homemade stuffed sausage, hickory smoked, just like we used to have way back. Rosemary has kept the tradition, and to me, there is no better sausage anywhere than the stuff I grew up with.

After supper, we walked over to the little house where my parents live. It’s a tiny place, a little shack, really, probably twenty feet wide and maybe thirty feet long. A nice clean little place with a tiny kitchen, a bedroom and a little office in the corner where Dad writes. And he was sitting there, at his typewriter. He heard us walking in and looked up. Hi, Dad, I said. He’s old, but he’s there. You can see his concentration when he listens to you talk. He smiled at me, and we shook hands. “Well, you made it,” he said. His voice cracks, now, when he talks. Yes. And we went through our normal little routine, our normal little dance. “How was the trip?” he asked. Oh, good, I said. I left PA this morning. It’s a long old drag up here, but I made pretty good time. “Where are you staying?” I got a motel room in St. Thomas. As we talked, Rosemary slipped into the bedroom where Mom was. I walked in behind her. And there she lay. Curled up. Unaware. “She has a fever,” Rosemary told me again. And I bent down close to my mother’s wrinkled face. Mom. It’s me. Ira. There was no response, of course. Dad came stumping into the kitchen then, and I sat down with him to visit. And it didn’t take him long to get to it. “How was your trip to Germany?” he asked. It was great. Absolutely great, I said. And I sat there with him and we talked.

Back home, I had printed out a dozen or so pictures of the trip. In color, at the office. And I went and got them. I showed him, as we just chatted right along. Here I’m talking to a crowd at Leuphana University, I said. He took the picture and looked at it closely. “That’s quite a crowd,” he said. Around two hundred, I said proudly. “My, my,” he went on, chuckling. “It seems like there’s mostly girls in the audience, there. Weren’t the men interested in what you had to say?” I laughed. Yeah, I said. Seems like mostly women show up at my talks. But there are some men in there too, if you look close. And I showed him pictures of Muenster and the cages. Do you remember that story, of the violent Anabaptists? I asked him. He seemed fairly vague about it. Yes, he remembered the name, Muenster. But he never paid it much mind, he said. Those were violent Anabaptists, not the real ones. I didn’t argue, just told him the story of the cages. We moved on through the stack. And I showed him the real treasure from Germany. The pictures of Family Life in the little Museum. They were just there, in a glass case, I said. I was completely surprised. He smiled. “Did you tell them?” he asked. “Did you tell them your father started that magazine?” Oh, yes, I did, I said. I waved my arms, like this. Pointed and shouted it, when I saw them. He leaned back in his chair and beamed.

And he asked me. “How many copies of your book have sold?” Oh, right at 140,000, I said. I wasn’t sure. Last I’d heard from Carol, she’d told me it was in the 130Ks and counting. But that was a while ago. So I figured it was safe to slip it up there to the next level. He grappled a bit with that figure. “How many?” 140,000, I said again. He seemed impressed. Then five minutes later, he asked again. “How many copies?” And I told him again. Seemed like he had to hear the number a few times to grasp it. Or to make sure he hadn’t heard wrong.

And we sat there and talked, the two of us, and it was good. After a bit, the nurse stopped in to see Mom. She disappeared with Rosemary into the bedroom. Ten minutes later, she emerged. “Her vital signs are all strong,” the nurse said. “She has constipation.” And she and Rosemary talked about what to do about that. The evening was moving right along. It was soon time for me to head to the motel. And I told Dad. I’m here to see you. What do you want to do tomorrow? Do you want to go somewhere, to see someone, to visit? And I could see the wheels turning in his head. He knew I knew that he wouldn’t ride with me in my car. He never has. His calculations led to the only place they could. And he asked, looking at me kind of sideways. “Well, will you drive with me in my buggy?” Sure, I said. If your horse is safe. He laughed. “Oh, yes, my horse is an old plug.” All right, I said. That’ll work. Maybe we can go see David Luthy at his historical library. I haven’t been there in a lot of years. Dad agreed. That would be fine. He seemed a little astounded, that I’d ride with him in the buggy. It’s not a big deal, I said. I came to see you, and we’ll go do what you want. I said good night then, and headed back to St. Thomas and my room.

The next morning around nine I headed out to the farm. Stopped in Aylmer at Tim Horton’s and bought coffee to drink and a box of a dozen donuts to take out with me. Tim Horton’s is a Canadian phenomenon. Every little burg has one. And they serve some of the better donuts I’ve ever tasted. Way better than what we have here with Dunkin’ Donuts. And their coffee, too, is just quality. I wish that chain would make it to the US. Anyway, out I drove into the beautiful cloudless day. All day, I’d spend all day out there. Mostly with Dad, but I’d spend some time with Rosemary and her family, too.

I arrived and carried the box of donuts into the house. Rosemary smiled her thanks. Her daughter and my niece, Edna, was flitting about, working this and that. Dad and I are leaving for David Luthys in his buggy, I told her. Can someone get the horse hitched up? We need to leave around ten or a little after. I’ll drive the horse, but I want nothing to do with going to the barn or hitching him up. Edna laughed and disappeared. Ten minutes later, she returned. “The horse is hitched up and tied up, out by the rail,” she said. “Ready for you and Daudy any time.” Thanks, I said. I’ll go over and chat with him now. We’ll leave soon. And I walked over to Dad’s little house. He was in his office. I sat in the chair across from his desk, and we talked. Ready to go soon? I asked.

In the bedroom next door, I heard voices. They were getting Mom up for a few hours. They get her up in her wheelchair, just to change the pressure points on her body. And she sits there and reclines, and mostly sleeps. A few minutes later, they wheeled her out into the kitchen. I heard Rosemary talking to her. “Ira is here,” Rosemary said. “He came to see you and Dad.” And I heard the murmur of her voice, soft but very clear, in the only lucid moment she had while I was there. “You mean our Ira?” she asked. “Yes, our Ira,” Rosemary answered. And I stepped out to greet her. Mom, it’s me. But in that instant, she was gone again. “She knew there for a second you were here,” Rosemary said. “But she’s gone again.” Yeah, I know, I answered. I heard her. I’m grateful for that.

The horse is hitched up and ready, I told Dad. We need to leave soon. We have to be back for dinner (noon meal). He was all hyped up and ready. Grabbed his big old black hat and put it on. We walked out to where the horse was tied up. He hobbled slowly, and I walked slowly. We came up to his buggy, specially built for him. It’s in the old classic Aylmer style, with rubber-tired wheels. But they set it down lower, somehow. It sits close to the ground. So it’s easier for him to get on and off. I untied the horse and took the reins. Backed him up a bit, then turned out onto the lane. And out to the road. There I stopped and looked both ways, for traffic. I wasn’t feeling all that safe right that moment, I have to say. Those buggies just aren’t safe on the roads. Nothing was coming, so I pulled on the right rein and clucked. The horse, whose name escapes me, lumbered out and down the road. And we were off.

It’s been a lot of years since I rode with my father in a buggy. Decades, probably. Maybe longer. Somewhere in there, I’m sure I have since I was a child. I just can’t remember when. We didn’t have far to go. A mile, maybe. And we just chatted right along as the buggy quietly rolled along on rubber-tired wheels. “Junior lives here now, with his family,” Dad said as we passed the old Jake Eicher place. “He had some kind of accident a few years ago, crushed his heel. They have a real nice family.” We passed Pathway Publishers on the left. Then right at the corner, and on past a few more homes, and the old school house where I went for first grade. Well, those grounds. They tore the old schoolhouse down years ago, and built a new one. But the old pump still sits there, right where it was. And the swing set. Still the same one.

Then we arrived at David Luthy’s place. The preeminent Amish historian in the world, David Luthy has assembled the world’s largest collection of old books and other paraphernalia that were Amish family heirlooms. He has written extensively in Family Life over the decades. Real research, is what he does. Historical articles, a great many of which detailed and described failed Amish communities through the years. And it was a special thing, to have an inside track to his library. It’s not open to the public. You have to have an appointment, and then maybe not, depending on who you are. That’s how hard it is, to get in there. But I was with Dad. He can get in anytime, almost. And I could get in with him.

David greeted us. He was there in his office, typing away. He’s older now, his long magnificent beard is no longer dark, but gray. His wife Mary rushed out, too, from the house, smiling. She welcomed me. They knew me as a child. And we walked to a back room and sat around a table. For more than an hour, David told me fascinating tale after fascinating tale of his library, and about some of his acquisitions. He unveiled and showed me an exact replica of an original Gutenberg Bible, complete with gold plated pages and illustrations. We examined ancient copies of the Martyr’s Mirror and the Ausbund. He talked and talked. Just before noon, Dad and I got up to leave. He stepped into his low-slung buggy. I untied the horse and stepped in, too. Then we were off, back to Rosemary’s house and dinner.

Things were bustling at the farm when we got back. It had been wet for weeks, and Lester, Rosemary’s married son who farms the home place, had hay down in the fields. It had been rained on to where it was pretty much ruined, he told me. But he figured he could bale it and get it out of his field late that afternoon. It was junk, but he had to get it off the field, so the next cutting could grow. I spent a few hours in Rosemary’s home, while Dad returned to his desk and his writing. And they stopped by to see me for a few minutes, a few of my nieces and nephews. Eunice came with a couple of her daughters. Philip and his wife stopped by early that evening.

And then, around five or so, I wandered over to see Dad again. He was sitting at his desk, typing away. They got rid of his old manual model. Probably ran out of parts. It’s an electric typewriter he uses now, adapted to a 12-volt battery. It hardly makes any noise. Sure doesn’t clatter and clack and ding, like the one I remembered him using. He stopped typing and leaned back in his chair. And the two of us just talked.

We chatted for a while about this and that. And I knew he wouldn’t bring it up. So I asked him, right out. What did you think of the book? And he leaned back some more and smiled self-consciously. “Well,” and he sat there a bit. “I guess I’d ask this. What do you think the world thinks about the Amish and about me?” So that was it? That was his sorrow? I chose my words carefully. And I told him. They will think you are a talented and driven man, who got a lot accomplished in your life as an Amish person, I said. And they will know you were flawed. But we are all flawed. All of us. You are. I am. It doesn’t make any sense, to pretend we’re not.

Maybe he grasped that. Maybe not. I think he did, a little. And then he talked some more. “People have told me they were impressed, and I agree,” he said. “You tried, you really tried to make it work. I’ll give you that. You came back and tried again and again.” That was pretty huge, to hear him say that. To recognize that. But then he balanced it out. “I still think it was a mistake, to hang around that café so much,” he said. And he talked some more about this scene and that. “You sure got it right, about your horse,” he said. “That’s exactly as I remember it. I remember how beaten down you were, and how I offered to buy you another horse. But you wouldn’t take it. I never could quite understand why.”

I was depressed, I said. I just needed to get out. I knew I couldn’t make it. That’s why I turned down your offer. He seemed to absorb that. And we talked a bit more. I wanted to mention Nicholas, to get his thoughts on that. I just didn’t get it done. And then he talked about Sam Johnson. Dad seemed to understand why Sam cut me off. And he approved of it. Sam had to cut me off, because I didn’t stay. OK, I said. Doesn’t make much sense to me, but if that’s how it had to be, then that’s how it had to be. And he talked about Sarah, too, and how I’d wronged her. He looks fondly on her as a daughter he lost. Respects her a lot. Yes. I said. I did. I did wrong her, very much so. I made that pretty clear, I think. Like I said, we’re all flawed. I certainly am. But I just tried to tell the story. That’s the only way to write a story. Tell it like it was. Be honest about who you were when you tell it. And who you are now.

Rosemary clattered into the kitchen, then, carrying a large tray. Food for our supper. “They’re out baling hay, so we won’t eat until later,” she told us. “So I brought your supper. Come to the table and eat.” Dad and I got up and walked to the kitchen. I sat down. He paused where Mom was sitting, a few feet away, napping. He spoke to her, some lighthearted question. “Every day, I try to say something that makes her smile,” he said. And then he stumped over to the little table and took his seat. This is a remarkable moment, I thought. Not that long ago, he wouldn’t sit with me at any table. He wouldn’t eat with me. Because he was shunning me. I had told him, back then. I’m not excommunicated. The Goshen Amish church where I left was more progressive. And I wasn’t excommunicated. Well, I was, but after I joined the Mennonite Church in Daviess, they lifted it. Made it like it never was. And I told Dad that. But he’d still shun me, he told me, because he felt like that was the right thing to do. And he did. Back then. For a lot of years.

But not now. I uncovered the dishes on the tray. Meat, chips, lettuce, freshly chopped tomatoes, and cheese. And dressing. A taco salad, I said. Dad pulled up his chair then, and we paused and bowed our heads. I wondered if he’d pray aloud. He used to, years back. And sure enough, he spoke it. The meal blessing prayer. In his cracked voice, with that old rhythm he always had. “Alle Augen worten auf Dich, oh Herr, denn Du gibst Ihn Ihre Speise zu Seiner Zeit…” I sat there and drank it in. He finished the prayer, and we took the food on our plates and ate. Just the two of us together, at that little table, in that little room in that little house.

After the meal, I sat with Dad in his office, and we just talked. He’s working on his own memoir, now. Two binders of notes were spread out beside his typewriter. Recently, he sent a few dozen pages of the first draft to all his children. So we could check it out. I liked it, I told him. I learned things I never knew before about you. Keep it up, keep writing. I want to read what you have to say. I liked it a lot. Don’t worry about the moral lessons, though, in your story. Just write it. Trust your readers. And respect them. If there’s lessons to be learned, they’ll pick those up on their own. You don’t need to tell them. He pondered that a bit. I’m not sure he quite grasped what I was trying to say, because he never wrote like that. Just the story. He pretty much always had an explicit lesson poked in there somewhere at the end. Because that’s how he wrote. We sat there, and I looked at him from across the desk as the sun slanted to the west. And I saw the moment, what it held, what it symbolized. I slipped my iPad from my briefcase and quietly snapped a picture.

And later that night, after I returned to my motel room and darkness closed in, I thought about it. The whole day. The time I’d spent with Dad. Especially our meal together at the little table. And hearing him pray that prayer, that was a special thing. It was a gift, all of it, every minute of this day. And at that moment, I saw it in my mind, as clearly as if I were standing back there, what was going on about now in the little house where my parents live.

Mom was in bed for the night. They’d tucked her in earlier. And Dad, well, Dad was doing what he does almost every evening. Sitting in his office, pounding away at his typewriter. Except these days, he shuts down early. He can’t stay up half the night. Not like he used to. He’s ninety-one years old. And he’s just too tired, he simply doesn’t have it in him anymore. And now, he was getting up to get ready for bed. He carried the lamp into the kitchen and set it on the table. Opened the bedroom door, so Mom could hear. And then he knelt there by a chair.

And in a cracked and faltering voice, still laced with remnants of the comforting rhythmic flow his children have always known and will always remember, he prayed that beautiful old high German evening prayer by heart. Beautiful, is what all those old formal German prayers are. Just breathtakingly beautiful. And he spoke it, the prayer for this evening. Thanking God for His love and the gift of salvation. Thanking God for all His blessings. Asking the Lord to lift His benevolent hand of protection over him and his family, those he loved. All alone now, he prays every morning as the day breaks. And every evening, after the sun has set.

Kneeling there, in the bleakness of his bare surroundings, he prays for all his family. He prays for Mom. For his children and his children’s children. Wherever they may be scattered on the whole earth. And the children still to come, he prays for them, too, the generations beyond. He prays for all of them in the only way he knows how. Just like he always has.

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(31 Comments) »

  1. Beautiful and so touching. So glad you had this wonderful time with your dad and your family. Old age does mellow us and that is a blessing. It is a time when we can look back and see the good and the not so good in our lives and how, in the end, it all worked out the way it was supposed to. God bless you.

    Comment by Rosanna — July 19, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

  2. Ira, if that isn’t one of the most beautiful things I have ever read, I don’t know what it would be. I don’t know German, but I can almost hear your father’s evening prayer.

    Comment by cynthia r chase — July 19, 2013 @ 8:00 pm

  3. Very heartwarming; so very happy you had that time with your Dad. Like you said, you always wonder how it could have been if they had softened up sooner.

    Comment by pizzalady — July 19, 2013 @ 8:01 pm

  4. This is your best blog entry ever. I wish I could think of something just right to say, but I can’t. It made me cry.

    Comment by Rhonda — July 19, 2013 @ 8:35 pm

  5. This is just perfect, Ira–the story and the telling of it.

    Except for the part where you drove within a mile of both my workplace and my house and didn’t stop in. You got me back for driving past Big Blue that one time.

    What a blessing that you and your Dad have lived long enough that you can just sit together as father and son.

    Comment by Kate H. — July 19, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

  6. Really enjoyed your blog tonight. It is wonderful that you and your dad had that one on one time.

    Marge

    Comment by Marge Nistler — July 19, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

  7. Thank you for a Friday night of pleasant reading and thank you for letting us look into the window of your life. You are very wise to see that we are all flawed. We cannot go back and change what was, so accepting the flaws and loving your father anyway and him loving you in spite of your flaws is precious. It is not possible to be perfect.

    Comment by Carol Ellmore — July 19, 2013 @ 9:41 pm

  8. Your post about your visit with your father was very moving. I was weeping as I read it.

    Comment by Laura Weaver — July 19, 2013 @ 9:43 pm

  9. Ira, I must agree with your other readers. This post has a magisterial dignity and silence in it that only God inspires. Your father taught you well and you are a faithful son. I’m glad your father lived long enough to see this day and that you drove all those miles to make it happen. Clearly you are writing another book here.

    Comment by Shirley Hershey Showalter — July 19, 2013 @ 10:49 pm

  10. Beautifully done, Ira. I wish you and your family well, always.

    Comment by Glywn Chase — July 20, 2013 @ 12:34 am

  11. Ever since I discovered your blog several years ago while searching for info about Elmo Stoll, I have wished for the opportunity to tell you that your father was one of my youthful heroes. He was an Amish man who did not allow the lack of formal education to stop him from developing skills he had been given. I read everything Pathway Publishers printed that I could. And cheered him on, and his colleagues.

    I had not been allowed to go to LMS or to EMC, although I had family ties to both. But in spite of that I pursued my own interest in teaching, researching through my own studies, while teaching four years at MMS in Lebanon Co and eventually through nearly 30 years of homeschooling my own nine children. Now I am privileged to be able to evaluate other homeschoolers across Central PA.

    I find it totally inspiring that your father’s writings preceded you to Europe. God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform. Every step in the reconciliation of you and your father continues the inspiration.

    P.S. I have to agree with your father that the Muensterites were Anabaptists in name only :)

    Comment by gjwitmer — July 20, 2013 @ 10:01 am

  12. Ira I have read your blogs about your trip to Europe and now about your visit to your father. What a beautiful, touching tribute to him. I am so glad you could have such a visit with him. It was good for both of you to be able to communicate with each other at the place you are now. Your riding with him in the buggy and being able to sit with him at the same table and pray the blessing together was truly a special gift. Thanks so much for sharing this.
    Mary

    Comment by Mary Maarsen — July 20, 2013 @ 10:21 am

  13. Beautiful, Ira. Such a loving and touching story, I’m so glad you had this wonderful one on one time with your dad. And the picture is priceless, a treasure. Thanks for sharing your life and feelings with us, your readers. I felt I was there watching quietly from backstage.

    Comment by Doris H — July 20, 2013 @ 11:15 am

  14. man you can write! keep people spellbound, on the end of their seat, over nothing, just a visit!

    Comment by bobmutch — July 20, 2013 @ 11:21 am

  15. Tears stung my eyes at “you mean our Ira?” You were right to ponder how your father must have felt in reading of himself as seen through your eyes. Even though it’s the “truth” as you understand it, it had to hurt him to his core. That makes his pride in you and acceptance of you now a true gift, and all the more poignant.

    I must tell you, however, that there is a Tim Horton’s on every corner here in “evil” western NY, and even some in PA. There are nearly 900 “Tim’s” now in the US. Had breakfast at one yesterday, in fact.

    Comment by Carol — July 20, 2013 @ 11:44 am

  16. Ira, our lives almost seem to be like each other in some ways. My father is 92 and is living in a personal care facility since March 2013, due to dementia from a head injury 2-years ago. We are at last actually having conversations together after years of just greeting each other and small talk. I use to wonder if Dad would just pass on to his real home with JESUS, with out us ever really talking, it just shows us that GOD has plans for us that we cannot understand at times until He is ready to have His plan put into motion. It is great that you have the writing skills to put your thoughts and feelings on paper. Take Care

    Comment by Warren — July 20, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

  17. What a blessing to connect with your father. My last year with Dad was the most precious time ever. We bonded and all our religious differences held no value whatsoever.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — July 20, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

  18. That part where your dad says he tries to do something to make your mom smile every day? That’s REAL Amish romance right there. Not like the stuff of kappa books. The prayer he prays on bended knee? A true love story. I’d wish the Lord would bless them both, and suspect He already has.

    Comment by Monica — July 20, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

  19. Ran across the link on Facebook. So glad I did. It reminds me of my relationship with my dad. He is 90 years old and has mellowed a lot, especially in the area of his Christian beliefs. One thing that happened recently came to mind. Dad had recently been hospitalized for CHF and we were about to eat the breakfast I had prepared for us when he said I could ask the blessing. I felt so blessed to do it. A big wall came crashing down that morning. Thanks for being open and honest and sharing with the world your story.

    Comment by Dorothy — July 20, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

  20. Ira, I look forward to your posts, to me they are additional chapters of your book. I really truly love your posts and how well you fill in the things I could never understand.

    So thankful that you had this very personal time with your dad. To God be the Glory for what He has done!

    Blessings on your future.
    Linda

    Comment by Linda Morris — July 20, 2013 @ 7:57 pm

  21. Thank you very much for your father’s beautiful meal blessing prayer: “The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.” (Psalm 145,15-17)

    Comment by Gisa — July 21, 2013 @ 6:35 am

  22. A very touching post. Beautifully written, you certainly have a gift. I look forward to the next book when you are ready to write it.

    Comment by Linda Ault — July 21, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

  23. I missed our road trip also:(

    I wept while I read this. I could hear him speaking and praying as I read -

    Comment by Janice — July 21, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

  24. Leroy Beachy, the author of the Amish history tour de force “Unser Leit”, might arguably be the world’s preeminent Amish historian (with an impressive personal collection as well). Such quibbling aside, I grew up reading your father’s (and Luthy’s) writings so it is always interesting to read your blog entries – this one especially so.

    Comment by Keith Yoder — July 21, 2013 @ 11:13 pm

  25. Ira,
    Too bad about the Charger. Better luck next time.

    Seems that your father is enjoying you. How wonderful that your mom knew you were there and her heart stirred enough to speak your name. What blessings.

    You wrote this piece so well. You write them all well, but this one was special. Maybe it was the circumstances and the depth. There was a lot of acceptance on your part regarding your father’s emotional limitations. And how cool that you stood your ground when some arrows flew-the contents of your book, Sarah. It appears the father and son are getting comfortable weaving in and out of each other’s realms.

    I envy you for your solo travel of solitude. The open road, a dependable mode of transportation, and a stack of CD’s. Sweet!

    Comment by francine — July 22, 2013 @ 1:23 am

  26. “And I saw the moment, what it held, what it symbolized.”

    You have a rare gift, Ira, for seeing the moments that slip by so quickly. The moment of your mother’s clarity, the moment your father tried to make her smile, the moment he beamed, the moment you (with great courage) asked him about the book. These are the moments that imbue your writing with life, life the way we experience it. These brief moments weigh more than hours of time passed and they should be captured and treasured. You do that so well and communicate those moments skillfully, in a way that causes me to reflect on my own.

    Comment by Eric — July 22, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

  27. Ira, thanks for writing that. For laboring over it, so we could feel it, hear it.

    Congratulations on going up to visit. I am astounded by the quiet grace shown there — that you ate together. The words of your appreciation for his writing, and in his own way, his appreciation for yours. And you ate together.

    What a picture of life: “We all want the blessing of our father.” I am astounded at the beauty, the tragedy; the pain, and the reconciliation; the need to get past our heated selves to something longer lasting. I know you don’t like moralizing, and, in fact, you say it so much better by telling the story with reflection and real honesty. Thanks, Ira. Thanks for writing.

    Comment by LeRoy Whitman — July 26, 2013 @ 4:30 pm

  28. Beautiful, beautiful post, Ira. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Comment by Erin — July 27, 2013 @ 7:01 pm

  29. What a poignant read! Thanks for sharing so wonderfully of your visit to your aging parents. You were given many gifts- heart to heart chats, eating at the same table and driving the horse and buggy to name a few.

    I’m way behind on commenting on your blog telling about your visit to Zurich but I need you to know you had me so engaged in your search for the FM plaque that I was ready to hop a plane to personally help you find it. What a relief it was when you finally did. You write to keep your readers reading. Then you thank us for doing so. No problem; I’ll keep reading.

    Comment by Ruthie — July 30, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

  30. Ira, we bought your book some time ago and after we had both read it, we decided to buy another copy for my husband Ron’s sister, Lois, in South Africa. We read your blogs ever since we became acquainted with your book and enjoy every one of them. However, the one about your visit to your dear old Dad was so touching and beautiful, that we would love to send a copy to Lois. Is that possible?

    Thank you for sharing your life with us to enjoy, to learn and to be blessed. You are a witness to what God wills to do in our lives if we let Him. By the way, we are both 80+! May God continue to bless your ministry!

    Comment by Lenora Marx — August 12, 2013 @ 11:52 am

  31. Ira: I found your account of visiting your aged parents very touching, and beautifully written too. May the Lord bless and keep you, your parents and your family.

    Comment by Bill Rushby — April 14, 2014 @ 3:29 pm

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