August 16, 2013

Look Homeward, Angel…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:53 pm

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They are all gone away,
The house is shut and still,
There is nothing more to say.

—Edwin Arlington Robinson
_______________________

I remember the breath and feel of that Saturday afternoon, thirteen years ago. Cool and cloudy, pretty much a normal March day. I remember it as a special day, unlike any I’ve seen before or since. Because Ellen and I were going to check out a house someone had offered us for sale, to see if it would be suitable for our first home.

We didn’t have a lot, back in those days. Not even the credit scores needed for a standard home loan. And this was back when credit was easy, compared to now. The thing was, August was coming right up, real soon. And the wedding date. We needed a place, a home to live in. I mentioned as much to one of my Amish clients one day, and he told me he had a house he’d sell us. It would be just what we needed, he thought. Not only that, he’d finance it for us, too. We were eager to see it. It would have to be pretty rough, not to suit us, we figured. And that afternoon we picked up the Amish man and took him over to check it out.

It was a nondescript house, really, right along the main drag on Rt. 23. Just a big square, hip-roofed, two-story building on a small slanted lot. With a big old block garage off to the north side. But we were excited. And we walked through the place eagerly. It was pretty basic; four rooms and a stairwell leading down to a dank basement. And a small enclosed porch on the north side, with a very tiny bathroom and shower stall on one end. The kitchen was fine, just like it was, Ellen thought. And sure, the house was old and a little battered here and there, but we could see a home in it. Just tear out and replace some ugly old shag carpet, and it would be all we could ever dream of. We told the man we’d take it.

It was big and solidly built of bricks, the kind of house you see all around the area here. With a great many very large dull windows in every wall. Good grief, why so many windows? I grumbled. Didn’t they have electricity back then? And these were old wood-framed windows, too, from all the way back to when the house was built in the late 1920s. Windows that would have to be replaced before too long. But you don’t think about things like that, not when you’re reaching out to grasp something you’ve never done before. We were young and eager, as any engaged couple would be. And we were impressed with the house. The upstairs was a rental unit, income to help pay the mortgage. Which left the downstairs for us. It was functional, and that’s about all it was. But we didn’t need fancy. All we wanted was a home to call our own.

The price was good in the free market, the terms were good as well. And within a few days, we signed an Agreement of Sale for the place. After the wedding, we’d transfer it to joint ownership, as husband and wife. I handed the man a check for $5,000.00, money that Ellen had carefully scrimped and saved. There was nothing even close to that much money in my account. I had wandered pretty much all my life. And believe me, from what I’ve seen, that old saying is right on. A rolling stone does not gather any moss. I can tell you that firsthand.

The closing date arrived, and we settled. The man signed over the deed and we signed the mortgage. And I took it off to the county courthouse, where such things are filed and recorded. That’s where the real estate records reflect countless tales of dreams born and later shattered. As our own record would show, soon enough. And one Saturday soon after that, a few of my redneck buddies helped me move in. And I lived here by myself. Ellen was over all the time, of course, and we scraped together some furnishings for the house, for when we would live in it together. A new pale green couch from a discount warehouse. An old table and some chairs, scrapped from an auction somewhere. Just your odd mixture of stuff to live with, stuff that makes a home. And after the wedding, she moved in. Here we were, set up in our own little home.

And the neighbors hovered with watchful eyes. We greeted them, got to know them a bit. And they told us. This old house had a pretty bad reputation, over a lot of years. Tenants drifted in and out, came and went. And things got rowdy, pretty often. Lots of yelling and cursing and fighting going on. It was not unusual, the neighbors claimed, to see cop cars on the place with lights flashing, just about any time of the night. And they told us another astonishing thing. One of the previous tenants had wired up one of the small bays in the old garage. Set off a little room, insulated it and lined it with plywood. And his Dad had lived out there. Right out there, in the garage. Pretty wild stuff, to walk into memories like that from your neighbors. We just listened and smiled. Calmingly, I think. That kind of rowdiness was over in this house, we felt. No way anything like that will ever happen while we live here. And the neighbors seemed pleased and welcomed us.

The house was old and in disrepair, but sturdy. Built from bricks, it had once stood grand and proud. But now, not so much. A lot of the mortar was missing, in the brick joints. Long strips, and little pocked places, here and there. There was plenty of empty space between the bricks in the walls of the house. And all those windows were just flat out worn out. A few were stuck, you couldn’t even open them properly. And they were all old and leaky.

But it was soon visible to anyone who knew the place before. This time it was different. Not because of me, because I was pretty comfortable with the way things were outside. I’m a guy. Hey, if the place is half cleaned up, I’m cool with it. Just as it is. I’m not in competition with anyone, to have the nicest place. I don’t understand that mindset. Being that laid back is generally not acceptable to a woman, though. And Ellen had a few ideas on how we could improve the place, make it look better. The unkempt row of raggedy shrubs on the west side of the front porch, those had to go. “I want to plant flowers there,” she said. Yes, dear. I borrowed a skid loader and a friend helped me rip out the shrubs one fine Saturday morning. And then the flowers needed planting. And over here, more beds to till and mulch. It all had to be mulched. I never was aggressive about such things, but I did what I was told. And after the flowers came a garden. A little sliver of land, right on the west side of the garage. Probably ten by twenty feet, if that. I rented a little Honda tiller and broke and tilled the soil. And she planted her seeds. And soon the earth blossomed and brought forth its bounty. Tomatoes, lettuce and all manner of other stuff. By the work of your hands and the sweat of your brow shall you eat. And we worked and ate the fruits of our labor. Those days were good. And the memories of them are good.

And we lived here, in this old house of formerly unsavory repute, for close to seven years together. Good years, some of them, and turbulent years, too, some of them, especially toward the end. I won’t go into a lot of detail about how it happened, how we slowly spiraled to destruction. Much of that story, all that needs told, I think, has already been written and posted on this blog. Let’s just say that two deeply hurting and flawed people could not see past each others’ wounds and flaws. And things just went the way they did. There isn’t a whole lot more to say, about all that. But from here, from where I am, still in this old house, I will say a few words about the aftermath.

I’m divorced. That fact alone makes my writings go down hard in a lot of places. Who can speak truth from a place like that? It’s simple enough, such reasoning. It’s a lockstep thing, that reaction. I’m divorced. The first in my family to reach that wretched milestone. Among the first in a long broad lineage of purest Amish blood. How can you possibly get to that point, from where I came from, without hearing the echoes from all those voices from way back? That’s how they told you it would go. And they may have been right. If you walk away from the safeguards you were taught, bad things will happen. And there’s a whole lot of judgment coming at you from certain quarters, when you do and it does. And a whole lot of scripture spouted on how it all is sin. But not a lot of talking, eye to eye. Not a lot of listening, either.

And while I’m at it, I might as well say this, too. Yep. It’s true. I walked away from a lot of the stuff I was told and taught. And yeah, things blew up on me, big time, here and there. But that doesn’t mean bondage is superior to freedom. It’s not. And it never was. Rattle those chains of the law all you want, and tell me how sweet it is to be imprisoned and safe. We all choose how we will live. And I choose to walk free. I will face the battles life throws at me. I will take some pretty heavy hits from those battles, now and then. That’s how life is when you really live it. I will show you the scars from those hits, those wounds, tell about them. I will walk on. And I will concede this much. I rarely, rarely have explicit moral lessons to talk about. Not from where I am. Once in a while, maybe, when I get enraged by spiritual bullying or some such thing, I might go off on a tangent, down that trail. But it’s rare. Mostly, I just try to tell the story.

And this is the story of a little stone angel. A little stamped concrete statue, mass- produced in China, or some such place where labor is cheap. I’m not quite sure how it all happened, the thought process that brought a stone angel to our house. It’s not like any stone statue could have that much meaning to me. Except maybe for this one. Maybe it meant more than I thought.

And it’s strange, when I look back at it now. Strange how we functioned in those final months before our parting, that heavy season of silent, almost unfathomable sorrow. We both knew what was coming. And it was a hard thing to face and walk through every day. But still, we got along. It’s not like you can ignore each other, when you see each other every day. When you live together in the same house. Things were tense and very sad, but you had to keep walking. And we did. Just kept living. And even laughing, some. And one Saturday afternoon in December (I think it was December, it could have been earlier), we decided to go to the Park City Mall to do some shopping. It probably was my idea to go. And she may have needed a few things, maybe some Christmas gifts, and probably some things to take with her when she left. That date was looming, coming right up in March. “Mind if I go with?” she asked. Of course not. Come on. We’ll go in my truck, I said. And off we went, together to the mall.

We wandered about, mostly window shopping, chatting amiably. And we drifted in and out of stores. I forget the name of the particular store where the angel was. It’s not there anymore, hasn’t been for years. A place where they had all kinds of odd and fascinating stuff. And I saw it, standing there on display. A stone angel, about three feet high. Looking into the distance, wings folded, tiny hands clasped in prayer. I stood there, just engrossed. And it stirred in me, shades of Thomas Wolfe, my hero. His famous first novel, and the stone angel in his father’s shop. Even his descriptive words applied, I thought, “…its stupid white face wore a smile of soft stone idiocy.”

And I pointed and walked up to it. Look at this angel, I told Ellen. Isn’t it beautiful? I think I want it. And she was more than agreeable. “If you want it, buy it,” she told me. I forget the exact price. A hundred and thirty bucks sticks in my mind. Not the kind of money you just throw out there for nothing. Let me think about it, I said. And we walked around the mall some more for a while, dodging downstairs to the food court to grab something to eat. And it kept pulling me back, that store. I’m going to go back and buy it, I told her. We walked back. And I bought my first ever angel with my Discover Card. I proudly carried it out to my truck.

And I brought my stone angel home. Right there, on the north edge of your garden, under the shrub tree, that’s where I’ll set it up, I told Ellen. And that’s what I did. Set up the statue under the branches of that tree, on a little concrete slab. And it fit, the setting of it all, I thought. We were beyond help, we both knew that. But now an angel was standing there, looking at our home. Lifting its tiny stone hands in prayer.

And our world blew up in a spectacular fiery crash, not long after that day. Just blew up into smithereens. And not long after that explosion, she left our home. And I hunkered down, all alone, in the house we had bought together and lived in together for seven years. I was too shell shocked, probably, to do much else. But I instinctively held on to what I knew I would not do. I would not leave my home. I would stay here. By myself, if that’s what it took. I hunkered down, didn’t talk to a lot of people. Just a few close friends, mostly people at work. And then, for the first time in my life, I did what I had never done before in any serious manner. I began to write.

I never told any of the neighbors what had happened. They had eyes, I figured, to see something drastic had come down. And from what they saw, they must have wondered if anyone lived in the house anymore. I disappeared early every morning. Got back home every evening around seven or so. My truck parked out back, that and the lights burning late into the night as I wrote and wrote, those were pretty much the only signs that the place was even inhabited. And it’s not that I couldn’t have told them, couldn’t have faced them. I just didn’t feel like it. And so I didn’t.

And that spring, Ellen’s little garden lay fallow. It never got it tilled or planted. The flower beds, too, all nicely mulched the year before, were simply ignored. Giant weeds sprouted everywhere and overwhelmed the flowers that had been planted. And again, it’s not that I couldn’t have taken care of things, made the place look good. It’s not that I wanted anything to look bad. It’s just that it all didn’t matter that much to me. I existed. Went to work every morning. From there, to the gym. And from the gym to home. A routine, focused cycle. That was me, at that time. And every night, I sat here at my computer, and the words poured forth in great torrents.

And that summer, the weeds grew wild and free in the garden. The shrub where the angel stood grew out too, extended its branches. And sometime during that summer, the angel just disappeared from sight. Under the embracing darkness of the branches of the shrub tree. And behind the weeds that grew wild. I looked now and then, but thought little of it. It’s not that I didn’t want to see my little stone angel friend. It’s just that I didn’t care enough to make it happen. And it languished there unseen, all that year, into the fall and winter.

A year passed. Then two. I kept on writing and writing. And just throwing my stuff out on this blog. Eventually, my voice calmed a great deal, and I settled in. Began to write about a whole lot of things. Stories from my childhood. This and that, from where I was. This was a new place in my life. And I walked it free. Spoke it as I saw it, whatever I wrote about. From where I was, and from my heart. And the angel remained standing there, completely obscured by branches and brambles and weeds, through all that time.

Looking back from where you are after you crossed it, a valley often seems a little deeper and a little more intimidating than it actually was, I think. I mean, sure it was tough, that road. No way I’d ever want to go back to that place. Not ever. And sure, it shook up a lot of things I thought I knew. But still, when you’re in a place like that, you do what you know in the moment. You plug along. You deal with all the crap, all the gripping pain. But mostly, you keep walking. And eventually you get through it. That’s what I can say, from where I am today, looking back.

And the Lord looked down upon me, and smiled. He really did. I kept on writing. And He blessed my efforts. First, with a large readership on this blog. And eventually, someone knew someone who knew and notified an agent. That agent, Chip McGregor, contacted me. I signed up. He took my stuff and shopped it around. And in all the publishing world, only one person out there nibbled. Carol Traver from Tyndale House. But she wanted a memoir. I’m not sure I can write it, I told them both. I’ve never done such a thing, but I’ll try, if that’s what you want. And things moved right along, and one evening Chip emailed me with the unbelievable news. He got me an offer for a book.

I took the offer, of course. Signed the contract they sent me. And soon enough, a nice little check arrived in the mail. A small down payment for the book. Half up front, half when it was done. I accepted the check gratefully. And I knew what needed to be done. The house. It needed new windows. Those had never been replaced. Every time a cold winter wind blew, you could feel the breeze inside from five feet away. But I wouldn’t do them all at once, I figured. That would take more money than the check was made out for. I’d do half the house first. The west and north sides. Upstairs and downstairs. I contacted an Amish contractor. And he came out, and gave me a quote. Decent price. Go ahead, I told him.

And his crew came out that summer. And for the first time since living here alone, I made improvements to my home. The neighbors stared. Ira was getting his house worked on. What’s the world coming to? Oh, well. His yard still looks pretty scraggly, though. And things didn’t change at all on the outside, on the grounds. The shrub tree by the shop still grew unchecked. And covered now with clogging vines. The weeds stood tall around the brush pile that had accumulated in what once was a rich and fertile little garden. And the stone angel stood with clasped and praying hands, completely out of sight.

Late that year, in 2010, I finished the manuscript. Well, I finished the raw mass of words that made up my manuscript. Pages and pages, with no chapter breaks, even, in much of it. The Tyndale people sorted it out from there. And the second check arrived. I had finished. And over that winter, I went back and forth with Susan Taylor, my editor, as she labored to fuse the book into what it is. And the next spring, I called the Amish contractor back. The windows on the south and east sides. I need those replaced. The man smiled and wrote up a quote. I signed it and gave him a check. And his crew came right on in and worked its magic. The neighbors stared some more at the new windows in my house. Now, when was he gonna do something about that yard? And the stone angel remained where it had stood since the day I bought it. Still out of sight.

And I got the yard thing taken care of, about the time I changed that last batch of windows. I was grumbling to one of my Amish friends about how I hate to mow, and he told me. “Check with your neighbor, a few places down. They have a couple of boys that might want to do it in their spare time.” And I stopped in where he told me to. Said what I needed. And the father and his sons were quite receptive. Yep. The boys would do it, they’d mow my yard once a week. We agreed on a price. And they did, pretty much, although once in a while in that first year, they let the grass slide. And it looked just like it did when I didn’t mow it. But in the last few years, they’ve been flawless. They keep it mown. They come once a week and do it. I pretty much keep up with my neighbors, when it comes to my yard.

And the book took off, and did what it did. From a writer’s perspective, you have to believe you got what it takes, to even throw your stuff out there to start with. But still, when it really does take off like that, it’s a little freaky. And humbling. And last year, some very nice checks came rolling in. I had to sit down when the first one arrived. And once again, I thought of my house.

The mortar between the bricks. That should be replaced. Around here, they call that re-pointing. It’s called tuck-pointing in other parts of the country. I knew it had to be done. And I knew it was an expensive process. From the labor involved, mostly. They have to grind out the old mortar, so the new mortar can be applied. It’s a dirty, grimy, endless job.

Being in the building trade, I had the contacts. I knew who to talk to. And I did. Called the guy, earlier this year. Hey, I’m heading out for Germany in the first half of May. I need a quote to get my house re-pointed. And I’d like it done when I’m gone. It was an Amish guy, of course. I’ve known him for years, he’s an Eagles fan. I always rib him about that. Thugs, the Eagles are, I tell him. And he claims a Jets fan got nothing to say about all that. And he stopped by and measured up the place, way earlier this year. They could do it for this price. And yes, they could do it while I was gone. I looked at the quote and recoiled a bit. Hard-earned money, just going out the window like that. It galled me. I grumbled to my Amish friend, the one who got me connected to get my yard mowed. It’s so expensive. Maybe I could just patch up the places that need it. He didn’t buy it for a second. “If you do that, the mortar will be a different color, and you’ll see that,” he told me. “If you do it, get it all done, and do it right.” I grumbled at his advice. But I knew he was right.

In the meantime, things were shaking on other fronts. In March, I rented the upstairs apartment to a new tenant. It had stood empty for more than two years. And it was in sad disrepair. The new tenant was “new” in a lot of ways. An older guy, separated from his wife after 27 years of marriage. I wrote about all that when it happened. And it didn’t take long, after he got here. The man was a restless fixer-upper. Something this place desperately needed. “Well,” he’d tell me. “I saw this needed painting, I saw where this screw was loose on the gutters on your house. I stopped by the hardware store and picked up a few things I needed. And I fixed it.” I gaped at him and marveled. And I told him. Bring me your receipts and keep track of your time. I’ll pay you for what you do.

So far, he’s the best tenant I’ve ever had, hands down. He’s honest, and he treats me right. He works with his hands to make the things around him more beautiful. And he always pays the rent on time, pays it early, even. And I don’t know if he even goes to church. I think not, but I never asked him. What am I going to say? He’s lived here in Lancaster County around “Christians” all his life. He knows them, he knows who they are, from how they live and how they treat him. And if he doesn’t go to church at his age, I figure he has his reasons. Maybe he’ll tell me about it some day.

And I told him, when I left for Germany. The crew will be here, to re-point the house while I’m gone. He seemed to think that was a very good plan indeed. And two weeks later, as my truck swept around the corner late that night, getting home, I saw it had been done. Even in the dark, the bright new mortar glinted in the headlights. The boys had done it. The next morning, I got up and walked out to look at my house in daylight. It was just beautiful, it looked new, almost. (I’d post a pic to prove my claim, except I don’t think it’s wise to post a picture of your house on a public blog like this.) The boys had done it right. And that afternoon, the tenant ambled out, and we stood on the front porch and talked. The house looks new. Now this old porch looks ratty, I told him. Do you have any contacts, know anyone who wouldn’t charge an arm and a leg to get it all repainted? He figured he knew someone. And a week or so later, he brought me a very reasonable quote. From friends of his, to paint my porch. Do it, I told him.

A few days later, we stood out on the back side of the house, where I park my truck, just talking. He said something about how nice it would be to get those flower beds cleaned up around the house. And mulched. He knew people who would do it for a reasonable price, he claimed. Sure, I said. And while they’re at it, I need to get the branches trimmed on this big old pine tree. They hang down so low, they scrape my truck every time I drive out. And this old brush pile, I said, pointing to where the garden used to be. It’s pretty ugly. I need someone to clean it all up. “It shouldn’t be a problem,” he replied. Get me some idea of what it’ll cost, I told him. And a few days later he came back with a quote so reasonable that I figured he’d done some arm twisting somewhere. Bring them on, I said. Get’em started any time. “They’ll be here Saturday,” he replied.

And the neighbors must have gaped some more, as his friends converged on the place. The painters came and power-washed the old paint on the porch. Then they left and came back and started painting. By hand. The floor a light gray. White pillars and railings. And the classic sky blue on the ceiling. They puttered about when they could fit it in, a few hours here, a few hours there. Which I didn’t mind at all. And the next Saturday morning, as I left to run some errands, two more of his buddies had parked their truck and trailer and were cleaning up the brush pile. I was in and out a few times. They plugged away. And I left that afternoon again, for a few hours. I returned later, around six or so. Pulled into my drive. And I looked out to the garage and just stared.

The brush pile had been removed completely. The weeds whacked down. The shrub tree had been trimmed back. All the crawly vines removed. And there in plain sight for the first time since Ellen left, the little white angel stood, exposed to all the world. It stood, wings folded, frozen in prayer. And it took my breath away.

I stood there and absorbed the setting. And a few minutes later, the tenant came strolling by. We stood around and talked, and I told him the story of the angel. What was going on back in those dark days when I bought it. How I had set it there, right where it stood. And how it had remained there, hidden, since almost the day I brought it home. Of all the things that you made happen here, this one is the most important, I told him. That angel symbolizes a lot of things. Believe me. A lot of things. And I told him something more. Thank you. Thank you for stepping in and getting this stuff done. You have been nothing but a blessing to me from the day you walked through my door. He smiled his quiet smile and beamed.

The stone angel stands now, looking to the south, lifting its tiny hands as if praying a shield of protection over my home. It stands there, right where I placed it when I bought it. Right where it has always stood for six years, covered by leaves and brambles and vines and weeds. For most of those years, you just couldn’t see it, because it was too much of a reminder of all that hard stuff from the past.

The thing is, I’m not sure when I ever would have dredged up the courage or the energy to uncover that angel, had the right person not showed up to nudge me through that door and get it done. And you see it, when it happens in real life, you see a path to freedom you could not find before on your own. It took a flawed man with a broken past, it took such a man to wander through and stop in for a while. And he didn’t even realize what all was going on, but he’s the one who made the little stone angel now stand as it was always meant to stand. In the open, and freely visible to all who pass by.

I’m just grateful that he showed up. And that he got here right on time.

Angel2

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(37 Comments) »

  1. This was SOOooo touching! Of course, I can relate to all of it. God be with you, Ira.

    Comment by Dee Dee Artman — August 16, 2013 @ 7:32 pm

  2. It is strange to look back on a marriage and wonder what went wrong. This is my second marriage, my first marriage went wrong because he couldn’t stay away from the ladies, and there were a lot of them. One day he just abandoned me and our three kids (one an infant) and I actually felt a sigh of relief. My second huband and I have had a lot of bumps in the road along the way, but we always smooth it out. He is my family and always has been, especially now the kids are grown. He plows a garden for me each year and I plant the seeds, and the best part is when I chatter he says, “unhuh.” in the right places. (even if he’s not listening) We have grown old together and that is perfect.

    Comment by Carol Ellmore — August 16, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

  3. I’m glad that you got through the pain of divorce, by the grace of God, I’m sure. You have been through much sadness; I’m glad that your tenant/friend uncovered the angel for you. She is beautiful.

    Comment by pizzalady — August 16, 2013 @ 8:12 pm

  4. I have read every blog you’ve ever posted, including those no longer available. This is your best one. I felt your healing with every home improvement. I hope your tenant is getting as much out of having you for a landlord as you’ve gotten by having him upstairs. Excellent post.

    Comment by Carol — August 16, 2013 @ 8:55 pm

  5. Awesome story! The angel was always there, you just couldn’t see it.

    Comment by Steve Zook — August 16, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

  6. I read your book and enjoyed it. Your blog has been interesting, but the last 2 or 3 posts you’ve just nailed it. Perfect. Keep going. We’re reading.

    Comment by Margret Raines — August 16, 2013 @ 9:36 pm

  7. You may well go down as the writer of our times, Ira. Your lamp shines brightly for all of us to follow.

    Comment by Jerry Eicher — August 16, 2013 @ 9:37 pm

  8. Ira, I don’t read much, but I sure do enjoy reading what you write. I just marvel how you can put your life’s journey in writing and share it with us. Thank you.

    Comment by Warren — August 16, 2013 @ 10:08 pm

  9. This story is sweet. You have healed and didn’t even realize it happened. You have reached the stage where you can talk about it. The angel has been hiding behind the brambles all these years praying for you.

    Comment by Alice Anderson — August 16, 2013 @ 10:12 pm

  10. I was deeply touched by your post. You are our wounded healer. God is with you and I am so pleased your angel has been uncovered. I can relate to being the only one in the family who is divorced. My first husband turned out to be a schizophrenic who heard voices telling him to kill me. I remarried eventually and now I am a widow. As you get older, it is interesting to look back and see God’s hand in your life.

    Comment by Rosanna — August 16, 2013 @ 10:12 pm

  11. Awesome Blog!
    I wept as I walked down memories’ lane with you!
    Proud to be your sister…
    Magdalena

    Comment by Magdalena — August 16, 2013 @ 10:24 pm

  12. Always look forward to Friday night to see if you have written for us. What an awesome story you have given us again! God has blessed you with your writing and you have blessed us by sharing it. Thank-you.

    Comment by vicki — August 16, 2013 @ 11:04 pm

  13. I also left the Amish many years ago. I have read your book and enjoyed it very much. In my family it was my mom that was strong Amish, my dad was the one living the lifestyle to please her. I’ve always wondered why there is almost always one that wants to hang onto that darkness. I enjoy your writing & blogs, keep up the good work.

    David Wagler

    Comment by David Wagler — August 17, 2013 @ 12:37 am

  14. If the comments are few on this piece, maybe it’s because it resounds on levels that most suffer but don’t speak. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Margaret — August 17, 2013 @ 5:39 am

  15. Two angels in this story: the one that looks southward with clasped hands and the one who takes it all in, with busy hands. An angel entertained unawares for a little while.

    Comment by cynthia r chase — August 17, 2013 @ 8:48 am

  16. I came downstairs this morning and found my wife in tears. “What’s wrong?!” I asked. “I’m reading Ira’s blog.” Way to go, dude. You made my wife cry.

    I agree with Jerry Eicher. You are the writer of our times.

    Comment by John Schmid — August 17, 2013 @ 9:23 am

  17. Oh! Now my wife wants to go to Lancaster and tour your house!

    Comment by John Schmid — August 17, 2013 @ 9:26 am

  18. I was reading and it was lovely, God is always there for you even though you can’t feel it… I love the Angels because when you feel alone, look and you realize God is there… I enjoy reading your writings, cheers for now from Australia.

    Comment by Jane Conlin — August 17, 2013 @ 9:28 am

  19. Beautiful!

    Comment by Evelyn — August 17, 2013 @ 11:35 am

  20. Deeply moving! What a gift to be able to unlock memories and weave them into stories written straight from the heart.

    Comment by Maryann — August 17, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

  21. Totally awesome writing…

    Comment by Geraldine B — August 17, 2013 @ 3:24 pm

  22. I can’t even think of enough good words to write.
    The divorce, the pain, all of that I went through.
    It is so unexplainable how one day you think, “Where did the pain go?”
    Thanks for this writing and God bless you as much as you have blessed me and pulled old hurts, that were hidden away, up to be dealt with.
    Linda

    Comment by Linda Morris — August 17, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

  23. Real tear jerker! You always have such a way with words! Love you!

    Comment by dorothy — August 17, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

  24. I, too, feel tears just reading your blogs and they are getting better and better; how that is possible, I don’t know. I think you are an author whose book is in blog form and we are lucky enough to read it for free! There is something ethereal and other-worldly in your writings and I hate to get to the end and wait 2 more weeks! The Angel reappeared at the exact moment she was meant to…when you and your angel-tenant became true friends instead of landlord-tenant. You are an inspiration to us all!

    Comment by Pam — August 18, 2013 @ 1:25 am

  25. What is left to say? It brought tears to my eyes too. Yes, the angel was there for you all along waiting for the right time to appear again. I have angels too in my yard and home and with me. Thanks for the story.

    Comment by Linda Ault — August 18, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

  26. For whatever reason, I haven’t read many of your blogs but when I do, I thoroughly enjoy them. You truly have a gift of expressing your heart & soul & do it in such a way that is real & encouraging & healing. Beautifully written. Very cool how God blessed you w/your 2 angels – one is an expression of the God’s protective hand over your life & the other, an encouragement (in the flesh) to keep you moving forward. God bless you.

    Comment by linda taylor — August 18, 2013 @ 3:45 pm

  27. can’t write much because the stupid screen is all blurry. might have to get this computer or my eyes fixed, one.

    Comment by RAM — August 18, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

  28. So I checked out a Thomas Wolfe novel from local library (not to be confused with Tom Wolfe). Here’s hoping he’s a keeper!

    Comment by Mary Jane — August 19, 2013 @ 12:47 am

  29. I, for one, am glad that you “rarely have explicit moral lessons to talk about.” Your writings have inherent depth and so such things are unneeded. Besides, I wouldn’t want them distracting me from the beauty and simplicity of your stories. Or from the places my mind wanders to after reading them.

    Comment by Eric — August 19, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

  30. Often times, your writing causes me to weep. This is just one of those times. I’ve experienced similar defeats in my own life, and my brain took the opportunity to create its own sybolism of your story. I thank you more times than you know. Best Wishes….

    Comment by Maggie Newman — August 20, 2013 @ 7:50 am

  31. Kept me reading as usual, lovit like Lyle, but I was wondering now that the place is looking so good how much did you raise the rent on your buddy? JUST KIDDING.

    Comment by Johnny Wood — August 20, 2013 @ 7:36 pm

  32. It begins:
    “And when you ran to me
    Your cheeks flushed with the night
    We walked on frosted fields of
    juniper and lamplight,
    I held your hand.
    …Oh how, I love you.”
    Simon & Garfunkel-“For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her”

    It ends:
    “Like a poem poorly written
    We are verses out of rhythm
    Couplets out of rhyme,
    In syncopated time
    And the dangling conversation
    And the superficial sighs,
    Are the borders of our lives.”
    Simon & Garfunkel- “The Dangling Conversation”

    This story was hard to read at some points. Two fresh faced individuals on the cusp of becoming one. A young man, a young woman starting life together with a basket bursting with dreams. Maybe for children, maybe grandchildren. Forever, together, in love.

    When does it happen? The hair-line fracture in the tender foundation? The minute occurrences that scrape and scythe and bloody the vulnerable hearts of flesh, almost unnoticed, except for the slight discomfort that hides somewhere where nobody will dare to go. Does it begin with things not talked about that should have been? Unrealistic expectations? An empty hole that the other was supposed to fill, but failed at? Maybe it’s the incessant lie that there’s something or someone better someplace else? There’s a problem with that one; you take yourself with you wherever you go.

    Life is a brutal teacher. It just is. There is sorrow and heartbreak and busted up dreams. Disappointments galore. And it changes you whether you like it or not. Yes, God is there, but sometimes you just can’t feel Him. You beg for Him to show His face, but He doesn’t. Why? I don’t know. He just doesn’t. Enough of my morbid yet truthful meditations.

    “We didn’t have a lot back in those days.” I know the feeling. For the first couple of years our kitchen table consisted of two warped card tables butted up against each other, with a hole in the center of each. Eric’s brother-in-law, who gave us the “tables” customized them to hold patio umbrellas. Somehow I don’t think it worked out well.

    Our first home was located a top a strip mall, more specifically, above Domino’s Pizza. It was located where Dingy and Dirty intersected. Actually, the apt. was mine then after we married we cohabited. What memories!

    Twice a week, at 4:00am… sharp, the garbage man came for his rat infested dumpster which was on the end of the building where I resided. After taping a note of shameful pleading to please stop coming so early ’cause I have to get up for work and make a grimy trip into Newark where there is so much traffic and polluted air and I have to pay to park my now dinged and nicked car and I can’t believe I have to pay $8 bucks a day to turn my car over to some goon who doesn’t give a rip about me, my car, or my life! The man took mercy and started collecting the garbage a little later…for a month or two.

    Then there was the underground parking garage at the strip mall where I parked my car and ran upstairs, as fast as I could, should any evil overtake me in the unseen pit down under. Everything is either built up or down in Jersey. There is no available horizontal space what-so-ever. Anybody who wanted to do immoral, illegal, or naughty deeds would congregate down under and have at it.

    The most comical part of my neighborhood adventures involves a young Spanish speaking guy whos face I never saw, but whos voice I will never forget. At least once a week, always in the evening, this young man would yell out for his buddy, who I swear was two blocks down the street with ear plugs in so as not to hear his friend calling him. “Julioooo! Juliooooo!” We still get a kick out of it.

    Well, I’m off on a tangent again. Sometimes it happens. Yeah, it happens a lot.

    Have you ever thought of placing a few pots of mums by the angel? Mums and pumpkins! Oh, yeah!

    Comment by Francine — August 22, 2013 @ 2:06 am

  33. A fragrant potpourri, infused with tender undertones of sadness, and highlights of sweet hope, and glad light.

    Comment by Rhonda — August 22, 2013 @ 8:31 pm

  34. Since I woke up after an hour and couldn’t get back to sleep tonight, I decided to check in and see what you have been doing, thinking, and writing. Thank you, Ira, for this lovely piece–so honest and so encouraging. I also thank the Lord for you, your gift of writing, and your allowing us to hear your voice, feel your pain, and rejoice in your perseverance and hope. “Life is hard,” says Scott Peck, but we believe that God provides means of grace, whether they be flesh and blood or a stone-carved symbol of hope. I will look for your angel the next time I pass your place. Aus liebe. Rich

    Comment by Rich Stevick — August 23, 2013 @ 12:29 am

  35. Today so many people enter into many marriages and divorce with what seems total abandonment.
    Enjoyed reading about your inch by inch healing and tender care of your home. :-)

    Comment by Martha Staton — September 1, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

  36. Thank you for your story. Can’t help but wonder what that angel weighed that you carried out to your truck (whew, wiping brow). A/the Virgin Mary lies hidden near a tree in my back yard…a freebie I agreed to take before I knew how heavy she was. My strong neighbor man carried it/her from my truck to my yard, claiming she was more than a hundred and fifty pounds, and left her sideways on the ground, because standing she might be a danger to a child or pet that cause her to tilt and fall if left upright. Four years later I think about her there, waiting for her place.

    Your story helps me to think of my own, I appreciate that you find the words that I hope to someday. Think I’ll look up Thomas Wolfe, and I might copy (I write notes to self on index cards) what you had to say about climbing through a valley. And I’d like to borrow that tenant of yours.

    Sincerely, Claire, from western Washington

    If you are reading this it meant I finally figured out that captcha code thing…not so technically savvy am I.

    Comment by Claire — September 9, 2013 @ 1:52 pm

  37. Finally!! Whew (wiping brow).

    Comment by Claire — September 9, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

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