November 7, 2014

At Dusk in Winter…

Category: News — Ira @ 5:35 pm


To lose the earth you know, for greater knowing;
to lose the life you have, for greater life; to
leave the friends you loved, for greater loving;
to find a land more kind than home, more large
than earth—-

—Thomas Wolfe

We almost lost him, back last summer, when I was on that road trip. From that serious infection he got in his leg, right after Abby’s funeral. And just that close, he was gone. But the doctors managed to bring him back, calm down the raging infection. And within a week or so, he was released. He gained some strength back. And they went up to see him, many of my siblings, from wherever they lived all around this country. And always, the question came dribbling back. Mixed with scolding, from my sisters. When is Ira coming? Ira, you need to go see your Dad. And that’s why I hit the road last weekend for Aylmer, to go and visit my father.

I had to go, at some point, I knew. And I wanted to go, too. But still, it was easy to kind of push it off, push it back. He’s improved, in his health, since July. When he got out of the hospital, he was totally bedridden. He couldn’t get up, or walk. He could barely sit up in bed. And then he had a stroke, to top it all off. That almost did him in. But he survived. And that close, I went up to see him, back when all that was coming down. But as each day passed, the news came. He’s getting stronger. He’s going home. And it wasn’t really something I wanted to see, my father as helpless as a baby.

My brother Steve stopped by to see him, when he was helpless like that. And it shook him up a bit. He told me, when he got back. “He’s weak. I fed him. Fed him with a spoon. It’s a pretty shocking thing, to see your Dad in such a state as that. It’s a shocking thing, to feed your father with a spoon.” And I couldn’t imagine what that would have been like, to do that. That’s why I shrank from going up, right then.

I figured to make it up there, maybe in late September. But that month just swept right by, what with Beach Week and all. And then I said, October. And that month slipped right by, too. And Dad kept right on improving, from what I heard. Well, improving from where he’d been. Still, he was real weak, they said. It was all he could do to make a loop around the house, with a walker. But still, that was a lot better than lying flat on your back, in bed, all the time. And getting spoon-fed by your children and grandchildren.

The nice Enterprise man let me down a bit, when I stopped by to pick up my car, on Thursday after work. “No Charger on the lot,” he told me when I asked. All right, then, I said. I’ll just take the car I reserved. He went out and brought up a little white Ford Focus. Good grief, that’s a tiny thing, I thought. The car would surprise me very nicely on the road, though. It had plenty of zip, and to my amazement, plenty of head room for a guy like me. I’ll hand it to the Enterprise guy behind the counter in the New Holland office. He’s pretty smooth. He always slips it in, when we’re out there, and he’s handing over the keys. “We have some very good insurance options, here,” he always just kind of slides it in. I always laugh and tell him he’s good. But nah, I got insurance from my truck. It transfers over. He shrugs and looks sheepish. And he always does the same thing the next time.

I hit the road the next morning around eight. Like I said, the little car had some kick. It’s always a struggle, for me, to figure out two things on a new rental car. The radio, and the cruise control. The radio panel looks like the control panel of a rocket ship. No dials, all buttons. I punched and poked around, trying to figure out how it all worked. And the cruise control took about fifty miles to figure out. Yeah, I guess I could just have looked at the instruction book in the glove box. But I never do that. I figure it out on my own, or I don’t, right while I’m driving.

It’s a long old drag, up there to Aylmer. Right at nine hours, usually. Depends on how long you get held up at the border. And I thought about it, as the Focus slipped along. I was going to see Dad. He was in way better shape than he had been, a few weeks back. Every day, he takes a few turns around the house with his walker. So he had improved, some. And I thought, how do you look at it all? How do you deal with it, what your father was or was not to you? Who actually speaks honestly of such a thing, at such a time as this? When it’s dusk in winter, like this? How do you look back? What do you hold on to and what do you let go? Because it’s a pretty heavy thing to speak of, if you’re honest. It’s a pretty heavy thing.

My father was a giant among his people. A man with a vision, striding through life, proclaiming his message of righteousness as he saw it. Boldly, he went where no one had ever gone before, from his people. A giant on the land. The thing about giants, though, is that they leave a lot of damage behind them, as they’re striding along, proclaiming their visions. That’s just how it works, with giants. And my father left a lot of damage in his wake. A lot of wounds, buried in the dust and rubble, back there. The wounds of his family. His wife. And the wounds of all his children.

What do you say at the dusk of your father’s life, looking back? I wasn’t sure. But I was heading up to see the man whose blessing I have craved more than any other’s. And I thought of the times I had approached him, asking for a blessing. Over and over, throughout the years. Especially that one time, only a few years after I left. And how he had turned away, cold. Come home, and be the person you should be, and then I’ll bless you. Not his exact words. But still, his answer. I thought of how devastated I had been, over and over. And how I had finally given up. Given up, asking.

Through upstate New York the little Focus zipped, then, approaching Buffalo. Then, the border. I’ve never had that many problems with Canadian border guards. They always seem pretty cool. But what with those false flag “terrorist” attacks they just had up there, I didn’t know. They might be a little jittery, I figured. The guy was courteous enough. Nope, I got nothing to declare, I said. I have a few books along, to give as gifts. I always take a dozen copies of my book with me when I travel. “What’s the value of those books?” he asked. Ah, come on, I thought. Next thing, I’ll have to show them to you. Oh, well, if he made me show him, I might be able to bribe him with a copy. Oh, a hundred dollars’ worth, or so, I said. He waved me through, and I never got a chance to tell him I wrote a book. Which was all just fine by me.

The second I crossed into Canada, here came the rain. Seems like it’s always dreary when I get up here, I thought. I drove along, and the rain came down, intermittently. And by late afternoon, I was pulling into the Comfort Inn, in St. Thomas. I checked in. The place is getting downright familiar. It’s where we all stayed last April, for Mom’s funeral. I dropped my bag in the room, and made sure I had a connection with my iPad, on the internet. Then I headed out, for my sister Rosemary’s place. Drove right down the main drag of Old Aylmer. The main road, where all the important people lived, way back. And it was strange, driving along. The landscape, all of it, barely registers as the place of my childhood, anymore.

Rosemary’s husband, Joe Gascho, was working outside in the rain when I pulled in. He walked over, smiling, and greeted me. He was surprised. Didn’t you get the message that I’m coming? I asked. He shook his head. “No one told us, but that’s alright.” Edna came strolling by about right then. And they told me. Rosemary was up in Maine, visiting her daughter, Laura, and her husband, Raymond Eicher and their family. A van load of people had gone up for the week. She would be home late the next day. Well. I was a little perturbed. But it was what it was. And I asked. Is it OK if I stop in and see Dad, yet, tonight? Or doesn’t he take company this late? “No, that should be alright,” Joe told me. “He’s staying over at Simons.” I chatted a bit more, than headed over to Simon’s home on the southwest edge of the Aylmer settlement.

I pulled into the long drive that led back to my nephew Simon Gascho’s farm. He’s Joe and Rosemary’s oldest son. He and his wife, Kathleen, have a nice large family. And a house that isn’t all that big, either. But somehow, they offered to take Dad in for a while. He had been staying over at the home of my niece, Eunice, and her husband, David Swartzentruber. Over at the east end. And they kept him, when he was all helpless. Lying there in bed. For a few months, they did. And then Simon took some of that pressure off. He asked Dad if he’d like to come and stay with his family. This kind of thing doesn’t happen much, in today’s world, outside the Amish. There’s no question that you’ll be cared for. And you have people asking you to come stay with them in their home, when you can offer nothing. Nothing but continuous and daily care. And still, they’ll ask you. Come stay with us.

I parked the car on the gravel drive. A dog barked savagely as I got out of the car. Over by the house, little children hovered, whispering to each other. I got out. Ah, calm down, I said to the dog. And I asked the children. Is your Dad home? I’m here to see my Dad. They fluttered into the house. And by the time I got to the inner door, Kathleen met me, smiling. I’m Ira, I said. I’m here to see Dad. Didn’t you get the message?

They had not gotten the message. But she welcomed me in. I walked into the kitchen. And over around the left, there was the room Dad was staying in. I walked in. And there he sat, on a wheelchair. Dad. On a wheelchair, his legs stretched out, on the leg rests. An old man, a shrunken man, a weak man, with a tired and broken face. I walked up to him. He peered at me. Dad, I said. I reached out my hand. He smiled. And he took my hand. “Ira,” he said. “Is that you?”

Yes. It’s me, I said. I thought I had sent a message, that I was coming. He welcomed me joyfully. And I pulled up a chair, and we sat there and talked. Me and Dad.

He’s been doing pretty well, he told me when I asked. They moved him over here from Eunice’s place, just this week. And he got to telling me, all of what he had going on. He was all busy, writing. The second volume of his memoirs, that was just published this past week. “My Stretch in the Service.” And no, he didn’t have a hard copy to give me. He didn’t have any, yet. But he’d send me one. And we talked. Are you typing again? I asked. “Oh, yes,” he said, proudly. Can you show me? I asked. And he pulled his wheelchair right up into the table. Set his fingers on the typewriter. And he typed it out. Slowly, it was a far cry from all that frantic typing I heard, growing up as a child. But he did it. Proudly pulled out the paper, and showed me. “Ira is here and asking me to type.” Not an exact quote, there. But he wrote something like that. Lucidly.

Dad typing

I was pretty impressed, and I told him so. We sat there, and talked. He filled me in, about how he had just moved over here to Simon’s home. Over Thanksgiving, he told me, was when they asked him. Canada’s Thanksgiving was way last month. The family gathered, over where he was staying, at Eunice’s house. And Simon asked him. Would you consider coming over to our house for a while? David and Eunice are going to need to get ready to have church, in their home. You could come and stay with us, over that time. And the big question from Dad was this. “Did they ask you to ask me?” “No, no,” Simon said. “We just thought we’d ask you on our own, to come, and stay a while.” That was a big deal, to Dad, right there, that no one asked him to leave from where he was.

Kathleen asked me to stay for supper. Sure, I said, if you have enough to go around. “It won’t take much, to make more soup for one more person,” she said, smiling. So I agreed. And soon Simon came in, from doing his chores. I thought I had sent a message, I told him, just like I had told all the others. Apparently it didn’t get through. I’m sorry. It was no problem with anyone, though. They were just glad to see me. Dad beamed and beamed and smiled.

The table was set, and they made room for me. Dad was trundled in, on his wheelchair, at the end of the table. I sat beside Simon and his children. After silent prayer, the soup was passed around. I ladled out a full plate full. And it was all good. We sat there, and ate and talked. After supper was over, I sat with Dad again, back in his little space. We talked. And I told him. I’ll come back around tomorrow, probably in the afternoon.

The next morning dawned, and it was a different feel, in the wind. November. I walked out to my car, to drive out to the family. And I haven’t felt it that strong, not since I was fifteen years old. The feel and smell of the fall. The November winds were blowing in, pretty hard, from the northwest. And I felt it, what I felt in the cornfields, as a young man. We husked corn by hand, in a wind such as this. We smelled the fall, the winter coming in. It took me back, that morning, and those winds.

And the day just came at me, and I walked into it. First, it was out to the Gascho farm. My niece, Edna, opened a little bakery, there, earlier this year. After she waded through unbelievable amounts of red tape. It’s a beautiful little place, just south of the house, with a retail store on the front. Country Flavour-Rites, it’s called. There’s a nice big sign out by the road. She’s open on Fridays and Saturdays, only. I mean, a little bakery, right out there in the country. And she’s making it work. Her first-year sales exceeded her business plan by a good bit. I got there, and she proudly showed me around. In the back, where they do the baking, it’s all set up with commercial equipment, and a big multi-level baking stove. And the stuff she sells up front, well, it’s mouth-watering, all of it. And not that healthy for you, I’m sure. She’s got the old Wagler entrepreneurial spirit, that’s what she has. I hung around for an hour or so. A steady stream of customers came and went.

On over east, then, to Eunice’s home. She smiled and smiled in welcome. They had heard that I was around, the night before, at the school meeting. I’m telling you, word gets around, in an Amish community, simply by word of mouth. Nothing goes on, that doesn’t get told. It’s pretty interesting, that little fact. I sat and drank coffee. They were doing the Saturday cleaning. The men trickled in, too, from the work outside. Eunice invited me to come back for dinner (lunch), and I agreed. Now, for a little run around the community.

For the noon meal, we all sat around a large table. It was quite a table full of people. We ate and laughed and talked and chattered. Just caught up. I left, then, to drive around a bit. Simon had told me. After dinner, Dad always takes a little nap. He usually gets up around 2:00 or 2:30. I still had some time. So I headed over to town, and walked into the little flower shop on the west side of the square. The place smelled just as lovely as I’d remembered. I want a single red rose, I told the nice lady. She smiled and wrapped it for me. I paid her, and headed out to visit Mom.

It was cold and cloudy, that day. But the rain had stopped. I climbed over the wooden fence and walked to where Mom now lives. The soft earth that had been piled above her was flattened out, now. It was wet and cold and hard. I stooped, and placed the rose on the ground. I didn’t speak to her. Just stood there with my back hunched to the bitter northwest November winds. And remembered how it was that day when we brought her to this place.

It was shortly after 2:00 when I pulled in to the place where Dad was. The dog barked savagely at me again. Ah, shut up, dog, I said good-naturedly. I walked in. Dad had just gotten up. He was sitting at his desk, typing. And I sat there on a chair beside him. And for the next three hours, we just sat and talked, me and my father.

They had told me. He tends to repeat himself, circle back to the same old stories. He must have been well-rested that day, because he didn’t do much of that at all. And we talked about a lot of things. The stuff he had seen, in his lifetime. His writing. “I have to stay busy, doing something,” he said. “I’m sure thankful that I can write, yet.” The second book was just published. He’s about halfway through the third book. That’s when he moved his family up to Aylmer. I sure hope he gets that book done. He has every intention of doing so, of course. But he told me. “I’m ninety-three. My time won’t be long, here.” Yes, I said. Just keep right on writing, for as long as you can.

We talked about what it was, to care for him. Make sure you appreciate the family you’re staying with, I said. There’s a lot of time and effort, every day, to care for you. He looked off into the distance. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I know that.”

We talked about a lot of other things, too, most of which will stay between me and him. But I brought it up, there toward the end. I had heard. He kept telling others. He had some issues with my book. I can’t understand why Ira treated me like that. And I asked him. What hurt you in the book? He smiled a little shyly, and tried to change the subject. But I persisted. I want to talk about it. Tell me.

And he told me, and his issues will stay between me and him, too. But I told him. I was just trying to tell the story honestly. No one’s perfect. We’re all flawed. And I asked him. Who in the book did I treat the worst? He didn’t say anything. It was myself, I said. I treated myself the worst of anyone. I took the blame, for all the wrong I did. I don’t know if he understood what I was saying, or if he’d ever considered that point of view. But he seemed to accept it.

I had thought about it, the night before. Something was different about the way he looked. And that afternoon, it came to me. He was on a wheelchair. And he was dressed in some kind of pajama bottom, with a regular shirt. And he wasn’t wearing galluses. I had never, never seen my father like that before. Not wearing galluses. Small little point there, I know. But still, it seemed so odd to me. That’s what age brings, I guess, to a man like my father. All his life, he’d judge you, if you weren’t wearing galluses. Now, he’s too old to care.

And I asked him. Have you been to visit Mom, yet? He shook his head. “She’s not here, anymore,” he said simply. I know, but someone needs to take you to visit her, I said. And he agreed. We talked about the tombstone, too. It’ll be set up next spring, he thought. “I want it to be made of something that will last,” he said. “Something that won’t just fade in a few years.” Yes, I said. That’s a good idea. Make sure you get something of good quality.

Simon and Kathleen fixed a little snack for coffee break. We all sat around the table, drinking coffee and eating cookies. That was about the only time I got any real visiting done with Simon. And he told me. He had gone to Solomon Herrfort’s funeral, last year when he died. I was all interested in that. Sollie lived in a real poor community in Hillsboro, Wisconsin. He was a known oddity there, too. Simon claimed the man would never ride in any vehicle, not even in a buggy. He walked everywhere, didn’t matter how far it was. And when he got old and too weak to get anywhere, they hired a driver to take him to his other son’s home, to stay a while. When they got there, Sollie realized he had forgotten something, back at the house he had just moved from. Maybe his wallet, I don’t know. And the man turned and walked the five miles back to where he had just come from, to fetch what he had forgotten. You can’t make up a story like that.

I visited with Dad a while, then. He was all excited. The next day, Sunday, they were having Big Church over in the district where Eunice lives. And Simon was taking Dad over, after lunch. So he could participate in communion. Yes, that’s great, I said. I’m glad you can go. It was time to head on, soon. And Simon told me. I was welcome to stop by tomorrow morning, on the way out. To just see Dad for a few minutes, and drink some coffee. I’ll do that, I said.

Rosemary was getting back home late that afternoon, so I planned to head over there for supper. And that’s where I went. She had just arrived. An eighteen hour trip, that’s how long it takes to get to northeastern Maine from Aylmer. And back from Maine. You must be real tired, I told her as we hugged. She would have none of that. “Come in, come in, so we can visit,” she said. And I sat there on the couch as she flitted about, unpacking and making supper. It’s a welcome place, her house. And after a fine meal, we just sat around and visited. They don’t get all my blogs, she told me when I asked. Just one here and there. They got the one about Mom, of course. And the one about Abby. And she asked if I could send her the one about Uncle Ezra, from last spring. She had heard that one of Ezra’s children had made a comment about it to someone. “Ira didn’t quite get everything told right.” I gaped. How in the world did those people ever get hold of my blog? I asked. They’re hard core plain. How in the world would they even find out about it? “I don’t know,” Rosemary said. “I guess someone gave them a copy. You could think that someone would.” I was pretty stunned. Sure, I’ll mail you a copy when I get home, I told her.

And I got scolded a little bit, too, sitting there. I wrote something that wasn’t true, in the blog about Mom’s funeral. Edna made sure to track me down for that. Good-naturedly, of course. I wrote that there had never been any graveside singing in Aylmer before they sang for Mom, that day. That wasn’t true. It had happened before, at least twice. Right here, in Aylmer. Oh, my, I said, trying to look ashamed. I didn’t know. I try to be as accurate as I can, in my writings. I’ll make that right, with my readers. So that’s what I’m doing right here.

The next morning, I stopped by to see Dad again, as I was heading out. He was all excited about going to church that afternoon. We sat and visited, there in his room. Simon brought me a cup of coffee, and some tarts from Edna’s bakery. Dad and I just chatted. “Do you want a copy of my book?” He asked, almost shyly. “I’ll sign it for you.” He had already mailed me a signed copy, back when it came out. But I didn’t let on. Of course, of course I want a signed copy, I said. I would be very honored. He showed me where they were, and I dug out a copy. He picked up a pen with his stiff and gnarled fingers and laboriously scrawled his name. And a little Bible verse in German. I thanked him sincerely. And after half an hour or so, I made noises to leave. I’m going now, I said. “Well, thanks for coming,” he told me. We shook hands. “Come back and see me again,” he told me. I will, I said. And then I left him.

And I thought things over, as I headed for home. My father is in the winter of his life. And he’s at the dusk of that winter. I look at where he is, and where all he’s been, in his life. And I don’t ever want to get to where he is right now. I don’t ever want to reach the shrouded, foggy fields of that dusk in winter. I hope the Lord calls me home, long before I ever reach those fields. And I think He will. I’ve always felt it, sensed it, deep down. I will never grow old. Got no rhyme or reason to believe that, except I’ve lived a pretty hard and intense life. I’ve seen things, felt things. I have absorbed the savage tides of life, all the way, inside. There is a cost for all that, I think. It wears the body down. Whatever. I don’t want to be clinging to life, not when there’s no one there to care for me. I don’t want to live until I’m a hundred years old. Or anywhere close to that. I want to be gone. I want to be called home to a better place.

It all is what it is, I guess. For all of us. We’ll stay, until we are called home. Because life is a rare and precious and beautiful thing. And that means all of life. It was for Mom, right up to her lingering last days, and those final brutal hours. Maybe those weren’t beautiful, at least not from where we are, or how we see it. But still. Those last brutal hours were life.

And life is a rare and beautiful thing for my father, too, I think, as dusk settles and the darkness closes in around him.



  1. This post was very timely for me. Tomorrow morning I’m flying across the country to visit my dad. Like you, I’ve taken a very different path in my life than what my father did and it has resulted in a very strained relationship. Up until now I dealt with it by having minimal contact with him. Any attempt to talk about things ended up badly. But now he is faced with a health issue that will probably involve a long deterioration of his ability to take care of himself. So I’m not sure what to expect, but I want handle it properly – but I’m not sure what that looks like. Your post has given me the courage to try to make sure that at the least, we can have a good visit. Thanks for writing this today.

    Comment by Steve — November 7, 2014 @ 6:23 pm

  2. I’m a fairly new reader of your blog, signing on after reading your book. I just want to say an excellent and interesting review of your visit with your father. I hope his last days are peaceful. I’m not too many years behind him . One of my favorite quotes is “You know you’re growing old when the road ahead is shorter than the road behind.”

    Comment by Marygail Tucker Vilmann — November 7, 2014 @ 6:43 pm

  3. Dear Ira, Thank you for sharing your heart so beautifully.

    Comment by Shirley — November 7, 2014 @ 6:59 pm

  4. Greetings! If your dad can be halfway through volume three of his autobiography it would seem reasonable that you would soon be finished with your next book. Waiting expectantly. Thanks for your writing about your adventures for us. They are greatly appreciated and thought provoking. Press on!


    Comment by Jim Eshelman — November 7, 2014 @ 7:37 pm

  5. Ira, I enjoyed reading your blog. Brought back a lot of memories. It felt as if I was there my self. I can still picture how things look, I like what you said about the main drag. Every time I go thru there, I think about the people who ran the church.

    Comment by Mark Hostetler — November 7, 2014 @ 9:01 pm

  6. That was a great quote from Thomas Wolfe. Gives us hope. Yes, it is difficult seeing our parents age and become as children again. God has His reasons and we won’t really know what they are until we get to Heaven. I was my mother’s care giver and it made me understand her better. When our parents age, we realize they were only human and made mistakes, just as we all do. We see them as thinking they were doing the right thing and didn’t mean any harm. From these thoughts comes forgiveness. Take care, Ira.

    Comment by Rosanna F. — November 7, 2014 @ 9:25 pm

  7. Lovely.

    Comment by Lisa DeYoung — November 7, 2014 @ 10:13 pm

  8. Great blog, as usual, Ira. Most parents are simply doing what they think is best for their family. Like you said in former blogs, your dad would surely do some things differently if he could go back (wouldn’t we all?). Probably the greatest redeeming factor that I gleaned from reading between the lines in your story is your attitude of forgiveness, acceptance of what is and was, and you blessing your father even though he can’t seem to bring himself to bless you (verbally). The couple times I’ve talked to your dad and your name came up (which it did every time) I sensed a not-too-well-hidden pride in his son. Shoot, I’m proud of you and we’re not even related! Conclusion: Your dad loves you. He’s just trapped in a system that cripples his ability to express it.

    Comment by John Schmid — November 7, 2014 @ 10:25 pm

  9. I think it is time I go for a visit to Aylmer. Maybe next summer.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — November 7, 2014 @ 11:00 pm

  10. There is an African saying that one only becomes an adult when one gets to take care of one’s parent. They fed us and changed us and, for some of us, we do that for them. It is a beautiful and tender gift we receive to be able to return to them some of the love and care that they showed us over all these years. Aging is difficult, as you show us, Ira, but the respect and understanding you now give to your father honors you both. Thank you for describing for us this gift of age–yours and your father’s.

    Comment by Sherida Yoder — November 7, 2014 @ 11:13 pm

  11. I would fly back to Mi from Europe and help take care of my father so my brother could have a break. I was lucky to have had a very good relationship with my father who I thought was a very wise person. In his last years, he changed from the openminded, interested person to a very scared and uncertain old man. My brother and I were very closely involved with his care and looking back I can see it was a gift to us to be able to care for him. We don’t know how our lives will end but now I can leave it to rest because who knows what can happen. I am so glad you could go and visit your father and have such a good visit with him and that you have such a kind and loving family. I wish you the best in your journey.
    mary maarsen

    Comment by Mary Keim Maarsen — November 8, 2014 @ 5:15 am

  12. Reading your blog and the comments made bring a lovely feeling to my heart. The respect and admiration you show your father and the long trip you took to give him that honest concern for your relationship speaks so highly of you. Corinthians…” Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you”. You honored your father once again and I am sure he slept much better after your visit.

    Comment by Pam — November 8, 2014 @ 8:35 am

  13. No matter where our journey has taken us, family is still so very important. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Jenifer W. — November 8, 2014 @ 10:23 am

  14. For folks like me who only know your life story through the book, the name “Aylmer” is tied up with a lot of connotations of rigid rules, perfectionism and “the box” of a constrained life. But this post is such a beautiful demonstration of where (and who) you are now, because in this piece Aylmer is a place you can go back to and genuinely enjoy–your affection now for the place and its people is plain to see in your writing. And it sounds like you and your dad got to say some things to each other (and hear some things from each other) that you both needed. I hope so–that is a great gift.

    Comment by Tharren Thompson — November 8, 2014 @ 10:32 am

  15. This blog is so open and heartfelt on your part. And the comments are inspiring. There is not much to add except that I sat by my mom’s bedside in June while she died. I was not prepared for any of the things that happened but I was honored to be part of her aging even though I was scared a lot of the time. How lucky you are to have had that time to talk to your dad while he knew you even though he has given up the suspenders. You are a good son and curmudgeon. Don’t stop writing. Please.

    Comment by Marsha W. — November 8, 2014 @ 12:07 pm

  16. Beautiful writing, Ira. Thanks for sharing it with us. It makes a difference. Interesting, too, that – ironic or not – the writing bent is in some sense a gift from your father. Perhaps also the desire to have a voice in this wilderness.

    “That was a big deal, to Dad, right there, that no one asked him to leave from where he was.” I sat and pondered this line a long time. The Lord thought a long time before He created us, and placed us in this world He created for us. I leave it for others to ponder the reality your line there speaks of; but I find some echoes of eternity in that simple but real observation about personhood and dignity and free will constrained only by love.

    I can’t help but say I appreciate the wisdom in that comment above by Rosanna, too.

    Ira, it is not just your great talent in writing. Many walk through these situations. Even if they could write as well, what would they say? There is a “focus” in this piece that I don’t think could be apprehended by anyone without a great deal of healing that must have already taken place deep in your own soul. Because you are able to express it from that “place,” there is a kind of healing extended to me, some opportunity to turn and receive a grace, as you bring me into that place via your writing. Thanks.

    Comment by LeRoy — November 8, 2014 @ 1:20 pm

  17. I’m glad to hear how your father is doing–I’ve been waiting. It sounds like there’s been a whole lot of reconciliation between you and your dad and that must feel good, Ira. Thanks for the lovely post.

    Comment by Erin — November 9, 2014 @ 11:43 am

  18. Poignant post, Ira.

    Comment by Ava — November 10, 2014 @ 6:34 pm

  19. What a wonderful surprise for your father to have you unexpectedly show up for a visit. It sounds like he may get bored and perks up when intellectual stimulation presents itself. Particularly that from a fellow author. It was really sweet when your dad offered to sign his memoirs for you. And may I say, he looks so cute sitting at his desk. Forgive me if this sounds disrespectful; it isn’t meant to be.

    “How do you deal with it, what your father was or was not to you? What do you say at the dusk of your father’s life, looking back?” Such good questions…with no answer. But interesting to ponder nonetheless. In my case, I have found “IT” deals with me more than I deal with it. As is the case of what happened this past Sunday at church

    “The Sting” I call it. It hits when I least expect it. One minute my pastor is telling of a young woman he knows who has a loving relationship with her father and the next moment I’m fighting back bitter tears. I wonder to myself just what does it feel like to have your father tell you how special and worthy you are? To take time to teach you things and to get pleasure out of doing so? I am absolutely stunted in this area. Sometimes it’s downright embarrassing and other times it just plain hurts…bad. The opportunities that were there at one time are, now, gone forever. Never to be revisited. Particularly by the one who had the power to make it right and good. Yes indeed, how is it dealt with? When, as an adult, you bring it up and it’s met with a blank stare. God, help me not meet truth with a blank stare.

    I find it admirable that whenever you’re sitting , chatting with your dad you give him the opportunity to air his complaint about your book. You’re letting him know the door is open for discussion. And you’re not afraid to talk about the past. I do hope, Ira, that your dad will one day be able to share with you what was going on in his mind, life, world when you were young and developing. The days of blessing you then are over, but he can still bless you as a man. What would that look like to you?

    Comment by Francine — November 12, 2014 @ 1:51 am

  20. To me today my father is a good man,yet while growing up he was anything but that or so I thot. The teen age angst ridden rebel that was me and the old school Amishman that he was just didn’t mesh. When I wanted to talk and really get my feelings out, to get his blessing so to speak, we just couldn’t get there. He didn’t seem to want to hear anything that wasn’t part of the protocol. My actions didn’t help any. It was the early 70s, the long hair, the muscle cars and the English blond girl friend plus a bit of dabbling with substance abuse put the kabosh on much of the conversations. He was convinced I was on the road to Hell and I wasn’t sure that I wasn’t going there myself. When it came time to pay the fiddler and look at my part of the deal it got painful, real painful. Over whelmingly painful it seemed. I made my amends to him best as I could, got honest and tried to put myself in his shoes. If I was him and had a wild child like me, I don’t know what I would have done. He did the best he could with what he had. He is a flawed human being like me, it would be nice to have his full approval and blessing and yet I don’t need it. Like I heard the old man say, it starts with me and it has to end with me. That sounded rather self centered until it was given a second look, then it made sense. There is respect between Dad and I today, sometimes I hear in round about ways that he is proud of me and I hear it from him indirectly. And I can’t ask for more then that. A most excellent piece of writing and peace to all..

    Comment by Lenny — November 12, 2014 @ 12:08 pm

  21. A beautiful story of a homecoming.

    Comment by cynthia r chase — November 16, 2014 @ 10:34 pm

  22. I would like to be put on a list to receive these, I do not see anywhere to sign up…..


    Comment by Mona — January 2, 2015 @ 11:23 pm

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