December 14, 2007

The Last Journey Home

Category: News — Ira @ 6:56 pm


“Old age: the crown of life, our play’s last act.”
—Marcus Tullius Cicero

They were born in Daviess County, Indiana, in the 1920s. They grew up there. It was a different place then, and a different time. They married there and had the first of their eleven children there. As a young couple, after he returned from his WWII C.O. service, they moved with friends and a few other relatives to a new little settlement in Pike County, Ohio. There, several more children arrived.

In 1953, they moved again, along with most of the Pike County families, this time to Aylmer, Ontario, Canada, where their remaining children were born. Twenty-three years later, in 1976, they moved again, for the final time, they thought, to Bloomfield, Iowa. In Bloomfield, their younger children grew into adulthood. Most of them married and eventually, whether single or with their own families, scattered to the winds.


With the passage of years and advancing age, they moved into a little “Dawdy” house on the farm of their oldest son Joseph, where they have lived now for almost two decades. But soon my parents will move once again. This time with Josephs to the little Amish community in May’s Lick, Kentucky.

Josephs will hold an auction this Saturday, Dec. 15th at their home place in Bloomfield. To dispose of excess items they will not need, or don’t have room to transport. Many of my siblings plan to attend. I won’t be able to make it.

I do not question or criticize the decision to move. I wasn’t there. And haven’t been. Those who are do the best they know. The decision was not made overnight. It was not lightly undertaken. Much was considered, over time. Many factors weighed, over time. And so it will be. I accept that.

And yet, and yet…when it boils right down to it, I can’t help feeling a little bit sad. Dad is 86 years old. Mom is 84. They are both tough, of pioneer stock, and have done what needed to be done all their lives. But still, something tugs at the heart when one considers the implications of such an aged couple packing up their meager possessions and moving to an entirely new place. Away from the familiar, from their home of rest, from all they’ve known for so long. To a new uncharted land, foreign to them both, populated by strangers who, although helpful and kind, are strangers still and to some extent will always be.

Although those of us children scattered afar in distant places will support them the best we can, only one real anchor remains, one constant presence during the transition. Their oldest son, and his family.

And so they will go. To one more place they will call home. This is, I think, the beginning of the final chapter. The last such journey. They have lived a long time, a full allotment of rich, textured, turbulent years. Resided in many places, witnessed an astonishing array of colossal events. Their legacy endures, written on the trail of their past, in the lives and talents of their children, reflected on each wrinkle of their worn tired faces.

They have seen so much, and much of that so long ago. Who can know what secrets remain in their hearts, what they really felt and thought, and who they really were? They have spoken, yet left so much unsaid. Few of their stories have ever been honestly told in terms of the full human drama in which they occurred. Stories of the life they lived, the family they raised, the people they encountered, the paths they forged. Of all they were and were not, and of all they might have been. So much, so many stories left untold.

One day I will write them.

Update on Paul and Anne Marie Zook. Anne Marie was diagnosed with a heart murmur during pre-op tests. As it stands today, her brain tumor operation is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 19. She will be admitted to the hospital on Monday, Dec. 17. Her parents, who live in Canada, have arrived and are staying with them in their home.

Paul and Anne Marie received many cards and a few gifts (money and gift cards) from my readers this past week. They express their heartfelt thanks to each one who responded. I add my thanks as well. Those who still wish to send encouragement can get their address from last week’s blog.

Last Friday evening I stopped by to see them. They had just learned of the heart murmur, so everyone was pretty much in a tizzy. I offered to take Paul out for a bite to eat. We drove to New Holland on the icy back roads. At the New Holland Pub, he ate a cheeseburger and fries and talked. I just sat and listened. After about an hour, we started back to his place.

It was a foggy, misty night. Snow covered the ground and ice covered pretty much everything else. As we passed a house in the country, Big Blue suddenly was rocked by a large snow ball. I first thought we had driven through a snow patch and the snow had bounced up into the truck side. But Paul hollered that there were some kids out in the yard, and they had thrown snow balls. At the next drive, just around a curve, I slowed up and stopped. Paul claimed the kids were running out behind the barn. I backed Big Blue into the neighbor’s drive and turned around. We roared up and pulled into the drive of the house where the snow balls had been launched. The kids had vanished into the night.

I parked the truck. While Paul remained in the truck and observed with keen interest, I walked up to the house and pounded on the door. A little girl opened it and peered out. Her parents and another couple were seated at the table, playing cards. The man of the house greeted me quizzically.

“I was driving by and some kids just hit my truck with a snow ball. Just wanted to let someone know,” I said in a stern loud voice. The mother looked startled and a bit defensive.

“I told them,” the man intoned, “I told them they can throw snowballs, but not at any vehicles.”

“It’s my son’s birthday party,” he explained. “He’s got three friends over, and they are out playing. I told them not to throw snowballs at vehicles.” He put on his boots and walked out with me. We inspected the truck for damage. It was fine. You never know, they might have packed a rock into the snowball. I got in and we backed out and drove away. Last we saw him, he was striding sternly out to the barn. I hope some-one’s birthday party was ruined. But I doubt it. The little savages.

The bleak rainy weather this week has been incessant. Rain falls, spirits droop. Snow, rain, more snow, more rain. No sun. It’s enough to drive one batty. Perfect fireplace weather, provided one has a fireplace. I do not, alas. I guess it could be worse; we could have the ice storms that battered the Midwest just this week. We’ll probably get them this weekend. The weather here reminds me of the classic painting. The lone figure, scrunched up against the elements, dressed in a long coat and perhaps clutching an umbrella, walking down a dreary empty windy street. Alone, at night.

Glenn Beck, my second favorite talk show host (after Rush), recently published his latest book, titled “An Inconvenient Book.” He wrote it in response to AlGore’s idiotic, apocalyptic global warming movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.” The book immediately shot up to #1 on the NY Times Bestseller list, much to the chagrin of liberals and other AlGore types. Someone gave me a copy for Christmas. It’s an easy read and a very sensible book. I recommend it.

The baseball steroid scandal erupted this week with the release of the Mitchell Report, which names eighty-five players who supposedly partook. The report was compiled by George Mitchell the ex-senator, a vile, viscous partisan man in his time. For decades, he was the implacable foe of Presidents Reagan and Bush 1. I guess old senators never really retire, they just putz around on committees and and get paid exorbitant fees to do useless work. I could care less about who did or did not use performance-enhancing drugs. Including Barry Bonds. I am hugely irritated that the Senate will hold hearings on the matter, beginning next Tuesday. We’ll be subjected to an endless stream of showboating blather from fat blowhards. Don’t they have better things to do? On the other hand, while they are engaged in such hearings, at least they won’t be raising my taxes or handing down more insane environmental regulations, etc.

Kevin Costner strolled into our office last week. Well, it wasn’t really him, but it could have been. Or his twin. Sure looked like him. Talked like him too. Enough so that I gaped and did a double take. The guy was from Jersey, on his way up for a holiday with his family. He stopped by to see about building a shop for his home business.

His name was Andre, and he hand-forges suits of armor for full-contact sword fights. He needs a shop in which to manufacture the armor. I was intrigued. I didn’t know such a thing existed. Full-contact sword fighting, I mean. I asked if they can hit each other on the head. Anywhere, he said. Anywhere on the whole body. He showed me his permanently swollen, flattened fingertips. Hit so many times in the fighting, he said. I was impressed. And a little awed.


He makes entire suits of armor (but not swords), cold hammered from 18-gauge steel, for about $8000.00 per suit. I asked about his liability. What if a helmet he made splits and someone’s head gets gashed open or cut off? The helmets, of course, are padded inside. And everyone signs a waiver, he assured me. Sure. That’ll do it. Waivers are worth about the paper they’re printed on, once some Philly attorney gets hold of it.

It takes all kinds, I guess. Modern day knights-errant in armor running around slashing and hitting each other with swords. Full strength hits. On the head or anywhere else. A full-time Armorer. Who’da thunk it? And maybe I’ll get to build his shop.




  1. Very interesting Ira, guess I haven’t visited your site lately, and I would like to touch on the stormy weather. Nobody realises how much depends on power lines until they break. This past week, from Tues. night to Wed. night (24 hrs.), we were without power here in town (DRAKESVILLE IA.) due to ice, talk about getting out of bed cold!! WOW we had nothing, good thing it wasn’t that overly cold or we would have had more problems. That makes a person feel very small with today’s conveniences. And trust me I try to appreciate them now that they’re back (cross my fingers cause the ice hasn’t melted yet).



    Comment by ELI MAST — December 14, 2007 @ 8:55 pm

  2. Looks like they are building up to another big storm out there in Iowa. I’d move out of there too, with that kind of weather. Here in S.C. we’ve had record high temps all week. [Records since 1918]. Yesterday it cooled down some to a high of only 73 degrees here. Snow? What’s Snow? We haven’t seen any here since ’04. Getting a bit concerned about the big pile of wood out back, we’ll have to burn it sometime before winter ends. Well, come see us when you can..

    Comment by happy grampa jess — December 15, 2007 @ 8:53 am

  3. First time to respond, but would like to let you know I enjoy your blogs. We lived in Canada from 1967-1971. I know your older siblings and parents. Was surprised to see that your parents and Joes are moving to Ky. Does the name Betty Fehr Straits ring a bell? She passed away today from a heart attack.

    The article about Solly Herrforts (Sept. 14th blog) continues to trouble me. I vaguely remember them. Keep up the news.


    Comment by Crist Miller — December 15, 2007 @ 7:09 pm

  4. I feel for your parents, especially so since I moved in with my aged Dad. I hope you write their stories.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — December 15, 2007 @ 7:20 pm

  5. I read your blog this morn before going out to sale. The sale was well attended by Amish and Mennonites from many communities. I never saw Mommy, but Doddy was all over the place and once was spotted bidding on an item! The highlite of my day was bidding against Alvin Yutzy on a large stainless steel kettle and stand for outdoor cooking and sucessfully purchasing it. This did make for an unhappy Naomi!

    Everybody (with the exception of Mommy) seems quite excited about moving.

    Comment by John Wagler — December 15, 2007 @ 8:51 pm

  6. Your snowball incident reminded me of the tomato throwing incident in Holmes County a few years ago – a few kids were throwing tomatoes from a cornfield (dumb) and ticked off a motorist who went home and got the 12 gauge, came back and fired into the field at random, and killed one of the kids…..stupid, stupid.

    To John, shame, shame on you!

    Comment by jason yutzy — December 17, 2007 @ 5:24 pm

  7. Your parents moving reminded me of my own parents moving two years ago. I had thought it can’t be, but shucks, I guess they were only in their seventies!

    It was great spending Thanksgiving with you & Steve and Wilmas. Doesn’t life get a little boring for happy grandpa Jess, what with summer temps all year and no excuse to take off the winter months?

    -Another happy gramps!

    Comment by Rudy Yutzy — December 18, 2007 @ 10:29 pm

  8. Ira,

    Send the armor-maker to Len when needed…he’d find it interesting. He would want to try it out first to be sure!

    Amy Brown

    Comment by Amy Brown — December 19, 2007 @ 10:03 am

  9. Update on Anne Marie Zook, copied from her CaringBridge site:

    Surgery went as anticipated, there were no surprises. Tumor was able to be completely removed. Routine lab test on tumor will not be available until next week and if necessary, further treatment will be determined. She will be in ICU at least overnight.

    Comment by admin — December 19, 2007 @ 1:12 pm

  10. This is our 11th day without electric, (hello, Eli), with the help of a generator our heat and water is restored, but my, it is still tough going. We have no date to look forward to for sure, they say another ice storm tomorrow.

    Ira, you touched a tender chord in my heart about our parents’ move. I had hoped that Mom would not realize so much about the move. But like you said, it is not for us to question, only accept. I attended the sale, a cold day, and I really appreciated those who stopped to visit and shake my hand. I could not possibly name everyone, but I had a very nice visit with Paul Hochstedler. We were not able to attend Henry’s funeral, so I felt fortunate for the visit we had.

    Thanks to Crist for writing about Betty. I would be interested in more details. Does she have a family, etc.? Time moves on, and we all are older, anymore. I have in mind that more of Betty’s brothers have passed away. I remember well. When I was very small, someone told me Betty’s brother David was adopted, and I was too young, I didn’t understand that. The next time we were playing together (we were cousins), I told him. He promptly told Pete Stoll, his dad, then Pete told him they wanted him and picked him out, whereas my parents had to take me. Ever since then, I have a very tender spot for adopted children, and I hated what I said many times.

    We are not thinking of skipping CHRISTMAS, only we might move it down to son ANDREWS in MO, if the power doesn’t come on soon.

    Merry Christmas to all

    Comment by rachel — December 20, 2007 @ 11:52 am

  11. Got a belly laugh from the snowball incident. I’m sure you did worse things as a kid. The fear you incited just made it all the more fun. (Just like the guys in armor – Whack! “Oh!”)

    Comment by LeRoy Whitman — December 20, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

  12. You mentioned the many untold stories of your parents. I don’t know if this is a generational thing, but my grandmothers would never fully tell their stories whenever I asked them and I asked them a lot. My maternal great-grandparents were farmers from Austria. They met on the boat to America and got married. Then they had a farm in New York state. This is the just of it. A few more little tid bits were given, just enough to keep me hanging by a string. I’ve given up. I’ll have to get my information from the internet. The internet! Grrr!

    Ira, you hoped some kid’s birthday party was ruined? Just because he threw a snowball at Big Blue? Then you call him a savage. Ira, I know this was written several years ago, but you still reveal a tinge of dislike for children in your writings. Or maybe, it’s just that they annoy you. I got two words for you, dude. Lighten up.

    Don’t you remember what it was like being a kid? Of course, you do. So why don’t you tell us about some of the naughty things you did as a boy? You’ve written about how sweet, cute, and cuddly you were, now let’s hear about your snowball throwing atrocities.
    Tell us about your impish side. Oh, please!

    Really? Eight-thousand dollars for grown men to sword fight with metal protection on? God help us. Do you know how many children in third world countries could be fed, educated, and given proper health care for $8000? Well, one child for 17 years in an AIDS infested area of Africa.

    My oh, my. Aren’t I just a barrel of laughs tonight?

    Comment by Francine — July 30, 2013 @ 12:29 am

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