January 2, 2009

My (New) Kentucky Home

Category: News — Ira @ 6:00 pm


You can never go home again, but the truth is
you can never leave home, so it’s all right.

—Maya Angelou

It seems a little strange, to call a place home. When you’ve never lived there. Guess it stems from societal norms. Home is where your parents live. Regardless of their age, or yours. My parents moved to the remote little community of Mays Lick, Kentucky about a year ago. A distant unfamiliar place.

We headed out for “home” with Big Blue Friday morning. My brother Nate and me. I had never taken my truck on any kind of road trip before. Planned on it, last summer. But the $4 per gallon gasoline put a stop to that.

Not this time. Gas is cheap. So Big Blue it was. We loaded up and hit the road by 6 AM. After hitting Rt. 283 in Lancaster, it was four lane all the way to Kentucky. Traffic was generally light. Not much going on the day after Christmas. Only a few big trucks, not enough to clog the roads. I sipped my coffee and set Big Blue’s cruise control for almost the first time ever.

The truck rocketed along smoothly. Nate sat reclined in the passenger’s seat and slept. 81 South to Hagerstown. 68 West through Cumberland. On to 79 South in Morgantown. I stopped for gas. Checked Big Blue’s mileage. Right at 17 mpg. Not bad, considering all the hills and mountains we’d crossed.

Nate took the wheel for a spell. It was good to spend some time “catching up” with him. My youngest brother. We had not seen each other since some quite unfortunate events unfolded in Florida, back in early 2007. Almost two years. We’d talked and texted. But not seen each other. That’s a long time.

After a leisurely late lunch at the Cracker Barrel, Nate’s favorite, in Charleston, we arrived in Maysville, ten miles north of Mays Lick, around late afternoon. Checked in at the very nice Hampton Inn and settled in for a few days. Since my parents and brother Josephs had company that day from another settlement, we decided to wait until the next morning to head out.

The next morning around 9, we drove in to my brother Joseph’s farm. Dads live in a nice double wide, attached by deck to Joseph’s new house. Nice little setup. One thing about the Amish, they know how to take care of the elderly. Without stuffing them into nursing homes. Joseph’s wife Iva has lupus, so their new house was designed with her in mind. Mostly one level, hardwood floors, very nicely laid out. After looking around, Nate and I headed over to my parents’ house, across the deck.

Dad sat at his desk, Mom on her recliner, reading a Pathway magazine. They welcomed us in. Dad of course recognized us. I wasn’t sure Mom would, but she did, immediately saying our names. To date, she has always recognized all her children.

We sat on the couch and visited. Yes, our trip was fine. Yes, we were staying at a motel in town. Somehow, Mom couldn’t grasp that fact and kept telling us we could stay in the spare bedroom.

They both looked well physically. The ravages of Alzheimer’s have taken their toll on Mom, though. In the course of a single day, she resides in many places, mostly from her childhood.

I asked her if she remembers the “Juniata” song from her childhood, and hummed the tune for her. She remembered a line or two, but couldn’t get a full verse. Dad then told us that Mom had started singing an old childhood song about the sinking of the Titanic. It just came back to her. She hadn’t sung it in decades, and never when we were children. At first, she could remember only one verse and the chorus. Then one morning the second verse emerged. Dad hastily wrote it down and made copies. Now they sang it together sometimes.

Nate and I immediately requested that they sing it for us. Dad shuffled around at his desk and extracted some blue papers, on which he had printed the song. He limped over and sat down on the rocker recliner beside her chair and gave her a copy and told her to lead. Nate and I sat there quietly, ready to go where we’d never been.

And without any fuss, Mom began to sing. Dad joined her. Her clear soprano shook just a little, and his rich baritone cracked and trembled. But it was beautiful to hear, and a breathtaking sight. Silhouetted in the glint of the mid morning light, they sang:


It was a Monday morning, just one o’clock
When the great Titanic began to reel and rock
And the people began to cry
Saying, Lord we are going to die.

It was sad when the great ship went down
It was sad when the great ship went down
There were husbands and wives, little children lost their lives
It was sad when the great ship went down.

When they built the great Titanic they said, what can we do?
They said they’d build a ship the water can’t go through
But God with His mighty hand
Showed the world it cannot stand.

And then it was over. The last echoes of their cracked, quivering voices faded. Nate and I sat mesmerized. It was a rare sight, a golden moment. For both of us. We had never seen our parents sitting together, just the two of them, singing a song. Ever.

Spontaneously, we clapped and cheered. Mom beamed.

Mom no longer cooks, so at lunch time Nate and I left and returned with broasted chicken and biscuits. Dad, Mom and Nate sat at their small table. I ate on the kitchen island.


We left so Mom could take her nap, returning later in the afternoon. That night, we provided pizza for everyone, including Joseph’s family, eating at their new house. Later I walked my parents across the deck to their home and sat and visited with Dad awhile. He asked about my writing and commented positively on some of the blogs he had read. He doesn’t read them all. He usually gets hard copies of certain blogs a few weeks after post dates.

He allowed that “Levi and Noah” was among the best he had read and I had written. Probably because it was pretty bland and noncontroversial. But I appreciated it. He’s my Dad and his opinion counts.

I said good-bye and took my leave. Nate and I headed back to the motel, where we talked late into the night. The next day, around mid-morning, I left for home in Big Blue by myself. Nate stayed for a few more days, then traveled back to Canada from there.

It was a good trip. I mused over events as I drove. We had been genuinely welcomed home. Our parents were glad to see us. We talked and visited without rancor. They ate the food we provided. They sang for us.

And I reflected on those moments. And the pitifully few similar moments I have ever experienced. How hard I’d tried, years ago, to break the barriers to my father’s heart. How I’d craved his recognition and blessing. And Nate too, had tried so hard, for so long. In anguish. All to no avail.

Until we just gave up. Told ourselves it didn’t matter.

But it did. And always will.

So much was wasted, so much lost.

The moments we had just shared could have been the norm for all those years, not the exception. But only now were they possible, in the final years, after the ravages of age had quietly removed the impenetrable barriers imposed by centuries of mindless traditions of harsh cold shunning.

It’s sad. And tragic, really. But it is what it is. And even at this late stage, those mom-ents are something. Something tangible. That we can take and turn in our minds and examine. And treasure for what they were. Things that will likely not survive for long in their memories. Especially Mom’s. But they will live on in ours. Because in the end, they happened. Against seemingly insurmountable odds only a few short years ago.

In the final analysis, that’s all that matters. And it’s enough. It has to be.

Because all else is vanity, a chasing after the wind, a deep hopeless yearning to change the past that is set in stone and can never be undone.

In football, things shook out last weekend. The post season is set. Slurp, slurp. Three of the most dangerous teams to watch: San Diego, Indy, and yes, the thug Eagles. All are peaking, two are coming off very mediocre seasons. They have nothing to lose, no expectations. Which makes them all the more dangerous. Minnesota and Arizona are insipid sacrificial lambs, and will be promptly slaughtered this weekend.

My buddy Favre pulled his usual stunts for the Jets last Sunday. Three interceptions. So the very next day the Jets fired not Favre as they should have, but his coach. I’m scratching my head in disbelief. Idiots. Eric Mangini is a genius, a prodigy of the evil Bellichek. Whose vile Patriots were denied the playoffs, thankfully. The only good thing that resulted from the Jets’ loss.

Well, it’s 2009. Seems strange, to write it. 2009. Next year the double digit rolls in. On New Years Eve, I stopped by Paul and Anne Marie’s for supper and hung out for awhile. Anne Marie met with her doctor earlier this week. Not surprisingly, the tumor diagnosis is the same as last time. Malignant. They are discussing treatment options and will make some decisions in the coming weeks.

I returned home early and spent the evening watching football. Midnight came, and the ball drop. Dick Clark has got to go. Since his stroke a few years back, the man’s face is frozen and he slurs his words. You can’t understand him. Yes, I know he’s been doing the countdown since prehistoric times. And it’s tragic, his stroke. But they need an anchor who can talk.

Happy New Years texting was fast and furious for awhile before I went to bed.

New Years Day, I slept in. Went to Sheetz for my free coffee, then to the Leola Fire Hall to pick up the traditional New Years meal of pork and sauerkraut. For eleven bucks. Fundraiser, and all. I’m not a big fan of sauerkraut, but it’s edible at least once a year.

New Years Day is college football. All the bowl games. The Big Ten has not been doing well, but Iowa crushed South Carolina 31-10. Some Midwestern pride there. Penn State was soundly thrashed by USC in the Rose Bowl, 38-24.



  1. I think I understand a little bit.

    Comment by RagPicker — January 2, 2009 @ 6:57 pm

  2. Riveting. What an honor to your parents.

    Funny, you see tragedy, I see a strength that age cannot wither. I don’t suppose this is a contrast, just a distinction of standpoint. Thanks to you for painting the picture to ponder.

    The Titanic is a great theme for this New Year. I recommend the following two posts as one word to ponder and pray over regarding 2009. The author will have a webcast on Mon. Jan. 5th on explaining more of the subject:

    “The Coming Perfect Storm”


    followed by “Peace in the storm”


    Caveat: 1 Thessalonians 5:20.

    Comment by LeRoy Whitman — January 2, 2009 @ 7:07 pm

  3. I did a google search and found the rest of the words! I thought you may like to send them to your folks. Am so glad you had a good visit.

    Tina Miller (Richard’s wife)

    It was on one Monday morning,
    About one o’clock,
    When the great Titanic
    Began to reel and rock.
    People began to scream and cry,
    Saying, Lord, I’m going to die.
    It was sad when that great ship went down.

    It was sad when that great ship went down —
    Husbands and wives
    And children lost their lives.
    It was sad when that great ship went down.

    When the ship first left England
    And was making for the shore,
    The rich declared they would not
    Ride with the poor.
    So they put the poor below,
    They were the first who had to go.
    It was sad when that great ship went down.

    When they were building,
    They said what they would do,
    They would build a ship
    That the water couldn’t break through.
    But the Lord in power and hand
    Showed the world it could not stand.
    It was sad when that great ship went down.

    When Paul was sailing
    With men all around,
    The Lord who sits in Heaven
    Said no man should be drowned.
    If they’d trust and obey
    He would save them today.
    It was sad when that great ship went down.

    There were people on the ship,
    And a long ways from home,
    With friends all around them who
    Did not know their time had come.
    Old Death he came riding by,
    Sixteen hundred had to die.
    It was sad when that great ship went down.

    Comment by Tina Miller — January 2, 2009 @ 7:28 pm

  4. A lot of your story about going home to parents I could relate to very well, it’s only in the last years that my Dad and I gave each other a hug!

    It was a great day to be a Hawkeye, and an even greater day to be at the game! South Carolina looked like they would rather be anywhere then on the field towards the end of the game.

    Comment by Rudy Yutzy — January 2, 2009 @ 8:02 pm

  5. I had to listen to the Hawks on a radio and Rudy gets to see them in person. I thought the Gamecocks were thinking about being elsewhere by the end of the first quarter. Now to see if Coach Ferentz will try his hand with the Browns. All he needs to do is have a .500 first season and beat Pittsburgh and the Dog Pound will worship him as a living god.

    Comment by Mark Hersch — January 2, 2009 @ 9:47 pm

  6. My Mom and Dad spent 2 days and 2 nights here at our house over Christmas, their longest visit ever, since we left the Amish. It was a genuine blessing to have them here, we didn’t do much but eat, visit and have devotions together. I allowed my daughters to stay up as late as they wanted to play games with Grandma, precious memories! Cherish them while they are still here.

    Comment by Gideon Y — January 2, 2009 @ 10:07 pm

  7. Your story with your folks could be my Dad’s with his parents. Grandma’s sudden illness and need pulled the family together like nothing else could have. He, too, tried for years to reach out to his folks, to be there for them, to help when they needed it. It’s only since they are nearly helpless that they will accept it. It is heartbreaking from one aspect, but thankfully, it has happened.

    Comment by Ann — January 3, 2009 @ 8:12 am

  8. Thank you for sharing about your parents. My father’s family was deeply fractured by many of the same things. Once in a while, something tragic would happen, a death maybe, and the family could pull together for a while. But never for long. The visit with your parents was truly a gift.

    Comment by Monica — January 3, 2009 @ 10:03 am

  9. It is true that “Home” is where your parents are. My parents had moved twice after I left home and when ever I went to visit them I always went home.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — January 3, 2009 @ 11:55 am

  10. I arrived in Kentucky later the same day after you moved on. I also have treasured memories of the time I spent there with my parents and grandparents.

    A regret from the trip is so narrowly missing you. Also regretful is the missed opportunity of parking my Big Red next to Big Blue.

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — January 3, 2009 @ 4:58 pm

  11. Is Bret Favre’s career over? I made a false stament about his marital status. I am sorry and would like to retract it.

    Ira’s response: Retraction noted. I think it’s very likely he won’t be back next year.

    Comment by DLY — January 4, 2009 @ 7:07 pm

  12. Brett Favre might be done? But who knows? He will probably have a decision after the Super Bowl. He made the Packers a great team for 15 years and made the Jets a better team for one year. His career after he hangs up his cleats for the last time will be good, if he so chooses!

    Comment by Titus — January 4, 2009 @ 10:30 pm

  13. Go, “Eagles.” Are these the years to look again to Philadelphia?

    Comment by LeRoy Whitman — January 6, 2009 @ 10:54 am

  14. Interesting reading about your trip. We were there 5 days in Nov. It is usually with a hollow feeling that I leave. It is because I cannot forget, and don’t ever want to forget my Mom as she used to be. She was the best friend and mother I could have had. I find myself saying to my daughters some of the very things she told me. It is my love for her that takes me back, time and again.

    Comment by Rachel — January 7, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

  15. Ahh, yes home… when my parents died that was a real part of my grieving… where do I go to go “home” now? It will never be the same, but one adapts, have to.. life is all about changes, good and bad!

    As a MN gal I have to say the Vikings didn’t get slaughtered… no, they did what they do best, lead us on till the last two minutes when they dash any glimmer of hope! Ahh well, it’s on to the Wild (NHL) and my niece and nephew’s local High School Basketball games.

    Oh and I read your next post, thoroughly disgusted with the whole senate vote recount thing. The longer it went the more I feared Frankin and the Dems would pull it off somehow. I’ll still stay in MN! LOL .. SOMEBODY has to stay and take a stand against them!! :)

    Comment by Susan — January 9, 2009 @ 10:31 pm

  16. That was a beautiful picture. You’re dad hastily writing the words to the song so he would be able to share in her singing.

    Yes, recognition, blessing, and affection, even acknowledgment do matter. Unfortunately, when I might have had the chance to pursue them from my father, I also told myself they didn’t.

    I consider home to the place of my choosing. I no longer have any connection to the place I grew up or where my mom now lives, although I still love the people there. My true home is halfway cross the country with my wife and boys. And my ultimate home is heaven which I can’t wait to explore knowing they will also be there.

    Comment by Eric — April 20, 2013 @ 8:23 pm

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