I figure that I spent almost exactly 23 hours of the last 46 hours on the road. Last night when I stopped for yet one more coffee at 2:30 AM, I found that I actually couldn’t drink it. My body seems to have a defense mechanism that pleads, “Do not kill me. I will not tolerate yet another artificial spike in energy that is totally unrelated to hours of sleep.” I decided, instead, to curl up in my blanket for a bit of refreshment in the brightly lit Sheetz parking lot. Unfortunately, that decision coincided with a blue Jeep hitting and running from a UPS truck, as well as an over zealous fire chief who blasted his fog-hornish siren for ten minutes. Sleep was out of the question and anyway, I was quite refreshed. Irritation, I discovered, was quite as stimulating as a cup of coffee. That was also about where the snow started, so I granny-drove the last stretch home, both hands on the wheel, concentrating on the dry tire tracks of the only others on the road, the big trucks. The homely Osterburg exit never looked so good as it did at 4:15 on this blitzing cold morning.
My aunt Ruth, who lived in KY, died this week. She of the faltering steps, inarticulate tongue and wistful smile. Aunt Ruth had a debilitating disease that wasted away her cerebellum over the years. Her condition was not diagnosed until it was in the later stages. Now it makes me sad that she didn’t get much respect in life because she baked bread with baking powder instead of yeast and made cherry delight with lime jello and canned pineapple. I wanted to show her at least the respect of going to her funeral, which of course, was a gesture I doubt she appreciated, but my dad and the other uncles and aunts did. So I drove 3 1/2 hours to a rendezvous with my sister and her baby. Enroute, I found out that my brothers were also traveling together to the funeral without their spouses, so there we were, all four grown kids and our mom and dad, back in the land of our birth. It was strange!
The best part of the funeral was imagining Aunt Ruth giggling at being free of her wheelchair and hospital bed, able to say exactly what she means with her new tongue, whole and full of vitality. My brain got pretty scrambled, trying to keep up with translating the mixture of German, PA Dutch and sprinkling of English words that comprise an Amish sermon. To my surprise, although I was only nine years old when our family left the Amish, I still knew the German words for “grace” and “peace”, etc. I sat beside my brother, and found it is probably better not to think about how much the row of solemn long-bearded preachers look like the seven dwarves in Snow White. As my brother pointed out, there was even a Sleepy.
We spent the night in the great big farmhouse that my grandpa built, the one that we children spent so many happy hours in, romping with the cousins. My grandpa built a number of houses, and all of them had a cubby hole under the stairway with doors and shelves inside for the toys. The “Spiel-Eck”, or Play-corner. Sorry, I don’t know how to spell in Dutch. This house also has a long, deep pantry, the mysterious place where Grandma stored the special toys out of reach, where our Aunt Ruth of healthier days would go fetch them for us, but only if we stayed at the kitchen table to play.
When we were ready to leave yesterday, I convinced my sister to drive me past the school and our house so I could take pictures to show my children as a point of reference for my stories. It is pretty astounding to them that their Mama used to ride to church in a horse drawn buggy and walk to school with a black bonnet on, just like Henner’s Lydia. I find the Amish heritage to be rich and exceedingly interesting, but I really am grateful that my parents decided to steer us down a different path.
In our hours of driving together, my sister and I unearthed our very different views on following a GPS to go and come. Let’s just say we uncovered both the triumphs and disadvantages of the system, and leave it at that. 🙂 At any rate, I am so very grateful to be in my own home again, safe and sound.
5 thoughts on “Going and Coming in Rapid Succession”
You described her exactly. She made me hot chocolate with baking chocolate. It was horrible, awful, terrible. I pretended to sip it until she went to the bathroom, then I carefully poured it down the drain. I loved Ruth, it was surprisingly hard on me not to be there. I stoically told myself my place is with my husband, but memories of Ruth flooded me and I felt a little depressed that day. It would have been fun remembering her with all the cousins.
We missed you, Ellen. It was sort of a sad/happy day. Amish funerals are such a study in contrasts. One feels like one really needs the comic relief of a good laugh, but that would be almost as much of a shock as wearing a white blazer in an all black crowd. (Yes, I did. I was that stupid. I felt like a flashing neon sign.)
If Alvin and I would have been there you would have had comic relief. He has no concept of quiet in an amish service. He asks me out loud what they are going to do next, when they kneel to pray he tries to kiss me loudly, when they stand up and we accidentally sit down, he tells me out loud to quick stand up. Its nerve wracking and totally hilarious.