Friday, May 7, 2021

The Trip

I was up at 3:30, out the door by 4:30, and keeping a watchful eye out for deer, made my way to the hilltop Amish farm. 

Their house was dark. Completely dark. It was five am, and I thought to myself, "I know I haven't made a mistake on the day," followed quickly by, "....have I?" 

I saw a small light coming, and the "mem" appeared with a car seat. We got it strapped in as she explained that her husband was having a quick bite of cereal and they would be right out. It wasn't long before 'det' appeared drinking his coffee. They don't eat and drink on the trip down because Rudy, of course, cannot have anything. 

Now in my experience, children get mighty ornery when they are hungry and so I had packed a small box of entertainments, old toys that the grandkids had no use for now. Something new can be a wonderful distraction. 

It wasn't long mem appeared and the boy was buckled in. I expected him to be sleepy and cross, but he was not. He was bright eyed and curious and beneath his straw hat, he was taking everything in. Something new can be a wonderful distraction, and it hadn't occurred to me that everything was new. Me. The car. Everyone moving around in the dark.

I petted their sweet old dog as Rudy was settled in. 

We headed off. 

We made the trip in perfect time. Rudy played happily in the back seat chattering away to his mem. He had found the jack in the box and I could hear him singing along with 'pop goes the weasel'. As strange as it sounds, I hadn't made that connection until that trip. Whenever we go to buy lumber, Levi is surrounded by his sons, and a quieter bunch you have never seen. They stare seriously and they do not smile. When the car or truck pulls in, they always appear from all corners of the house, barn and yard, and they watch. 

I said to Levi once, "You've got the quietest kids I've ever met." He laughed and said, "They can get pretty loud." On the trip down, I realized why they don't speak when spoken to. They don't speak English. They have no clue what I'm saying. 

We got to the hospital 20 minutes before their appointment and said our 'goodbyes' and I said, "Good luck!"

I couldn't sign into my guest room until one, so I sat in the lobby and read. ('This Is How It Always Is' ~ Frankel) After a couple hours of that, I wandered around blog land and did some people watching as I drank a coffee.

There were so many babies, some of them very sick, hooked up to IVs, flaccid limbs moving a little as their parents wheeled them by in special strollers. I saw one mom with an obviously ill baby, but a lively toddler. However did she manage? But she was cheerful with the toddler, as they explored the activities in the lobby, something specially designed for situations just like theirs, it seemed. There were computers that allowed the kids to interact with images on the wall, a perpetual motion machine fed balls down a complicated series of slides and ramps and tracks providing lights and noise and motion. While he played, the mother played with the infant. 

I found myself wondering what my grandson would have been, had he been given the chance to grow up? We only had Keegan long enough to know what was wrong, not how that would have affected him in the long term. 

I was using up a great deal of power on the phone cruising around blog land, and I realized that I'd left the charger in the car. I headed back down to the garage to get it. In the end, I decided to sit in the car for a while and wait. It was dark and quieter, and my seats are a lot more comfortable than the chairs in the lobby. I plugged in my phone and a couple minutes later, I received a call. 

It was Levi, and without preamble he said, "We're ready to go." 

It had only been a couple hours, and I couldn't believe they'd done the surgery that quickly and were sending him home. The surgery involved removing a portion of his skull. "Are they done already?" I asked incredulously.

"No," he answered. "They are not going to do it today, he has an ear infection." 

I told him that I was in the car reading, and he was glad. When they came down, Mattie asked for my parking ticket and left abruptly. 

Levi said, "She's mad. But if it is not safe, I side with the doctor."

Making the arrangements for things like this is very hard for them. The pre-surgery stuff is done locally, but it is still a lot of traveling here and there and back and forth. Phone calls are relayed. Travel arrangements aren't easy, especially for the long trips. Their regular driver had a death in the family, and that could have derailed everything if they hadn't found a replacement driver. 

To get down there and to find out that you'd have to start the process all over again was frustrating, especially when I found out on the trip home that they were concerned about his runny nose and had taken him to the pediatrician for the express purpose of finding out if they should cancel the trip to Pittsburgh. The pediatrician had told them that he was fine, just a little allergy thing, that his ears were clear and there was no sign of infection. So they went ahead with the planned surgery.

'Det' sat in the back with the baby and let 'Mem' ride up front. By the time we were out of Pittsburgh, the grim line of her mouth had relaxed and we were all once again bantering back and forth. It really was a very merry ride. We found a lot to laugh about there and back. For a little boy who had not yet had breakfast, our little fellow played happily with his jack in the box, singing little songs and being entertained by the reading lights in the back seat. 

Levi began to get hungry himself and was not nearly so good natured. They had never heard the word 'hangry' before, but both thought it was hilarious. I threatened to stop the car and put him in the trunk. 

We finally got to a fast food place and empty stomachs were filled. All was well. As we ate, we decided to stop at several thrift stores on the way home, and we continued on talking about this and that, and making jokes at the expense of each other. Rudy sang to his jack in the box. 

We made one last stop at the pharmacy where they picked up over $200 worth of prescriptions for the baby. We pulled into the driveway and kids came from every direction once again, surprised to see us back so soon, but anxious to tell their mother some good news. 

Mattie's face shown happily lost in a sea of  children and she looked up at Levi who was unbuckling Rudy. "There is a new colt," she said, They chattered together. I knew deep in the recesses of the house their grandmother watched us. They had other company too. The wagon was in the yard, the horses put to pasture with their own. 

Rudy clutched his jack in the box, and the others gathered around him excited to see what he had. In the end, we worked a trade. I got some rhubarb, Rudy got a new toy, and while they were distracted I set the rest of the toys on the porch. 

It was a long day, but it was a enjoyable one. I didn't have much energy to accomplish anything other than to google a recipe for a rhubarb cobbler. 


  1. So the children only speak German? Dutch? Will they ever teach them English?

    I don't understand living somewhere and not learning the primary language. There's nothing wrong with retaining your own language and culture, but I feel if you live in an English speaking country you should speak English. If I were to live in France or Mexico, I'd learn to speak French or Spanish. Let's make it Mexico.... I already have a good head start with Spanish. ;)

  2. I'm not sure when the switch begins, Kelly. The parents speak both languages fluently. At some point, the children pick it up as well.

  3. I may be incorrect about the kids not understanding me. They learn English in school beginning at age 6. So, perhaps the oldest children understand me after all. Rudy didn't. He must have asked my name in the back. His mother said, "Debby". He said it experimentally. I said, "Rudy!" in return. He thought that was good fun.

  4. They say a true friend is someone who'll come out at 3.00am on a storm night, to pick you up if your car breaks down - no questions asked. That's metaphoric for a lot more I think.

    Well done you.

  5. You have written this so beautifully Debby that I was with you every step of the way. Thank you.

  6. A lovely gesture Debby. Do the Amish not object to riding in a car?

  7. Sometimes there is no choice, Northsider. Leeway is given by their churches. It's a strange mix of old and new, but I don't question it. Their ways are not my ways, so really it doesn't matter what I think about their lives.

    I sound like a broken record, really, it is about kindness. In the end, I don't think we should miss a perfectly good opportunity to be kind.

    I also had a very nice day. I found an Under Armor hooded sweatshirt for William for $8 as well as a tee shirt of the same brand for $4. The sweatshirt still had tags on it. He'll be entering in to middle school in the fall, and being 'cool' is a very big deal. No good deed goes unpunished, as they say.

  8. What a wonderful description of a most interesting day. I am not sure that I could rouse myself to be up and about that early!

  9. Interesting post! That's a shame that the surgery couldn't go forward. I think they speak a kind of German but it's one that Germans don't understand.

  10. It is called Pennsylvania German or Pennsylvania Dutch, Margaret, and you are correct. It is a distinct dialect of its own.

    JayCee, I've no doubt that you could rouse yourself up at 3:30 in a pinch. I would hate doing it every day.

    The Bike Shed, most of my true friends would not be rambling around at 3 AM. We're past those years, I think. :)

  11. You are a very kind person and I think that family will be very grateful for you. Such a pity they have to go through it all again, the stress of worry as well as the trip. x

  12. Would be a great piece for a local newspaper although I realize that it probably wouldn't work due to confidentiality. Still, people other than us would like to read it.

  13. It actually isn't newsworthy here. We have an Amish population and they sometimes need to hire drivers. That's the thing about blogs that I think is so cool. To us, we're all talking about our ordinary lives. To other people from other places, these glimpses are exciting and different.

  14. My mother had to deal with a couple of sick kids and spent a lot of time sitting by hospital beds, knitting and acting normal. Once as an adult I asked her how she had handled all that. She said Just look around. Someone is always worse off than you. Be grateful. Be cheerful.

  15. I think I've told you we have an Amish community near here, but I've never had the opportunity to get to know any of them. They sell their goods at the local farmers market and they're very pleasant. Interesting folks.

  16. Joanne, a sick child is my worst nightmare.

    Bob I did not know that.

  17. It sounds like a kind of pleasant day, despite the frustration about the surgery. It's a drag that they'll have to go all the way back down again sometime. It's interesting to hear about how their culture meets yours in these exchanges!

  18. The Amish in our area learn English in school but like you said, rarely speak when an "English" is nearby. According to our Amish hired hand, children aren't encouraged to talk to anyone outside their faith and I suspect a lot of that has to do with protecting them against modern curiosities.

    I know a handful of words from the local Amish dialect and have tried them out over the years with people from Germany and the Netherlands and none have recognized any of the words. I'm guessing the Amish dialect is for all practical purposes, just another language on its own by now.


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