Tag Archives: Grandpa

I’ll Live when I’m Old

I caught some sort of illness after I came back from Thailand that took everything. out. of. me. I thought it was jet lag at first, but it didn’t go away for weeks. I dropped half my classes and slogged through life.

I carry ill health around with me like a coiled spring in a box. You know, the kind with a red boxing glove on the end. I don’t know when it’s going to punch me in the face, but I always have to be prepared for it.

Do you ever read old books and wonder, “how did they ever survive that sort of life back then?” I do. And then I always decide that I would have been the one that died young. The Beth March of the group.

However, I am beginning to question that assumption.

Over the last few months I’ve been trying to turn my Grandpa’s handwritten memoirs into a typed book. Grandpa is turning 100 this year, and everyone who meets him is amazed at how spry and quick he still is. When he lived with us last summer he spent his time reading books and magazines, writing his memoirs, and outside thinning the apples in our orchard. In other words, the very picture of old-man health.

That’s why I was very surprised when I read his memoirs and discovered how sickly of a person he was when he was my age. In fact, he was pretty sure his health issues would be enough to keep him from getting drafted, though that proved unfounded. Still, he spoke about doing lighter work around the farm while his brothers did the more intense work, and leaving his plow for a while to lie in the fields and rest.

“Hmm,” I thought, “maybe I’ll be healthy when I’m an old lady.”

Just last week I transcribed the chapter Grandpa wrote about his mom, who is famous in family lore for living until she was only a few weeks shy of her 104’th birthday. I discovered that, lo and behold, she had so many health issues growing up that her doctor didn’t think she’d live very long.

Maybe this is a trend in my family. Maybe that means I’m not even a quarter of the way through my life, and it’ll just get better from here.

I always make jokes that I only live half the life that other people do. But when I’m an old lady, I’m going to live twice the life that other people do.

So there.



Words of an Educated Amishman


I’ve been spending a LOT of time at school recently, since Ben and I ended up with widely different schedules, yet only bought one parking pass to share between us. Some days it’s dark when I get up and dark when I leave school.

As a way to productively fill some of the extra hours, I’ve been typing up my Grandpa’s handwritten memoirs. My Grandpa, who is almost 99, has the extremely unique distinction of having gotten his bachelor’s and master’s degrees while still old order Amish. Since I am also interested in education, this is an area where I like to pick his brain.

Yesterday I began typing the education section of his memoir, which began like this:

“On the subject of education I hardly know where to begin or where to end. Some of it was gained in a small creek, where there were minnows and tadpoles and crawdads, and some of it in university halls. It began at the cradle and it continues until now.”

What a nice sentiment. I quite like the idea of still continuing my education at the age of 99.

When I reached the section where Grandpa described his motivation for going to college, I was surprised.

Context: Grandpa was in a CPS camp, as a conscientious objector during WWII. As the war was ending, he was trying to figure out what to do next. He wrote this about what led him toward thinking about college:

“I still had the desire to return to farming sometime, but I also saw some needs in our Amish church. I felt that our people were too uneducated. They were too poorly acquainted with our faith and practices. I was backed into a corner time and again trying to explain my faith. Should I try going to college? Could I help the situation if I went to college?”

It fascinated me that college came (at least partially) out of a desire to be able to explain his faith. Now, in conservative Anabaptist circles, the fear is that college will destroy your faith.

For me, though, college has vastly strengthened my faith. If nothing else, I saw just how many people did not actually have peace in their hearts. It astounded me, and I saw that the Holy Spirit had indeed given me peace that passed all understanding. (Philippians 4:7, Galatians 5:22)

Furthermore I’ve noticed, like my Grandpa before me, that many Christians/Mennonites have a hard time adequately explaining their faith to people who don’t speak Christianese.

I haven’t finished transcribing Grandpa’s memoirs, but already I’m completely fascinated by what he has to say. It’s hard to have a conversation with him, as he is nearly deaf, but the stories give me a glimpse of what goes on in his still-sharp mind.