Nana loved the Amish country. She and Papa went there thirty or forty years ago
with Uncle Don and Aunt Gwen, and I guess it brought back good memories each
time she returned.
Every time Nana came down to Maryland, I’d spend a day with her touring
the funny-sounding towns of Blue Ball, Bird in Hand, and Intercourse. Over
the last fifteen years, we’ve seen lots of buggies and cows and barns,
eaten at most of the area restaurants, and been shopping at every single last
Amish tourist trap and market.
On our visits, I was always treated to the details of Nana’s previous
Amish country trips. Nana remembered where she ate, where she and Papa camped,
where the other tourists were from, where the old dead oak tree used to be,
and how many cows were in a particular field the year before. The Amish country
was really a special place for her – full of happy memories.
Kathie called and said that she and Nana would fly down to Maryland together,
and that it would be Nana’s last trip. She could only walk a couple steps
without resting, and she was having a hard time catching her breath. Her memory
was failing, and she really struggled to remember names of people and places.
But she wanted to see the Maryland branch of her family.
We had a great visit with them when they arrived. Nana told us all that it
would be her last trip down, and we made sure that she got to spend time with
Mom and Dad, Grandma, Pam, Alison, Holly, Jonathan, Irina, and me. She told
us again and again that she didn’t think she’d be able to come
back, and we all made sure that we soaked up as much time as we could with
Of course we took her to the Amish Country: though Nana was afraid that we
wouldn’t be going. She really wanted to “go back to that place,
um, what was the name… it’s on the tip of my tongue… where
all the people… oh you know… where they have those… I can’t
remember what they're called – isn’t that something… the
place I like so much.”
Dad, Kathie, Nana, Grandma, and I piled into the car and headed north to Lancaster,
Pennsylvania. I told Nana that since it was her last trip there, she could
choose all the places we’d go. And so we set off.
Nana wasn’t the only person on the trip with a faulty memory. Grandma
was keeping up her end just fine. I asked her if she’d ever been to the
Amish country, and she said that she was there with her first husband right
after they got married. “What was his name?” Nana asked. A long
silence followed. Dad prompted, “Was it George?” “Oh, yes,
that was his name - George!” said Grandma. “Have I met him?” asked
Nana. “I don’t remember – I don’t think so,” said
Grandma, “he’s been gone for a while now.” You get the picture – the
trips down memory lane were full of blind corners.
We arrived in Intercourse, and Nana wanted to go shopping for a shoo-fly pie.
We got her a motorized chair (her first one – imagine that!), and she
did a really nice job zipping around the store. Grandma got jealous that she
didn’t get to ride on her own motorized chair, but she got over it when
i bought her some carob covered apricots.
After the store, Nana wanted to drive around and “just look.” She
showed us where she and Papa camped one time. We drove past some more memory-laden
places, and ended up at a tourist trap.
The grandmothers were too tired from all the sightseeing to get out of the
car. On the other hand, Kathie, Dad and I were dying to get out. So we left
them in the back seat, where they were still trying to sort out who George
was and what had happened to him.
On the way out, I decided it was safer to lock the car. That way the grandmothers
would stay out of trouble. I told them we’d be back in a couple minutes,
and we left.
We ended up getting stuck at the jam and pickle store for longer than we expected,
and after fifteen minutes, I was feeling pretty guilty for leaving the grandmothers
alone for so long. So I bought two bowls of sugar-free ice cream, and headed
back to the car.
As I walked through the parking lot, I heard a car alarm that sounded familiar.
And I remembered that my car’s alarm system has a motion detector. And
I realized that it must be my car making all that noise. Oops.
I ran the rest of the way, slopping ice cream all over my shirt. You can imagine
the scene. Grandma was behind the steering wheel, pushing and pulling all the
knobs and buttons. Nana was in the back seat, yelling at her to leave it all
I hit the remote. The alarm stopped, and I started apologizing. Nana blamed
Grandma for nosing around, and Grandma said Nana caused it by moving too much.
I told them that it wasn’t their fault, and that I was the stupid one
who forgot to shut off the motion sensor. I don’t think they understood
the technical reasons, but it stopped the bickering long enough for me to give
them their ice cream.
I went back to wash the ice cream off my shirt, and met up with Dad and Kathie.
We went back to the car, and I started apologizing again for the terror I had
caused. “What terror?” asked Nana. “The car alarm,” I
said. “What alarm?” asked Grandma. “We’ve just been
having a good time here, waiting for you to finish,” said Nana.
Some Amish memories are best forgotten.
We were blessed to have Nana and Kathie come and visit us, so close to the
end. Nana’s final trip down here was a celebration – we talked
about life and death and memories, and what would happen next. As she put it, “If
it’s my time, I’m ready. But I don’t want to die, because
I don’t want to miss what will happen next.” Four days later, Nana
passed away. She might have been ready, but I sure wasn’t.
I’ve been trying to write this story for fifteen months, but I found
it really hard to do - these Amish memories for me have become bittersweet.
But today Nana would have turned 77, and I figured that if I didn’t get
it down now, I'd never do it. So Happy Birthday, Nana – I miss you.