Last summer, Anne, mother of an Amish convert, wrote about a visit to her son Ed’s community in Minnesota. Today she shares the story of Ed’s recent visit back to his boyhood home in Virginia.
What did Ed’s Amish-born wife Ruth think of her visit to “English” America? How did they make the 1400-mile journey? And what one important thing did they not think to warn Ruth about? Read on to find out.
And if you missed previous installments of this series, here are all of Anne’s articles:
When A Son Joins The Amish (Introduction)
What About Photos?
How Do Others React?
Hard Times In Minnesota
Dollars, Degrees & Dentists
A Visit To Our Son’s Community
The Only Treasure You Can Take To Heaven
We were thrilled to get a call from Ed in mid May, saying they could come for a visit later that month. The timing was not great for us, because I was on crutches due to a knee injury, and looking ahead to surgery which was scheduled for the day they left. The whole time together was characterized by these sorts of complications. You’ll see that as I go along.
Getting from Minnesota to Virginia
To get them here, we’d agreed that my husband would drive to Wisconsin to pick them up. None of us could afford the travel costs, so they were going a day’s drive by bus, and would return in like fashion to catch a bus in Chicago.
Travel is so hard for them, but imagine trying to travel inexpensively with two small children. The boys are 2 ½, and 15 months, with the older one being only recently potty trained.
The bus trip began around 1am with a hired driver taking them to Detroit Lakes to catch the bus. There’s an all day bus ride (think of all those stops) and they finally got to Hillsboro, Wis, where they stayed a few days with some friends they wanted to see.
To continue the travel theme, when it was time to go home, my husband drove them to Chicago. This was the same day I had my surgery (my daughter was here to take care of me; couldn’t have done it without her!). They arrived in Chicago to catch a bus that left around 11pm. They got back to Detroit Lakes late afternoon of the next day, and then had the hired driver take them home, an hour away.
This kind of schedule is not for the faint of heart! As it was, we fronted them the cash for the bus fare, as I don’t think they could have come at all without it.
The time together turned out to be rather stressful, but only because of circumstances. You know how it is; things often don’t go as you planned.
Ed’s Illness & Other Challenges
When they first got here Ed was pretty sick. He thought he had flu, just like the rest of the family had had before the trip. He had no energy and was sad for it because he wanted to help us with things around here. He improved the last couple of days, but was frustrated that he didn’t feel like getting out.
He also seemed troubled by his overall health issues, which thankfully, he got some help with while here. It may be another 6 months to a year before we can figure out what’s wrong with him, but a kind doctor friend has taken his case on, and is working on a plan of action to try to weed out what could be causing his digestive upsets. I’ll share more on that later if there’s news to share.
During their visit, our lawnmower broke, the heat pump went down, and then at the end, our washing machine filled with water and wouldn’t drain (just as Ruth was trying to do laundry before going home). Add to that, that every meal was complicated by trying to find things Ed could eat with his gluten sensitivity – plus he thinks lots of other things upset his system too – and you get a pretty crazy time together.
One Thing We Missed
Then there are things you don’t think about, and the worst was our failure to remember that Ruth was still not used to a modern home. So the first night here, I was concerned to hear loud crying upstairs (our extra bedrooms are up there), but I knew Ruth was up there with the little ones, so didn’t worry too much. Then it happened again, and again I decided not to worry, especially when the crying stopped pretty soon.
When they came downstairs I asked Ruth about it and she said, “I don’t know… Jonathan was sitting on the floor near the wall and kept poking around this white thing on the wall; then he suddenly started screaming!” Yes, you guessed it; he’d put his fingers in the outlets and shocked himself twice. Ruth didn’t know about them and didn’t tell him to stay away. So glad he was not hurt worse! I think we’ll all laugh about it someday but it be will be awhile.
“Vacation” Means What Exactly?
I’ve come to realize that we have very different conceptions of what a “vacation” should be. I see Ruth so busy with the kids, and know that everything back home is hard; laundry, cleaning house, even cooking a simple meal. So I want her to have a break from all that.
But she feels like “vacation” means doing all the same work, but at a different house, where you can at least visit and share meaningful relationships together, and where you can get even more done because there are extra hands to do it. These different expectations can create difficult situations. For example, Ruth, in her recent letter, apologized to me that she did not help more. HELP MORE??? That was the last thing on my mind.
She said that before coming, she’d had visions of waiting on me, doing all the cooking and washing up, helping me get ready for surgery, etc. She was looking forward to all this! But what was I thinking? I was on my feet (much more than I should have been), trying to keep her from “working” as I saw it.
I couldn’t climb the stairs to help with the boys, and I couldn’t work outside in the garden or even entertain the little ones by myself if it involved holding them or playing with them. So I did all the cooking and cleaning, just what she thought she should be doing! And of course, I felt guilty that she had to “work” so much. It’s actually rather humorous that our expectations were such polar opposites.
Enjoying The English World
When we did go places, Ruth’s eyes were always wide. She loves to see sights and seems surprised and blessed by the big world out there. The only real outing we had was when Fiona (Ed’s sister) and Ruth and I went to the fabric store and then to Walmart. She loved seeing all the beautiful cotton fabrics at the local quilt shop. I grieved that she would not be able to use any of the prints with patterns or designs in them.
Then we went to Walmart to get her vision checked. We were shocked that she could not even make out the large “E” at the top of the chart! Glasses were ordered and we’ve heard since that she can now see to help pick the boatloads of peas coming off the vines in Minnesota.
The last evening they were here another awkward thing came up. A sweet friend came over with her camera and before I knew it, she was “spraying it around like a garden hose,” as my husband likes to say The camera was clicking all the time, with lots of, “now Jonathan, look this way!, etc. etc.” I know Ed is used to this, but for Ruth, it’s one of those things that’s “just not done”.
I didn’t want to offend my good-hearted friend, and thought Ed would be the one to put a stop to it. But he never said anything, so I left it alone. I later complimented Ruth on her gracious attitude during that “ordeal” and she seemed pleased that I thought she handled it well. I was so worried about it, I thought it might be the event that would prevent future trips here.
That would be a terrible outcome. I’m not going to complain now though, as they are the only pictures we actually have of my sweet daughter-in-law. And they are the best pics of the boys too.