Day 109

Souderton, PA

The reading from Daily Bread this morning is hard for me to deal with. In compact form: accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior is the one and only way to go to heaven. Earl places it in front of me when he’s done, as if to emphasize its importance. The nicest response I can manage is to ignore it.

Back on the bike

I work on my bike in the garage for a few hours. After meeting Hadie and Earl for lunch, I take off into the bright sunny day, lose myself in town, and sail a few miles out into the country. I push my legs for all they’re worth on the way back. It feels glorious.

Tania and Nate take me to dinner. They’re a bit nervous as hosts but I fill all the gaps up with stories of my journeys. They listen, bright-eyed, seeming truly amazed by what I’m doing. I probe, but I can’t seem to connect with them. They are either hiding from their true struggles, or they are such different creatures from myself that I simply can’t relate to them. Then, after dinner Tania surprises me by asking if I struggle with being an only child. Caught off guard, I say I enjoyed being spoiled. She offers some deeper insights into the struggles that can result from the absence of fights, teasing, emotional outbursts, manipulation, and companionship of siblings. I consider an unexamined aspect of myself.

Home, Tania shows me her hand-typed manuscript of Winding Trails. I charge her to keep it safe – there may be something important there. I say goodbye to Tania, then Nate takes me back to Hadie’s.

It’s after 9, and I’m disappointed because I’d wanted one last family chat with Hadie. To my surprise, she stays up until midnight telling me stories. I learn that she took care of Aunt Mary until her final days in a care facility. She feels that the facility covered something up about Mary’s death. I learn that Mary had a Master’s degree in Biology. Probing for clues about Mary’s mental health, I find only that she went to odd lengths to avoid having visitors, and her house was a wreck when the family cleaned and sold it for her. I hear more about childhood Christmases in the Enss family. She tells me that each child had a special box for small gifts beneath their bed, and I think of the box by my bed that used to await me when I visited Granma and Grandpa in Holland. I learn that George Enss worked for the CIA, and once sneaked Hadie in past the guard to see his office. George had always kept track of Mary and cared for her. I learned how Gustav gracefully relinquished the car keys and checkbook to Hadie and George when he fell ill in Florida (and tried to keep the illness secret).

My great loss is that these stories came up unexpectedly, and I didn’t get them on tape.

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