Monday, May 15, 2006

Two Good People

In the last few days I learned of the deaths of two special people. They were different in many ways but I will remember them both for the simple fact that they loved others.

After I graduated from high school I moved 60 miles away to teach in a little Amish school. Actually, they had cars, but in many ways the families were not far removed from the Amish. I boarded with the bishop, Noah, and his wife Fannie.

Noah and his first wife had raised a large family and then his wife died. Several years later he married Fannie, who was 20 years younger than him.

I found Noah an exasperating man, very set in his opinions, such as the belief that men never went to the moon (it was all staged somehow) and the sun revolved around the earth. He felt it was wrong for me to pop zits on my face because it was altering how God made me. He had been a stern Amish bishop in his day and still had that grim and authoritarian aura about him.

Fannie, on the other hand, was plump, jolly, and lots of fun. I had a rough time of teaching that year, mostly due to my own idealism and inexperience, and she loved me through all my mistakes. She didn't have any particular gifts that I can think of beyond the profound skill of nurturing everybody and everything that came across her path.

She loved Noah despite his faults and made sure he swigged a little glass of aloe vera juice every morning for his health. She made tons of Christmas candies and pushed them on me until February. And every morning she cooked up a big pot of oatmeal and then took it outside to feed the animals, a big collie named Tanner and a bunch of cats. "Tanner! Tom! Tab! Fluff!" she would call, in her Pennsylvania-Amish accent, as she spooned the oatmeal into the trough.

My brother informed me yesterday that Fannie passed away last week. What a gift she was.

On Saturday, we lost Paul's uncle Rudy.

Paul's aunt Allene was a stereotypical old-maid schoolteacher for many years. Brisk, independent, strong, outspoken, busy, professional. She wore her hair slicked back into a bun and gave off an aura of not being afraid of anything.

Then during one of our last years in Canada we started getting a flurry of letters with the most amazing news. Allene! Allene love! Allene was...carrying on like a schoolgirl! I feel I have a big imagination but this one was beyond me.

Many years before, Allene had taught at a Navajo reservation in Arizona with a woman named Kay Klassen. Kay died of cancer some years later, and some years after that, Allene went back to Arizona for a reunion. There she met Kay's widower, Rudy. Sparks flew and before we knew it, they were dating! Then getting married! In Hawaii! On the beach!

Allene and Rudy lived at his home in Sedona, Arizona. We really didn't see them that often but when we did I was always amazed at Rudy. He always had a twinkle in his eye and radiated an amused benevolence to everyone around. He was really quiet but didn't seem fazed by the noisy exuberance of Allene's family.

Rudy brought out a side to Allene we had never seen--a feminine affection. She was in love with Rudy and that was that.

Allene still talked as much as ever, and sounded just as strong in her opinions, but she would punctuate her speeches with little asides: "Isn't that right, Rudy?" And he would smile and nod in great amusement. She would rattle on, then turn to him again, "Isn't that right, Rudy?" Again he would smile and nod.

I am sure Rudy had many accomplishments but I don't know what they were. I just know that I always felt that he loved me and all the rest of us simply because we were part of Allene's family, which is a rare and wonderful thing.


  1. Your comment about the skepticism of the landing on the moon made me smile in fond remembrance. One of my "treasures" is my (Amish) great-grandmother, Malinda's, Bible. Inside is a Budget clipping relating the events of that day, along with her hand-written comments in the margin: "July 20, 1969. They claim they landed on the moon." It makes me smile every time I see it. She was a wonderful woman.

  2. I met a guy the other day that doesnt beleive man landed on the moon either. Thats just totally weird! I thought everyone knew it. Am i gullible? Maybe man didnt actualy get to the man after all. What if I'm the one thats wrong?

  3. Intriguing question, Mrs. Darling. I guess the question to ask is: who would have benefited from a hoax, and how? All I can think of is that the US government would have been ahead in the space race with the USSR. Seems a bit weak.