Belleville, PA: Amish Buggy
My mother became very sick recently, and she was taken to the Lewistown hospital in an ambulance on the day that my husband and I last visited. She has improved since then, and last week she was moved to rehab at Locust Grove, in Mifflin, Pennsylvania.
I have been worried about both of my parents, as you might imagine. On Monday, the 17th, they celebrated 69 years of wedded bliss. They do best when they are both together. And somewhat poorly when they are apart.
I wanted to visit, but there were complications. Summer is road construction season in Pennsylvania, and the short answer to almost any travel idea is this: You can't get there from here!
The most direct route to get from the State College area, where my husband and I live, to where my parents live, is route 322. There is major road construction going on right now at Potters Gap, with road closures in effect for one to two hours at a time, from 9 am to 5 pm, through June 28. So obviously, we didn't want to go that way.
There is another route to get there that goes from route 26 to route 305 through McAlevy's Fort, to route 655 through Belleville, which brings you onto route 322 just above Lewistown, well below the bad road construction in Potters Mills. So that is how we went, on a perfect summer day.
We started with a nice lunch at Couch's, in McAlevy's Fort: two hot roast beef sandwiches with curly fries, gravy, rolls, baked beans, and cole slaw. Then we went to Mifflin to visit my mom. We arrived just as she was finishing up her lunch. My father comes to visit her every day, generally in the afternoon, but he wasn't there yet.
So my husband and I - with permission of the nurse - put my mother in a wheel chair and wheeled her around the place, stopping to sit and chat here and there. We finally got her - again, with permission - outside to enjoy some fresh air. In case you need to know the truth, I am pretty lousy at piloting a wheel chair!
And then my father showed up, and you should have seen my mother's face light up! She was grinning from ear to ear. And they greeted each other with a long and passionate kiss, as is their custom. (Get a room! you might have been tempted to say.) Here is a thing about marriage: if you stay married long enough, you will get to take turns carrying the sun for each other.
We took our leave shortly after that, with many hugs and kisses, and I Love You's, returning home in the exact reverse of the way we came. Above is a photo of a buggy that was in the road directly in front of us on our trip down. We had seen a few of them on that drive, but on our way back home, the roads were just FULL of them. In fact, we saw more Amish buggies on the return trip than I have ever seen in one day in my life!
We had just enough time to stop at Greenwood Furnace for our first (cold) swim there of this summer season. It was delightful and refreshing! And then we got out of the water and went and changed our clothes, and went to get our chairs and things from the beach to head home.
As I turned around, I saw my husband speaking with an older Amish woman, who was clad in layers of dark clothes, as is their custom. He was joking with her: "Put on your bathing suit and go for a swim!" he was saying. As I walked over, he was regaling the poor woman with stories of how tough I am; how cold I like the water; how long I like to swim. She spoke with a strong German accent.
"It's therapy for me," I told her. "The cold water takes all my worries away. It gives me peace." And as she and I stood there for a bit, together, she reached out and began to stroke my leg! I have to admit it startled me some. My husband said later: "You should have seen the look on your face!"
But she was just trying to tell if my skin was still COLD from all that cold swimming. She touched my arm, which was colder than my leg, and then my hands, which were colder still. We both smiled. Yes, we verified that I was cold! And I loved it!
At some point, the old Amish lady and I were standing by the water, sort of holding hands. It was not a moment I would have predicted for this day, but it was delightful too! A moment of connection. Or the transfer of grace, perhaps, from the cold, clear water.
I will end this story by giving you a song for this day, which had many interesting things about it. It was a perfect summer day, and I experienced much love of family; and shared the grace of the cold, clear water with a stranger who might have just become a friend. Much old-fashioned love, to be sure. So here is your tune: Three Dog Night, with An Old Fashioned Love Song.