Monthly Archives: November 2022

Smile Lines and Wrinkles

It was around six o’clock in the morning. I stood at the bathroom sink and got ready to comb my hair, wash my face and get ready for this busy day. My cousin, Jon (one of the cousins that I’ve got “going and coming” by virtue of his Papa and my Daddy being brothers and Our Sweet Mamas being sisters) and his good wife, Heleen, were in the area and had called for anyone who wanted to, to come to the local coffee shop for coffee, breakfast, or just to be together.. Amity Coffee Roasters is also a family business, as it is owned by a nephew, Elmer Slaubaugh and his wife, Melody, and I certainly wanted to go!

My cousins and I are getting older. On my Daddy’s side there were 60 of us. The youngest of the 60 is now 56. The oldest is 80. Sometimes I think about how these years have passed and the age old axioms rattle around in my brain like so many loose marbles. “Where did the time go? How did I get this old so soon?”

On this morning, the face looking back at me in the mirror is lined and the chin sags. I need glasses to see things clearly and they aren’t on at the present, but I’m pretty sure that I look every bit of my 69 years. “H-m-m-m-m,” I think while pulling the comb through the tangled hair that is more gray than dark, “Maybe I’ll pull out my wrinkle cream from Olay and put some of that on this morning. It’s getting chilly out, so some moisturizer certainly won’t hurt. I don’t want to look too old when I go to see my cousins!”

I finished combing, washed my glasses and face, pinned on my prayer veiling, put on my glasses, made my bed, got dressed . . . and never thought about Oil Of Olay Wrinkle cream again until I was in the middle of breakfast. And then it didn’t matter any more.

For those who are interested:
(Clockwise from left to right)
James Bontrager, Karen Bontrager, Joan Mills, Uncle Jesse, Paul Yoder, Ilva Hertzler, Leslie Yoder, Sarah Slaubaugh, Jon Yoder, Heleen Yoder (peeking out from behind the head of) Mark Yoder, Jr., and me.

You see, I looked at these familiar and beloved faces. The youngest was my sister Sarah, the oldest was my Uncle Jesse, and even though there were some wrinkles there, I didn’t find a single wrinkle among us all that I found offensive. Quite the opposite. I’m partial to people with smiley wrinkles, and that is something a good many of the Yoders have in abundance. But even the other lines spoke volumes to me of the grief, the struggle and the living that has gone on in the lives of these people and the people they love. It was a wonderful time together. We laughed and talked, caught up with each other’s lives and came away hoping to do it again before too long. We are not young. In fact, most of us are “Too Old to Die Young” at this stage of the game. But that’s alright. We have so much more!

We are so blessed.


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Full Moon Rising, Soft Tears Falling

Certain Man invited me on a golf cart ride this evening to see the gorgeous full moon over our Delaware countryside. It’s there every month, but there is just something breathtaking about how it rises over the south east horizon and climbs its way high into the sky before we have a chance to think or look twice. Especially the Autumn Moons.

The day has been busy, but also so close to normal that my head was able to think about more than what needed to be done. There was bread to bake, soup to make, custard to bake, and of course, lots of dishes to wash. I hadn’t gotten things done after our “First Sunday Potluck” so there was quite a mess in this kitchen. So my hands were busy with lots of kitchen things, but my heart was far away . . .

Far away? Yes. In Canton, Ohio. In Washington, DC. In Cold Spring, New York. In homes not so far away in Harrington and Milford and Greenwood. And in Heaven.

Heaven? Yes, especially Heaven. Thoughts of My Sweet Mama swirled around and around in my head as the sting of missing her took a fresh spot in my heart. And there was a reason.

Last night, Certain Man and I went to a drama program at Greenwood Mennonite Church put on by the Lititz Area Mennonite School. Our granddaughter, Charis, went with us. The production was very well done, and left me more than a bit pensive. After it was over, Charis and I were getting into the car when she suddenly said, “Grammy, may I go and find Grandma Yoder’s Grave?”

“Of course!” I said. “I’ll come, too!” Grandpa was still talking inside the church house, and I figured we had time. She headed out towards the cemetery, and I got things deposited in the car and followed. I watched her stride across the parking lot and thought about this young woman, and how she loved her Grandma Yoder. The loss of her Great-grandmother was huge and there was a picture of her at the grave that has epitomized childhood grief in my mind. The grave was so new that the date (6/16/15) had not yet been engraved.

It was dark in the church cemetery. I have not been there lately and the gravestones looked surprisingly foreign to me, but by the time I got there, Charis had already found the stone that marked the final resting place of My Sweet Mama, and her beloved “Grandma Yoder.” My phone caught this teen as she once again knelt by the familiar stone and traced the letters with her hand.

My heart caught in my throat. My Sweet Mama loved this little girl with all her being. She had prayed unendingly for Christina and Jesse to have a baby and she always had time for a bouncy little girl with shining eyes and undying devotion. On Sunday afternoons, Grandma Yoder and little Charis would spend hours playing a made up game with squishy hand warmers accompanied by shrieks of laughter on both sides of the game and a whole lot of running on the part of the short team. No one ever won or lost, it was just pure, unadulterated fun and I would give almost anything to hear it again.

Charis’ Mama and I usually cleaned up and washed dishes while they played, and then I would drive My Sweet Mama home to her quiet house.

“I’m so tired,” she would usually confess. “It makes me so tired to play with her, but she loves it so much, and I enjoy it, too. I just don’t want to not play when I can!” I reassured her, as I always did, and soon another day was over, and another memory was in my overflowing trunk of good generational memories.

There came a Sunday in early May of 2015 that was the last time.

We didn’t know!

I have so many good memories. The memories help to hold me in a place of JOY in these days that sometimes threaten to shake my sense of calm.


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In Everything Give Thanks

They came into the laundry room last Saturday after I got home from Ohio. Middle Daughter and Oldest Granddaughter. After the hugs and “welcome home’s” they said they had a question for me.

“Mama,” said Middle Daughter, hesitantly. “What are you thinking about the Thankful Wall?

I was puzzled. “What do you mean,” I asked. “What about the Thankful Wall?”

“Are you planning to have one this year?”

“Of course!” I was really confused. Why would they think we would break with this nearly 30 year old tradition?

She and Oldest Grandchild looked at me and then in a quiet voice Middle Daughter said, “Well, I thought that with the way this year has gone maybe you were just going . . .” Her voice trailed off.

“Oh, Deborie-Girl!” I felt my heart give a strange leap as I looked at this adult offspringin’ whose year has held so much reversal and loss, and The events in our family over these last four months went spinning through me head like a rapid-fire machine gun.

Here in Delaware, there was a breast cancer diagnosis, a bilateral mastectomy, a deep vein thrombosis, a pulmonary embolism, infection, a second surgery and a prolonged recovery.

In Washington, there was ongoing concern over the chronic stomach disease of our Girl With a Beautiful Heart, plus Youngest Daughter and Beloved Son in Law #2 both had Covid.

There was the surgery and roller coaster diagnosis issues until we found out that our Youngest Granddaughter did, in fact have a rare form of childhood cancer (a synovial sarcoma) in her right leg and needed additional surgery as well as radiation. There was a miscarriage in our family, and other crisis among the grandchildren. I got Covid when I went to Ohio to help out in August and gave it to Youngest Granddaughter. Certain Man caught it later somewhere else and Oldest Daughter, Beloved Son in Law #1 and Oldest Granddaughter also caught it. (And there were challenges that I actually forget)!

But God was there! We were not alone, and in just as rapid fire, I saw the blessings piling up in my head.

“Oh, my Deborie-girl! We have so many things to be thankful for! This year of all years, we need a Thankful Wall! We need to remember all the good things that we’ve been given.”

And so they went away. It looked like a big job to this “still not fully recovered” daughter, but Oldest Granddaughter was going to help her and they were going to get it done. One thing led to another and none of their plans worked out, so Middle Daughter finished it up on her own this week and brought it over. and she and her Daddy put it up.

“I’m sorry, Mama,” she said sadly. “It’s really simple. I started one thing, and it just didn’t look right, so I cut it off and started over!”

I was too delighted to care. “Deborah, it’s just fine. I like it very much. Simple is good. Thank you for doing it for me!”

And it is just right. Except that it is lacking signatures and there is a lot of space. After these pictures were taken, I decided to add one notation a day for this month at least, but so far, that is all that is up there. Therefore, this is an open invitation to stop and jot your addition to it.

My heart gives grateful praise

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