This is one of those days when I’m really missing my Zaaz. He calls me almost every morning and we talk on his way to work, but that’s not like having him close by. Sometimes I really, really miss him.
When Notah and Rachael were growing up we only had Louie for a few years. I think I’ve said before that he died when Notah wasn’t five yet and Rachael was only two. We had Grandpa for six or eight years after that and then it was ‘us against the world.’ I’ve regretted at times that I didn’t sue the doctor who was responsible for his care at the time as well as the hospital attending him. Their neglect contributed directly to his death. I was present many times when Louie would call for help with his breathing and the nursing staff would put him off or refuse to help. I feel sure that was what happened the morning he died. The pulmonary specialist in Canton called personally to tell me how sorry he was to hear of Louie’s death and to say he wished he could have been attending because his death hadn’t been necessary. (That seems about as specific as a doctor can be without saying plainly, “Sue the pants off the idiots.”) But at the time I felt that nothing could bring Louie back and that was my only focus.
The kids and I had a lot of really difficult times over the next years. Money was extremely tight and if there were any problems with the house or the vehicles we had to struggle to find the cash to pay for repairs or, later, Notah did it himself. Rachael built fence, chased horses and threw hay bales. Together they cleaned house and did laundry. Both of them worked harder than probably any of their classmates and we lived in an area where the Amish parents believed in making their kids work.
I was thinking this morning of how Notah did his best to step into his Daddy’s big boots. My heart ached then and still does at the courage and sense of responsibility in that little boy. Once in the fall shortly after Louie’s death we stopped at a porch sale to just look at the things on display. As we were leaving we saw a box of candy bars the lady was selling for a school fundraiser sitting on the porch banister. I bought one for us to share.
When we got in the van I opened it and broke it into pieces for each of us. I picked mine up and gave Rachael one.
Notah dived in between us, saying, “Wait, wait! Let me eat some first and then if it’s poison it will just make me die and you and Rachael will be all right.”
See why my heart aches.
A few months after Grandpa’s death, maybe the next spring or summer, our basement steps broke. They didn’t crash but something cracked and they were wobbly enough that it was not safe to use them. The kids could go down them because they had good knees, but I was afraid to try it. There was no way in the world I could do the fancy footwork necessary to save myself if they suddenly gave way altogether. Nor was there any way I could afford to hire someone to put in new ones.
Notah made up his mind he could build more steps. I was worried about it but I bought the things he said he needed: two long 2” by 10”s and a couple long 1” by 10”s and some long wood screws. He figured it all out and built a new set of steps. With no more help than some discussion with me and maybe he talked to Aaron’s dad or Big John, he built the stairs. And they were straight. And solid. And the risers were all even.
I have a fantastic son. I don’t think he would be the man he is today if we had made a pile of money suing the doctor and hospital. Life would probably have been easier, but being poor taught him and Rachael to be strong and independent and to have a good work ethic and solid values. I love him. And Rachael. God has blessed me beyond measure.