An Amish Home
By Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston, Ruth Reid, Kathleen Fuller
Copyright © 2016 Elizabeth Wiseman Mackey, Amy Clipston, Ruth Reid, Kathleen Fuller
All rights reserved.
CHAPTER 1Sarah sat next to Abram in the back seat of the van while their hired driver stowed Sarah’s wheelchair in the rear compartment. Wheelchair. It was a word she would need to get used to, along with the knowledge that she’d never walk again.
“Wait until you see what I’ve done to the house.” Abram latched onto Sarah’s hand and squeezed, as if he’d done a luxurious remodel of their home. Instead, he’d turned it into a handicap-accessible house so that Sarah could get around inside, complete with a wheelchair ramp leading to the porch, he’d told her.
She forced a smile as the driver pulled out of the hospital parking lot, a place she’d called home for the past month.
“Johnny helped me lower the sinks and cabinets, and we have handrails everywhere you might need them.” Abram’s dark eyes shone with an emotion Sarah hadn’t been able to identify over the past few weeks. Was it pity? Empathy? Regret? Guilt? Sarah had assured Abram that the accident hadn’t been his fault. Thankfully, her husband had walked away with only a few scratches and a bump on his head. Sarah’s side of the buggy had taken the hardest hit from the blue car. She didn’t remember much about that day, but she remembered the blue car.
“Your family should be at the house when we get there, to welcome you home.” Abram brushed back a strand of Sarah’s red hair that had fallen from her kapp. She’d spent her entire life getting used to the fact that she was the only one in their district with red hair and freckles. Now she’d be the only person, as far as she knew, in a wheelchair.
Sarah’s brother and parents had come to the hospital most days. They’d all been witness to her tantrums, depression, and anger at her new situation. She’d promised herself that she would tuck away those emotions today and be grateful that God had spared her life, and that He had kept Abram from serious injury.
Abram rattled on about more modifications he’d made to their home. Sarah had heard it all before. Her husband had shared every detail throughout the process, and bragged on Sarah’s eighteen-year-old brother, how Johnny had come every day to lend a hand. Sarah had never been close to her brother. They were five years apart; maybe that was why. But, interestingly, Sarah had been the most comfortable at the hospital when it was just her and Johnny. He didn’t fuss over her, but he was there if she needed anything. Mostly, he just let her be. And that was what she needed. Time to process what had happened to her.
Sarah sat still in the van while Abram paid the driver and retrieved the wheelchair from the back. An intern at the hospital had worked with Sarah, showing her the easiest ways to get in and out of the wheelchair. But despite what she’d learned, Abram insisted on picking her up and putting her in the chair that would be a part of her world forever, like a child being put in a booster seat.
Abram had placed wide panels of plywood in areas of their muddy yard, including a pathway toward the porch that would accommodate a wheelchair following rainy weather. She could see her parents on the porch, both smiling, but she barely gave them a glance. Her focus was on the slowly ascending plank that stretched before her like a bridge between her old life and her new one. A railing wrapped around the porch, upon which were two white wooden rocking chairs. Sarah wondered if she’d ever rock again. Her legs would just rest on the wooden slats with no way to kick herself into motion. It had always been her favorite place to be, sitting on the porch, sipping meadow tea, and watching her husband work in the fields. Especially this time of year, in the spring, with her flowerbeds filled with colorful blooms. She’d usually knit as she rocked. At least she could still do that. Playing volleyball on Sunday afternoons with the young folks wouldn’t be an option ever again. And she was certain that list would grow over time.
“I’ve made a roast, potatoes, and carrots for dinner.” Her mother clasped her hands in front of her, smiling as Abram pushed Sarah’s wheelchair up the ramp. “And a red velvet cake for dessert.”
Sarah suspected there was a much larger display of food awaiting them inside. Mary Stoltzfus believed that food cured all things. But being permanently handicapped wasn’t an ailment that Sarah’s mother could mend.
“Danki,” Sarah said as she looked up at her mother, then her brother, and lastly at her father, who was looking at the ground. He’d visited her in the hospital the least and had very little to say. Unusual for a man who almost always voiced his thoughts. Sometimes when he shouldn’t. “I appreciate everything you’ve all done.”
Sarah’s father opened the door, and Sarah breathed in the aroma of supper. She welcomed the familiarity of her mother’s cooking. But when she crossed the threshold of the front door, she gasped.
“You don’t like it?” Abram stepped in front of her as the lines in his forehead creased. More lines than she remembered. “I can change it.” A muscle quivered at his jaw.
“Nee, nee,” she said before swallowing hard. “It is fine. Very gut.” She’d known this was coming, but seeing the counters a foot shorter shocked her anyway. And all of the cabinets above the counters were gone. A long row of locker-style cupboards on the floor now housed her kitchenware against a wall, which used to have racks for hanging hats and capes.
“I can change anything.” Abram walked to the sink, where he towered over it like a giant who had wandered into the wrong home.
“Nee, it’s fine. Really.” Sarah knew the hours her husband had put in to transform their home. And between working outside and putting in his thirty hours per week at the hardware store, she suspected he had lost a good bit of sleep completing the task. But he’d still found time to visit her daily at the hospital. That added the expense of hiring a driver since it was too far to travel by buggy. Her parents and brother had also incurred that cost. Sarah had become a burden before she’d set one foot inside her house. A knot formed in her throat, knowing she’d never actually set her feet anywhere again.
* * *
Abram told his mother-in-law how wonderful the food was, thanked her for preparing the meal, and thanked Johnny again for all his help. As Sarah stayed quiet and picked at her food, Abram and Sarah’s father settled into a conversation about the bishop. A topic Abram would have chosen to avoid since Saul never had anything nice to say about the man. Especially lately.
“If my roots weren’t firmly grounded in Lancaster County, I’d pick up and move,” Saul said, frowning. “Lloyd Yoder has no business being bishop.”
Mary sighed heavily. “Saul, this is not a conversation for the supper table.” She narrowed her eyebrows at her husband, nodding slightly toward Sarah, whose head was down. “Especially not today.”
Saul raised a bushy gray eyebrow. “I think the Lord made a mistake when He saw fit for Lloyd to become bishop.”
“The Lord doesn’t make mistakes,” Mary said as she shook her head. “Now, eat your supper.” She turned to Sarah. “How’s the roast? I bet you’re glad to have a home-cooked meal, ya?”
Sarah nodded, but continued to move her food around on her plate. Mary would faint if she knew about all the fast-food Abram had picked up on the way to see his wife. Halfway into Sarah’s stay at the hospital, their driver — Lucas — would ask, “Where to today?” Sometimes it was burgers and fries. Other times, they’d grab a pizza or deli sandwich to take to Sarah. The expense had added up, but there wasn’t anything Abram wouldn’t do for Sarah. And the only thing that seemed to bring an inkling of joy to her was fast-food, something they hadn’t grown up on and rarely splurged on. His wife was particularly fond of Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell.
“You’ve done a fine job on the haus, Abram.” Saul glanced around the room at Abram and Johnny’s handiwork. Abram’s father-in-law had offered to help, but everyone knew Saul had a bad back. And Abram could only take his father-in-law in small doses. He loved the man for his good heart, but he was opinionated and outspoken. And it had gotten worse since Saul and Bishop Yoder had a heated argument about fertilizer a couple of months ago following a worship service. The bishop was trying to get more folks to grow organically, and Saul wasn’t having any part of it. That conversation had led into another discussion about the proper way to erect a barn, a subject that was argued quite often among the men in the district. And if Saul and Bishop Yoder hadn’t already bumped heads enough, the bishop tried to tell Saul that any renovations to Abram and Sarah’s house needed to be approved by him. Saul had gone bonkers and hadn’t been to church since the argument.
That had been one time that Abram had agreed with his father-in-law. He’d made the modifications to their home without detailing it out for the bishop. Abram had enough problems. Specifically, he wasn’t sure how he was going to pay the bills he’d run up over the past month. He hadn’t mentioned to Sarah or anyone else that he only worked ten hours per week at the hardware store during Sarah’s hospital stay. And the revisions to the house had far exceeded his budget. For the first time in his life, he had credit card debt.
Abram thanked his father-in-law for the compliment, but as he looked upon his wife, there was no mistaking the tears she was holding back as she kept her head down, occasionally taking a small bite of roast. Abram was not going to burden her with anything. His sole purpose was to make a good life for Sarah. He hadn’t had much of a chance since they’d only been married one week prior to the accident.
They had their entire lives ahead of them, they’d made plans and shared dreams. Abram still had those same dreams, but Sarah’s spirit seemed broken. As her husband, it was his job to take care of her, to help her heal, and as such, he needed to carry the weight of his burdens alone for now. It wasn’t just his job. He loved Sarah with his heart and soul. But he’d done this to her, put her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Folks could shout his innocence to the moon and back. But Abram knew the truth.
CHAPTER 2Sarah faced off with her new bathtub, a modern contraption that looked like it belonged in the sci-fi movie she’d seen during her rumschpringe. She and Abram had dated longer than most couples in their district, probably pushing the acceptable time for courtship and running around. They’d also watched more movies than the bishop might have approved of, if he’d known. Neither of them had been baptized until they were twenty and twenty-one, and it still took another three years before they got married. They’d justified the long courtship because Abram’s mother was ill and later died.
“Everything okay in there?”
Sarah pulled her eyes from the tub and glanced at the closed bathroom door. “Ya, I’m fine.Just taking my time and being careful.”
The bathtub had a door that opened from the side, and inside was a seat. She’d positioned her wheelchair right next to the entrance and dropped one armrest, hoping she could just scooch into the tub seat, similar to what she’d learned at the hospital about how to get in a vehicle. But after two attempts, she was taking a break. Her legs were like dead weight, baggage that she’d have to heave from one place to another for the rest of her life. Just taking a bath in her new tub was proving to be more troublesome than she’d imagined. She glanced at the shower stall in the corner, where Abram would be showering. Another modern convenience with glass walls. All these new amenities had replaced the claw-foot tub that had been in the house since her grandparents lived here prior to their passing.
Sarah took a deep breath, her body trembling as she lifted herself onto the bathtub seat, then she curled her arms under her legs and brought them in front of her, shutting the bathtub door. Abram had already warned her that she couldn’t fill the tub until the door was shut, which was obvious now that Sarah saw the setup. She sat naked on the seat, cold water pooling at her feet, another downside to her new situation. She would never again climb into a warm, steaming bath. But maybe she should be glad that she trembled from the coldness of the water, that she could even feel it. She used the opportunity to let the flowing water drown out the sobs she’d been holding in all day.
* * *
Abram readied the bed in the same manner he’d seen Sarah do for the first week of their marriage. He folded back the light yellow and blue quilt that covered their full-sized bed, then lay the white sheet back as well, fluffing both their pillows afterward. He’d already opened the window, and a cool spring breeze filled the room as crickets chirped in the distance. The lantern was lit on the nightstand by Sarah’s side of the bed, along with the book she’d been reading before the accident. Abram had offered to take her books in the hospital, particularly the one she’d been in the middle of at the time of the accident, but Sarah hadn’t been interested. He glanced at the book, something he was sure Bishop Yoder wouldn’t approve of. On the cover, a beautiful Englisch woman gazed into a man’s eyes, and the title — For the Love of June — hinted there might be some intimacy within the pages. Something Abram had high hopes for this evening.
“Everything still okay?” He held his breath, hoping he wasn’t being overprotective. Sarah had been irritated when people fussed over her in the hospital. Abram cringed when he recalled Sarah’s reaction to the news that she’d never walk again. It had started out with tears, then angry comments directed at God, and finally … she’d said she wanted to die. The next day, she’d said she didn’t mean any of it, but the first week was especially hard for her. He asked again when she didn’t respond. “Sarah, you okay?”
“Ya, Abram. I’m fine.”
It sounded like she was gritting her teeth, so he needed to back off, give her time, and be patient. But as he climbed into bed wearing only a pair of boxers, patience wasn’t on his mind. He was anxious to show his wife how much he loved her, show her that nothing had changed between them, and that making a baby was still part of the plans they’d made. The doctors had assured them both that the accident hadn’t affected Sarah’s ability to conceive and carry a child.
Abram locked his hands behind his head, waiting for the love of his life to join him. As the lantern flickered, shadows danced throughout the room. Earlier he’d lit two lavender-scented candles and placed them on top of their dresser, which not only added to the flickering shadows in the room, but also filled the cool air with the floral fragrance.
It was a perfect night. Sarah was home, and things were going to be okay. Abram wasn’t going to let his financial woes or guilt affect this evening. God would provide, as always. God had forgiven Abram for the accident, but Abram quickly asked the Lord again to help him forgive himself. His shoulders were burdened. He was carrying enough worry. Continuing to haul guilt around would only hurt him and Sarah in the long run.
* * *
Sarah managed to get herself back into the wheelchair, but she’d dripped water all over the floor in the process — t heir new tile floor, which replaced the wood floors that had been original to the house. The tile was modest, a cool-gray color speckled with white. Although, right away, it reminded her of the bathroom floors at the hospital. Once she’d worked her way into her nightclothes, she rolled herself the two feet to the sink, which had also been lowered. After she brushed her teeth, she opened the bathroom door and rolled through the widened doorway. The smell of lavender assaulted her from the bedroom. It was a scent she used to love, but now it reminded her of the intimacy she and Abram had shared on their wedding night and the nights that followed. Before everything changed.
Abram sat up in bed. “Need some help?”
Sarah took a deep breath and reminded herself not to take offense. Abram loved her, and he just wanted to take care of her. But was this how it would be for the rest of her life? Everyone always trying to help her?
Abram slid his legs over the side of the bed and started toward her. She held up a palm. “I’ve got it. I don’t need help.” She’d allowed him to help her in and out of the wheelchair during her stay at the hospital, but Abram would head off to work in the morning, and Sarah needed to learn to get by on her own. As she rolled the wheelchair to the side of the bed — which she noticed was lower now — she positioned herself in the way she’d learned at the hospital, then tried to heave herself onto the bed, her legs not participating in the effort, as they hung lifeless, like they belonged to someone else. All the while, the fragrant lavender made her want to throw up.