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A Time for Peace
By Barbara Cameron
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2011 Barbara Cameron
All rights reserved.
It was official.
She wasn't a saint.
But Jenny had never claimed to be a saint. None of her Amish brethren did, either.
She knew she should be grateful for her family and she was. Her husband's kinner were as much hers as they were his—especially Annie who had been so young when her mother died that she didn't remember her and thought of Jenny as her mamm. And Joshua and Mary treated her as a beloved mother even though they remembered their mother.
But ever since Hannah had announced that she and Chris were going to have a baby, Jenny had felt the unaccustomed and very unwelcome emotion of envy. They'd only been married a year. She and Matthew had been married for three.
It wasn't fair.
Almost immediately, she was ashamed of herself. But she couldn't seem to help it. She wanted a baby of her own. A boppli. She loved that word. It sounded so sweet. So happy and bouncy. So cherished.
Instead, so many months had passed and she'd found out she wasn't pregnant. She wouldn't be carrying a baby close to her heart. She wouldn't share the miracle of creating life with Matthew and watching it come into the world.
Sometimes she wondered if she was showing God she didn't appreciate all He had brought into her life. After all, he'd brought her back here to have a second chance with the man she'd never forgotten. She'd gone through such a valley of despair when she'd been seriously injured, scarred, in her work as a news reporter overseas.
Yet Matthew had seen past that, cherished her, and shared the most precious children in the world with her. He'd said that if they had kinner, that would be wonderful, but if they didn't, then that was God's will and he seemed fine with that. Content, even.
God had even found a way for her to continue to write about the children affected by war she'd grown to care so much for, right here on a farm in the heart of peace and love and simplicity.
She and Matthew had talked about how she felt when she didn't become pregnant. He'd been kind, understanding, and had tried to comfort her. He had been everything she had hoped for about it.
But he wasn't unhappy that they hadn't had children together yet. He reminded her that before they'd gotten married he'd told her he didn't care if her injuries prevented her from having their child. He had three to share with her, he'd said, and if they were meant to have a child together, that God would send one. It was a matter of God's will, he told her. And he was content.
But she wasn't. If she tried not to think about it, every month she got a reminder that she wasn't pregnant.
And this was the way she rewarded Him. With a lack of gratitude, with mental whining. With tears when she found that another month had come and gone and a tiny glimmer of life wasn't beginning inside her.
Sighing, Jenny threw down her pen and got up from the big table that dominated the kitchen. She was tired of working, couldn't seem to stay focused on what she was writing. Best to just get busy doing something else. Idleness wasn't encouraged here.
Not that she'd ever been an idle person. But everyone pulled their weight here, contributed, from small children with chores appropriate to their age and ability to older family members doing what they could after they moved into a dawdi haus, the sort of mother-in-law apartment at the back of the family home.
She glanced at the clock. Half an hour before the kinner got home. Time to do something constructive. If she couldn't write, then she should at least get supper started or redd-up the place a little.
Funny how she'd gotten to where she thought in Pennsylvania Dietsch. If anyone had ever told her that one day she would return to her grandmother's house here in Paradise and marry her girlhood crush, and become Amish, she would never have believed them.
But she had, and here her dreams were coming true, dreams of having a husband, children who loved her, and her writing career as well.
Her life was nearly perfect.
Sighing, she got up. Nearly was a lot better than much of the world had. She knew that better than anyone did after her job as a TV news reporter covering issues involving children in war-torn countries.
Every time her own family gathered around this big wooden kitchen table and she saw how healthy and how happy they were, how they had so much abundance of food and love and security, she made sure she thanked God.
Spring was coming. The cold of the winter had passed and she'd seen little green buds on the trees around the house that morning when she'd said goodbye to her family as they rushed off to work and school. That was probably why her thoughts had turned to new life.
She was only in her early thirties and had years to have a baby, her doctor had told her. Women could have them safely into their late forties, he'd told her.
But though she tried not to worry about internal injuries she'd suffered when she'd been the target of a car bomb overseas during her TV reporting days, there was still that little niggle at the back of her mind each month she didn't get pregnant.
Determined to push those thoughts aside, to remember to be grateful for what she had, she got up, put away her writing things, and changed to mamm mode, as she called it.
Supper went into the oven, Matthew's favorite: ham and scalloped potatoes. She'd endured a lot of teasing the first couple of times she'd made it. Microwaved food had been her specialty before she became an Amish fraa. Now she cooked from scratch with recipes her grandmother handed down to her.
She caught a glimpse of her reflection in the glass of the cupboard door when she opened it. Even though she considered herself plain with her brown hair and gray eyes, her hair center-parted and drawn back under a white kapp, Matthew always made her feel beautiful when he looked at her. He never seemed to see the scar from the bombing that, while faded, was something she could never forgot was there and still found herself raising her hand to cover when someone looked at her.
She was washing her hands when she heard a commotion at the door. The Bontrager children were sweet as can be, but when they came in the door after schul they sounded like a herd of buffalo.
They swarmed into the kitchen and engulfed her in hugs and charmed her into giving them big glasses of milk along with cookies she'd baked earlier that day.
"Three? They're small." asked Annie, giving Jenny her most charming smile.
"Two," Jenny said, smiling at her. "They're big." All of the children looked so like Matthew with their almost white-blond hair and deep blue eyes.
Seven-year-old Annie normally talked so much no one else had a chance to talk for a few minutes at the end of the schul day, but with her mouth stuffed with cookies, Joshua and Mary were able to talk.
"I helped Leah with John and Jacob today. They're still having trouble with arithmetic. It was fun."
"Maybe you'll be a teacher one day."
Mary smiled. "Maybe."
Jenny looked at Joshua. He was most like his father with his quiet intensity and willingness to work hard. After his snack, he'd go out and help with the horses for hours. "And what did you do today?"
"I got 100 on my vocabulary test."
"Very good. All your studying paid off." She was careful with praise. Hochmut— pride—wasn't encouraged here.
Joshua wasn't as good at schoolwork as the girls. Annie had decided that she wanted to be a writer like Jenny, and Mary enjoyed teaching the younger children so they both worked hard at lessons. Joshua liked working with animals and with his daedi in the fields and didn't think schoolwork was all that important. He was dutiful about studying but so obviously didn't enjoy it.
The snack finished, the children got up, put their plates and glasses in the sink, and set about their chores. Mary began mixing up a bowl of corn bread and Joshua went to help his daedi in the barn.
Jenny glanced out the window as she washed up the dishes from dinner and set the plates and glasses in the drying rack. She hadn't seen Phoebe all day. Usually she came over in the afternoon to have a cup of tea and a visit.
Wiping her hands on a kitchen towel, she turned to Annie, who was setting the table.
"Would you go over and see if Phoebe would like to have supper with us?"
"And don't charm her into giving you more cookies."
Annie's face fell. "Not even one?"
Jenny's lips twitched as she tried to keep a straight face. "Not even one. We'll be eating soon."
She dragged her feet out of the room and left the house. But then when Jenny turned and looked out the kitchen window, she was racing across the field that separated the two houses. Jenny wished she had half the energy Annie did.
A few minutes later, she was slamming the front door and racing into the kitchen.
"Whoa, a little quiet—" Jenny started to say and then she saw Annie's face.
"Mamm, I can't wake Phoebe up."
A chill ran down Jenny's spine. "She's taking a nap?"
"On the kitchen floor! I think she's sick! I think she's sick!"
Jenny reached over and turned the oven off, then called Mary.
"Come help me see what's wrong with Phoebe. Annie, you go get your daedi. He's out in the barn."
Jenny raced across the field with Mary in tow, praying that nothing was seriously wrong with her grandmother. She had looked a little tired when she visited the day before but hadn't said anything was wrong.
But then again, she wouldn't. Phoebe always acted like she wouldn't let the passing years slow her down.
"Grandma! Grandma!" she called as she ran into the house.
Just as Annie had said, Phoebe lay on the floor in the kitchen.CHAPTER 2
Jenny knelt beside her grandmother. Phoebe lay lifeless on the floor, her face white, her small, thin body motionless.
Her fingers shaking, Jenny touched the vein in Phoebe's neck and felt for a pulse. It was thready but it was there.
"Grossmudder? It's Jenny. Wake up. Please, wake up."
But Phoebe lay still, her eyes closed, her chest barely moving beneath the apron covering her thin chest.
Swiveling around, Jenny saw that Mary was standing there, eyes wide with fear.
"Mary, go get—"
The door slammed. "Jenny?"
She turned. "Matthew, thank goodness you're here! Phoebe won't wake up. Call 9-1-1. Tell them we need an ambulance. Hurry!"
He backed up, turned, and ran for the door to go to the phone shanty next to the house.
Jenny looked at Mary. "Soak that dish towel in some cold water from the tap. Maybe she just collapsed from the heat from baking."
Mary went to the sink and did as Jenny asked her, squeezing the moisture from the cloth and rushing over with it. "Is she going to be allrecht?"
Jenny stroked the cool, damp cloth over her grandmother's face, so frightened of the way her lashes stayed still on her cheeks. Age was so evident in the woman's face, in the way there were crinkles around her eyes from laughing and from staring into the sun as she worked in the yard hanging clothes, planting, harvesting her kitchen garden, and helping her late husband with their farm. Lines bracketed her mouth that in repose seemed so stern but which framed a smile that always warmed Jenny's heart.
She looked so old and frail, so vulnerable at that moment, tears rushed into her eyes. Furiously she blinked them back. She didn't want to upset Mary. And she prayed that it was just a faint, not something more serious. She couldn't remember a day that Phoebe hadn't bustled around working, working, working. And caring for everyone in her family. Someone that strong could have a weak moment without it being one of their last, couldn't they? Just look, she thought. The counters were covered with bread and cookies and a pie she'd baked just that afternoon from the looks of it.
Reaching behind her, she took Mary's hand. "Where's Annie?"
"She went for Daedi. I'll find her and make sure she's safe."
They both turned at the sound of sirens in the distance. The sirens grew louder and then were shut off.
"They're here!" Matthew called and he hurried in with paramedics carrying their equipment.
Jenny stood. "Annie found her on the floor. She's breathing but she won't wake up."
Matthew took her hand and drew her into his arms, offering wordless comfort.
Together they watched as all through the steps of their exam Phoebe didn't move a muscle, not even after her oxygen level was checked with a pincher thing on the tip of her finger and an oxygen tube was hooked up.
One of the paramedics set a laptop on the kitchen table and began asking Jenny questions. Another opened cupboard after cupboard and rooted around inside.
"What are you looking for?" Jenny asked, confused.
"We're supposed to look around for any medications the person is on. Do you know if she's taking anything?"
"I've never seen her take anything, not even an aspirin."
"Sometimes the family doesn't know, even if they live in the same house. Where's her medicine cabinet?"
"I'll show you," Matthew said.
Jenny wanted him to stay, to continue to hold her. Instead, she watched him leave the room with the paramedic, and when the men returned, the other man was holding several prescription bottles.
Two men came in with a gurney and Phoebe was gently lifted onto it.
"Ma'am? Do you want to go to the hospital with us?"
"Yes, please." She looked at Matthew and he nodded.
"Go. I'll take care of the kinner until Hannah gets home and then I'll see you at the hospital." He hugged her and then set her from him. "She'll be allrecht, Jenny."
Phoebe's gurney was being loaded into the ambulance as Jenny ran outside and climbed into it. Gathering her skirts, she climbed inside and sank onto the bench seat opposite Phoebe.
Then the doors were shut, making her feel claustrophobic. The driver accelerated out of the driveway and turned onto the road in the direction of the hospital. He activated the siren and the noise reverberated in her head.
Being inside such a vehicle brought back memories, such painful memories of riding in one in pain and terror after the car bombing overseas, and later, stateside, going from hospital to hospital. Jenny forced them away, took one of her grandmother's still, cold hands in hers.
Silently she watched as the paramedic stood next to Phoebe and took her blood pressure, inserted an IV with fluids, and checked her pupils, swaying but never losing his balance like a sailor on a shipboard deck as the vehicle sped up and turned.
He called ahead to the hospital, relaying Phoebe's condition.
It was the longest ride of her life.
But when they arrived at the hospital, Phoebe was taken away and instead of being able to stay with her, Jenny was urged to go to admissions and fill out paperwork and then sit in the waiting room. It was then that she knew the time in the ambulance wasn't going to be the worst of her life because the wait was going to be longer.
A nurse came out, looked around the room, then signaled to Jenny. "Your grandmother's awake."
Jenny closed her eyes, said a silent prayer of thanks, then opened them. "Can I see her?"
"Sure. Come with me."
Phoebe still looked entirely too pale when Jenny walked into the cubicle but she was awake and talking to the doctor. She looked up and smiled at Jenny. "I'm sorry I gave you a scare. I'm fine now. I'm just trying to persuade the doctor to let me go home."
Jenny looked at the doctor and saw that he was frowning.
"I don't advise it," he said bluntly. "With your history—"
Puzzled, Jenny glanced from her grandmother to the doctor and back again at her grandmother. "Her history?"
The doctor looked at Phoebe then and it seemed to Jenny that something passed between then.
"Her age, the approximate amount of time she was out, her blood pressure reading," the man said. "I'd like to run some tests. We've ruled out a concussion from her falling. But I'd like to know what caused her to be unconscious."
Phoebe opened her mouth and as she did, the doctor straightened and looked stern.
"Fine," she said at last. "I'll stay for your 'observation time,' young man. For twelve hours and no more."
"You drive a hard bargain," he said.
He offered his hand and they shook on it.
Jenny moved to Phoebe's side as the man left the cubicle." You frightened me."
Phoebe held out her arms and Jenny went into them. "I'm sorry, liebchen. I just got warm and fainted. It's never happened before. And it's not going to happen again."
"You don't know that."
"I do. Now, don't fuss. You get back home and make sure the kinner aren't upset."
But Jenny wouldn't let her shoo her out of the cubicle. She fluffed the pillow behind Phoebe's back, unpinned her kapp and laid it on the folded bundle of her grandmother's clothes lying on the nearby chair, and generally fussed over her until the nurse came to ready her to be transferred to a room.
"Go, now!" Phoebe ordered sternly but Jenny saw the kindness in her eyes. "I'll be fine. Just remember to send someone to fetch me home in the morning."
"Matthew and I will be here for you," Jenny promised. Leaning down, she kissed her grandmother's pale, lined cheek and then, unable to prevent herself, she gathered the woman up in a hug again, careful of the tubes and IV bound to her, and held on. "I love you. I'll see you in the morning."
Turning her head, she rushed from the cubicle so that Phoebe wouldn't see the tears in her eyes.
Excerpted from A Time for Peace by Barbara Cameron. Copyright © 2011 Barbara Cameron. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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