We drove past her grandparent’s house, a house built before the 20th century, still standing there with its small barn amongst the neighborhood that has swallowed up the farmlands around it.
On the tiny row of houses in “town,” she pointed out the house that embarrassed her enough that she once jumped a hedge when someone came to pick her up – hiding her tie to that house.
The tiny church where her grandparents are buried, where she played piano for many, many years looks, she says, like it always has.
Our final stop is at my grandfather’s grave, next to her parents. She watches from the van, the uneven ground too much for her in her 89 years.
Later, she tells me that she feels like her life has been in a rut, that she hasn’t really done much that is new.
And all I can think is how wonderful it must be to drive every road and find a story that is yours.
My grandmother – 4th generation Pennsylvania German. The woman who married into my family and who continues on, my only living grandparent – only just now opening up to share her stories.
I am honored to claim her blood as mine – even though its genes are not spiraled into my own. A Pennsylvania German woman marries my grandfather, the son of an Italian immigrant. He courts her when her husband dies, the two men war buddies on the hills of Germany in the 1940s, two men who walk into Dachau after the liberation and see the striped statures of the strongest men. (I think, too, of my great-grandmother, whose second husband was a Russian Jew who fled these very camps.)
Grandma has lived all of her years within 3 miles of where she was born in Vera Cruz, a town named after a Mexican counterpart, long-mined for jasper by the Lenape who first called it home.
My grandmother’s life has reached across oceans and roadways. . . winding into the legacies of ancestors and the richness of all that is America.
Engelman, Wolfinger, Brotzman – all that German stock that we hold dear in our Pennsylvania German farmhouse built on the soft rolling hills of Virginia.
All the roads, all the stories eventually connect, if we let them.