Shunned…and Life Went On Anyway

There’s nothing like a summer Midwestern storm. Growing up just outside of Chicago, I enjoyed my fare share of them; I looked forward to them every year. The storms were magnificent, dark clouds brewing overhead, the wind bending trees back and forth, and the echoes of thunder that rumbled for miles. It wasn’t all about the storms, though; it was the nights we lost power that I remember most. Power outages were not an uncommon thing where I lived. Dad would bring out candles and flashlights and me, Mom, and my sister would sit in the living room and listen to the storm.     One night in particular my mother brought over a set of candles, set them on the table, and lit them as she always did. “Now kids,” she said, “this is how my dad, your grandpa Jack, used to live. With no electricity.” I turned my head away from the window and looked at her, puzzled. I knew he was old, but not that old.     My grandpa Jack, turns out, was Amish up until he was twenty-six. He lived in Berlin, Ohio and was the youngest of six brothers. He even married into the Amish church when he was twenty-four, but was kicked and banned from the church and community for adultery. He then moved to Milwaukee and started a new life, Amish free.     It’s a story on my mother’s side we are never to talk about at family gatherings. I remember I asked my grandpa about it once. I’d never seen him so angry before. I never brought it up again. I still don’t know too much about his previous life in the Amish community and neither does my mom. He died a couple years ago. I’m still curious, though. I’d love to dig up some old records.

–Chad Wheeden

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