The house was quiet. Too quiet for Jonas’ liking. The air seemed still and lifeless, heavy with oppression and isolation. It hung thick, giving him too much opportunity to think and to remember. Yet, as much as he disliked the silence, he had come to appreciate it for the very same reasons that he despised it: He needed to think and to remember. Doing so was his self-imposed penance and he had learned to live with it.
Outside, the wind blew against the windows. The glass vibrated, just a soft noise that broke the silence. In the distance, he could hear the rattle of a buggy’s wheels and the familiar clip-clop of the horse’s hooves pulling it down the road. For a moment, Jonas shut his eyes and listened. A memory flooded back to him and he smiled, but just for a brief second. As quick as it happened, the smiled faded along with the noise of the horse and buggy that was moving further down the road.
Once again, silence befell the room.
Frowning, he sat in the overstuffed blue chair, his wrinkled hands pressed together and resting atop the worn, brown leather Bible that lay upon his lap. Bits of torn paper and crocheted bookmarks in a variety of color poked through the top of the pages, marking favorite passages and sections of the holy book. But Jonas didn’t open the Bible. Instead, he merely stared out the window, not seeing the greyish-blue sky and skeletons of leave-less trees that dotted the hillside.
He had always disliked winter. Even as a child, he dreaded the gloomy months that brought shortened days, uninspiring skies and freezing cold air. Seventy years later, that feeling had not changed and this winter was no different. His aging, thin skin seemed impacted by the cold air even more this year. He often wore his black jacket, even in the house. Nothing seemed to take the chill from his bones or, for that matter, from his heart.
But that wasn’t surprising. Not this winter.
“Getting ready for tomorrow’s sermon, Daed?” a voice said from the doorway, breaking the silence.
Jonas blinked and repeated his son’s words in his head. Ready? Sermon? Then it dawned on him. He had forgotten it was Saturday evening, forgotten that tomorrow was a church Sunday. He felt his heart flutter inside of his chest, that all too familiar tightening that reminded him of his own inner darkness. The shadows of his mind weighed upon him like a rock pressed against his throat.
Slowly, he glanced over his shoulder at the door that separated his part of the house from where his son, Timothy, resided with his family. It didn’t seem like it was that long ago when Jonas and Barbara had lived there, raising their own eight children. Now, the children were grown and seasons continued to change. Only five years ago, Barbara had convinced Jonas to move next door to the smaller grossdaadihaus so that Timothy could raise his family in the larger dwelling.
“What’s that?” Jonas said gruffly.
Timothy crossed the small room in four easy strides. Jonas heard him, rather than saw his son as he had turned to look back out the window. “Reading, ja?” He sat down in the chair next to his daed, reaching out to touch his father’s knee, forcing him to turn his eyes away from the gloomy outdoors and focus on the here and now. “It’s gut that you are reading the Bible again. Mayhaps you can preach tomorrow.”
“Nein, nein,” Jonas said abruptly, a scowl on his face as he waved his hand dismissively through the air. “Not reading. No preaching neither!” He was gruff and annoyed. He hadn’t wanted company. Not tonight, anyway.