“I saw you during the funeral, and I’ve been looking for you,” a long-ago school chum from Yoder School said this week. And he dropped into the empty seat beside me at the after-funeral meal.
It was Wayne Beitzel, the funniest guy in my second-grade class, the guy who always had a story.
“You won’t believe what happened,” he said.
With Wayne, something always happened. He made sure.
Take, for example, the time surveyors came to mark the route of the new Interstate 68, which would bisect his family farm. Early one morning he and his kid brothers set up a lemonade stand right in the surveyors’ path.
The surveyors took this in good humor, buying all the lemonade before asking the boys to move their stand. Eminent domain, after all, includes compensation when property is seized. The Beitzel boys didn’t let such opportunity pass them by. The next day, surveyors came back to the Beitzel farm to find the lemonade stand back up, just further down the path. And the day after that.
These daily lemonade sales were making the Beitzel boys a fortune. But the path of poles and flags were reaching the edge of the farm. So one evening, the boys found a way to prolong sales. They complicated the next day’s work by moving poles and flags.
“That’s why there’s still a curve in Route 68,” they like to tell people.
This was a story from long ago, but Wayne had a new story.
“The other day,” he said. “I was browsing for books on Amazon, and I saw Yoder School.”
Was this his Yoder School, he wondered, and clicked on the link.
“When the book came,” Wayne said, “I opened it to a random page. And the first words I saw were Wayne Beitzel was a Mennonite, and his dad owned the Springs Store.
Wayne and I chuckled over this 58-year-old memory—how Amish Lizzie thought Wayne was lucky because in his packed lunch were fancy cookies from his dad’s store but how Wayne thought Lizzie was lucky with her wonderful homemade cookies. But they found a way to both feel lucky, trading cookies each day at lunch.
It was fun, sitting there over funeral food with Wayne Beitzel. Funerals, I’ve found as I’m getting older, are for mourning. But funeral feasts are for finding old friends.