Ons Voda ess emmahan 96, enn soo beschloote wie Jeschwista ons, eena sull doch mol een bät mett ahm räde, omm too seehne, aus hee soo meea reed wea, enne latzte Lomm too stiehe. Daut Los troff mie, enn etj han. Hee lach em Hospitol, emm Concordia, natürlich, woa de Mensche noch opp Plautdietsch stoawe tjenne, wann se welle.
"Voda," saj etj, "wie habe noch niemols doavon jerädt, oba vleicht ess Diene Tiet langsom jekohme, jleewst nich?"
"Joh, joh, soo ess 'ett; wäa haud daut jedocht, daut de Tiet enn dissem Laund soo seea ranne wudd."
"Joh, enn Dü motst uck mett; de Sach woat langsom earnst."
"Nä, nä, dee heet nich Earnst, daut wea een Ernst, enn etj kaun mie noch goot aun ahm dentje. Hee wea een feina Jung."
"Voda, deit Die waut weh? Doaf etj noch waut fe Die doohne? Vleicht jeit daut nü doch langsom toom stowe?"
"Nä, etj deed nuscht nich oawe. De Ellre storwe tiedig, wie Tjinja worde enjedeelt, enn aus daut toom Oawe kaum, weare de Roode enn de Machnowze mie lenjst hinjeraun. Joh, joh, oba etj kaun mie noch dentje aus de een Machnowez mett siene Schlitje bie Onkel Peta Fiea laje wulle. Etj haud mie hinje biem Spitja em diestren vestoake, enn mett eemol weare se uck aul doa. Jrods aus se den Stroohüpe aunstetje wulle, enn de eena aul een Wesch Strooh enne Grauje hild enn de aundre noch een bät daut Fiea aunpüst, tjreajch etj ahn beid von hinje aum Kopp too hoole enn reef ahn de Uahre toop bett de Tjäna spretzte. Daut Fieah muak etj üt, oba verhäah woamd etj ahn doabenne opp. Ujjejuj! haud etj oba Wind enne Meiwe aus etj ahn doa toop Zunda gauf!"
"Deit die daut leed, daut Dü de Jungess donn soo groff aunfootst?"
"Joh, daut deit mie noch vondoag leed, daut etj nich meea von de Donnasch de Uahre beobeide kunn; daut Onjezeffa leet bloß noh, wann eena den jehearich daut Hinjarenj vesohld, ooda den Kukkeruzz üte Oare tweschne Uahre rubbeld.
"Hast Dü Angst verrem Doot?"
"Joh, de measchte Mensche haude enn Hungaschtied Not, oba etj vestund mie eajentlich gaunz goot derjchtooschlohne. Ungasch Obraum enn etj haude een poah Machnowze eene Flint mett twee Backs Scheetijch aufjenohme. Donn worde de Baundiete schmocke wehrlose Mensche, enn wie schoote Düwe, enn hanenwada uck een Kühnhohn, wann de too bausig word. De Kühne hilde sich bie Ungasch emma dicht bie de Mähl opp. Joh, joh, soo wea daut. Obraum, tjanst den noch? de muak aul emma Fiea reed toom koake, wann etj mie zeowents de Flint oppe Schulla läd, soo kratjcht kunn etj scheete."
"Voda, jleewst Dü nich, daut jeit boold mett Die too Enj?"
"Joh, aum Enj wea etj meist aus de Roode bie ons nennkaume, enn dee eena säd, etj sull ahm een Kuffel mett Wota hole. Etj saj too ahm, saj etj: `Ons Borm ess oppem Hoff, kaust Die uck twee Kuffelvoll hole.' Donn poakad de Donna noh mie mett de Loop, enn donn jlept etj doch auf enn hold Wota. Etj reatjt ehm daut Kuffel von hinjrem Jenjelstoohl soo äwa, enn säd noch fein `Pozhalesta, Gospodjien' oba donn word mie daut doch too oajch hiea fe eenem Baundit Pauslocka too späle, enn etj stelpd ahm mett Jenjelstoohl toop omm, daut de Stoohl aun aule Atje nohleet. Dann nauhm etj eene Sproht, enn leet ahm de oppem Kopp faule. Na, vleicht dretjcht etj uck een bätje noh, weens bleef hee mett Stoohl toop lidje. Aus etj daut sach, docht etj mie, na, vleicht ess'et nü doch langsom Tiet üttoowaundre, weens bett'em nächsten Darp. Enn deed daut dann uck."
"Voda, wesst Dü emm Himmel nenn?"
"Em Himmel nenn? Wäa well daut nich? Oba daut haft noch Tiet. Oba etj weet woa Dü hanwesst. Etj kaum vom Barba enn doabie word mie dieslig, enn etj sad mie bloß een bätje oppem Grauss dol. De Barba, daut wea Julius Friees Tjnals, haud mie dochwoll een bät too dicht bie mie omme Uahre jeschoare. Ooda etj haud mie de Schlubb oppem Kopp satte sullt, wiels mie brennd biem gohne de Sonn opp daut kohle Placktje medden oppem Kopp. Etj woa wiedahans mie eenen aundren Barba seatje motte, ooda 'ne Schlubb oppsate, ooda beides, jleewst nich uck?"
"Oba etj fruag nohm Himmel, Voda?"
"Jo, daut weet etj, enn etj well je uck nich puche, oba etj wea aul een poamol doa. Weetst Dü daut noch emma nich? De Kaump, dicht bie Chortietz em Nippa, daut wea eene Ensel, enn dee sach'et schmocka aus de Steenahüpes em Whiteshell, woone se sich noch diea betohle lohte. Joh, Ungasch Obraum enn etj haude enn Gortietz waut fe de Mähl too besorje, enn donn leet wie ons von Elloag üt hanroodre. Unjawäjess jreep wie em Nippa eenen Wels. Aus de groot wea? frajchst Dü. Doatoo kaun etj bloß saje, daut de Nippaenja, dem dee Lomm jehead, too mie säd, entwäda mott dee Fesch tridj em Wota nenn, ooda Dü mottst halpe roodre, wiels wie kohme bie dem Jewicht nich vonne Städ. Enn daut deed etj je dann uck. Enn dis Fesch word doa oppe Kaump jebrode, enn wie aute enn drunke doa noch een bät, enn dann kaum uck een Prädja sich daut aules een bätje soo too unjastohne. Enn hee, etj jleew daut wea een Happna, soon tjliena Oppjewajchta, fruag mie, aus mie daut hiea aulatoop eenjemohte jefoll. Etj saj: "Joh, etj kunn daut hiea een poah Doag üthoole, sogoa wann etj nich too seea oabeide mußt."
"Joh," sajcht'a, "daut jeit de measchte Mensche hiea aula soo, sogoa de Molotschna. Mien Grootvoda säd emma too mie, säd hee: `Wann de Lied die eenes Doages froage woare, wear'ett en Chortitz scheen, dann saj bloß, etj loht eenen aundren aus mie doaropp auntwoate enn daut ess: Aus de leewe Gott de Welt erschauffe deed, dann läd hee sich emma toom Meddachschlop en Chortitz ooda oppe Kaump oppet Oah. Enn doawäjen weet etj woa de Himmel ess."
"Oba nü mott etj waut äte, enn wann se hiea dolla opp Jast enjerejcht weare, wudd etj Die enlohde."
Our father is well past 96 in years and so we siblings decided that one should probably have a little talk with him to see if he is, finally, prepared to step into his final boat. As expected, I pulled the fateful lot, and went to see him. He was in the Concordia Hospital where people can still die in Low German if they want to.
"Father," I said, "We have never talked about this before, but maybe your time has come, don't you agree?"
"Yes, yes, that's the way it is; who would have ever thought that time would move so quickly in this country."
"Yes, and you will have to go too, when time comes for you. This matter is getting earnest."
"No, no, his name was not Ernest, he was called Ernst, and I remember him well. He was a good boy."
"Father, are you in pain? Is there anything I can do for you? Maybe your time is up and you will be on your way out if it is His will?"
"No, I got nothing out of the will. My parents died early, and we children were all divvied up, and when we were to inherit something, the Reds and the Machnowtse were after me. I can remember as if it were yesterday when the Machnowtse were up to no good and wanted to burn down something or other in Uncle Peter's yard. I sensed something and so I had hidden myself behind the granary in the dark. And sure enough, suddenly there they were, two of them, the sons of bitches. One of them already had a fistful of straw which he blew into flame after lighting it and now he wanted to set the whole straw stack on fire. I took two steps and one jump and then I had them both by the head and then I rubbed their ears until the kernels popped. I put out the fire but not before I gave them every chance to warm themselves up thoroughly. Ujjejuj! I tell you, I had a lot of wind in my sleeves at the time, and those boys would agree with me, given the chance."
"Are you now sorry, that you dealt with them so severely?"
"Yes, I am still sorry today that I didn't get more of them and rub their dirty ears into shape. They only learned decent manners if you thrashed their arses soundly."
"Are you afraid of death after salvation?"
"Oh yes, there was a lot of starvation but I managed to make do quite well, all things considered. Unger's Abraham and I had relieved some Machnowtse of a rifle and a few boxes of ammunition. And just as well, for then the bandits became nice conscientious objectors, while we shot pigeons for a livelihood and once in a while we managed to get a tom-turkey. The turkeys were always feeding around Unger's mill. Abraham, do you still remember him? Well, he always prepared a cooking fire right away when I'd sling the rifle across my shoulder; I was such a good shot, and he sure knew it."
"Father, do you not agree that things with you are going to the end?"
"Yes, at the end I was once almost when the Reds came and one of them said, I should get him a cup of water. I told him, I said, `Our water well is on the yard, you can go and get yourself even two cupfuls.' Then this scoundrel started poking the business end of his gun at me until I fetched him the water. He sat in my chair, the rocker, and then I said, `Pozhalesta, Gospodjien' meaning `at your service, master' and I said it very politely, but then I felt like a fool being lackey to such a cowardly bastard. So I knocked him over together with the rocker, and both came apart a bit. Then I picked up one of the wooden slats of my chair and I allowed it to drop on his head. Well, maybe, I encouraged gravity a bit during the drop. In any case, he and the rocker lay without moving. When I saw that, I thought to myself that the time had come to emigrate a bit, at least to the next village. And that's what I did."
"Father, do you want to go to heaven?"
"Go to heaven? Well, who doesn't want to go there? But there's still time. I know what you are getting at. I was just returning from the barber and I became a little dizzy and so I took a short rest on the grass beside the sidewalk. The barber, that was Julius Friesen's Corny, probably snipped a little too close to my ears. Maybe, also, I should have put on my old farm cap because the sun tends to go for my little bald spot in the middle of my head. So, from now on, I shall either find myself a different barber or wear the old cap again, or both, don't you agree?"
"But I was asking about heaven, Father."
"Yes, I know that, and I certainly don't want to brag, but I have been there several times already. Do you still not know this? The Kaump, close to Chortitz in the Dnieper, was an island and it was more beautiful by far than the stone piles in the Whiteshell, for which you have to pay dear money. Yes, I remember that Unger's Abraham and I had to fetch something for the mill in Einlage once and so we had a boatman row us there. On the way we caught a Wels, one of those cat fish which was five times as large as the biggest caught in Lockport. Was it big, you ask? All I can say is that the boatman said to me, that either that cat fish has to go back or you'll have to man the oars as well, because we haven't made any progress with all this weight for half an hour. Of course, I grabbed two oars right away and away we went, just skimming along, barely touching water. Then when we arrived, we fried the fish and had a bit to drink as well. As we were having dinner, a minister came along to see if things were progressing god-like enough. And he, I think he was a Heppner, a small fellow with a high and intelligent brow, asked whether the area met with our approval. I said, `I think I could stand it here for a few days, even if I had to work a bit.'"
"Yes," he says, "most people would agree with you, even the high-browed Molotschna. My grandfather always said to me, he said, `If people should one day ask you if it was beautiful in Chortitz then you just tell them that I'll let someone else answer the question which means: When the dear Lord God created the earth, he always took his afternoon nap on the Kaump. And that is how I know where heaven is."
My father looked at me. "But now I've got to eat and if they were better equipped to handle visitors around here, I would invite you, too."