It's been forty years. 17 August 1968. Where you on that date? Of course you don't remember. But I do. Standing at the Altar at Grace Lutheran Church in McClusky, North Dakota. -- McClusky, not unlike Kilmarnock 40 years ago.... McClusky, population about 950 in the heart of North Dakota. I married the Mayor's daughter.
Everyone one called him "Bud", … well everyone except me ...I call him "sir". I was a junior in college ... North Dakota State University - (Moo U according to our rivals from that uppity University of North Dakota, in Grand Forks) the year I first met her. I worked my way through college as a part-time employee of a plumbing shop and later as an American Standard Plumbing Supply warehouse employee. Bud, I found out, was a no nonsense type of guy. Welcoming me will open arms, he mentioned as an aside that Irene (his wife, my future mother-in-law) was highly desirous of a new kitchen sink - did I know if she could get one somewhere. Needless to say, on my second visit, the dream was fulfilled and Bud was assured that the suitor of his oldest (and only) daughter was probably capable of supporting her in the style he was expecting.
Being the mayor's daughter in a small town, of course, meant that everyone knew her (and instantly, now, me). As I initially drove into town on US Route 2 in my slightly used black 4-door 1950 Dodge sedan
with a flat head 6 engine and gyro-matic transmission, one could almost hear the window shades of the town residents snapping up and voices whispering, “Will you look at that – there’s the big city kid courting the mayor’s daughter.” Yep, it was me versus the 950. The big city kid (Fargo – pop, 35,000) come to court the mayor’s daughter.
Grace Lutheran was a typical rural America small town white clapboard church with tall steep and room for about 200 parishioners. The guests of the bride sat on the right side pews, while the groom's family and friends sat on the left. Both my parents were only children. I only had one sister. Consequently, my side of the church actually occupied only about one pew. Everyone one else took up the remaining space. For years afterwards, people would stop me on the street in McClusky and say... "Hey, remember me, I was at your wedding". I didn't doubt it for a moment as just about everyone in town either came or thought they came to the wedding that day. I know I thought I was there, so if they thought they were there too, that was good enough for me. Hey Jesus fed the Five Thousand from two loaves and five fish. What’s not to say that a 200 seat church didn’t actually seat 956 people that day? You gotta have faith!
Now it’s forty … that’s 4… ZERO, 40 years, three children, three grand children and 15 moves later and here we are on the shores of Barnes Creek outside Kilmarnock in the home of our dreams. Who knew? 40 years ago we didn’t say, “let’s move to Kilmarnock when we retire”. We didn’t even know the United States had an east coast back then. In fact we didn’t even know there were such things as trees or hills.
In North Dakota if you stand on your tip toes, you can see for about 10 miles until the curvature of the earth interferes with your line of sight. In the summer the sun doesn’t set until after eleven o’clock PM because there is nothing to block the setting sun except Montana. There's a billboard on the western border that says, "Custer was alive when he left here!" North Dakota - "cleaner and greener in the summer; whiter and brighter in the winter" (cause that's the only two seasons in ND). There certainly are some things I miss about North Dakota - spring and fall. But now we are in the Northern Neck - our 40 year journey through the wilderness is about ended with faith, hope and happiness.
Forty years. I avoided the draft by taking ROTC in college. Twenty years later, I retired from the Army. It’s funny how things work out. I tried to avoid being drafted, but wound up in the Army via ROTC. I tried to avoid Vietnam by gaming ROTC, but wound up in the Americal Division, Chu Lai, RVN because that’s where “Mother Brown” – the patron saints of all Army second lieutenants in my branch negotiated my assignment in return for my PG wife to be able to return home to ND while I was “away”. I tried for twenty years to draw an assignment to Europe, where at any given time over 50% of my branch was assigned, but never made it…made it to Fargo ND, (my home town), made it to Korea were East meets West and our youngest daughter was born); made it to Fort Huachuca AZ; and made it to Fort Leavenworth, KS, but never to Europe. Never in our wildest dreams did we want to go to Washington DC and the Pentagon, but that’s were we did go there - for 10 years. And that’s how we ended up here, in Kilmarnock.
Well, sort of anyway. You see 40 years is a long time – in earthly terms. One thing I learned is that I’m not in charge. The Lord gives us what we need, not what we want. I (we) wanted to avoid Viet Nam, but that tour gave Nancy a precious year with her parents and them a precious time with their only grandson. We wanted to go to Europe, but went instead to Fargo ND where our second child (Susan) was born – our next door neighbor was the attending nurse. We wanted to go to Europe, but went to Korea where our third child was born (Kathryn). We wanted to go to Europe, but spent 10 years at the Pentagon, so our kids all grew up in one place and went to schools in Fairfax county VA. If you don’t really care where you go, but accept what you are given, all things work for the best. We went were the Army said with the attitude that we would make the best of it, and had a great time in every assignment. 40 years. Attitude is vital.
40 years. I have a degree in Economics and my wife has a degree in Speech Therapy. Life is not about what degrees you have or about what position you hold. Life is about what you do with what you have relative to the situation you are in. Both of us have learned you can have very excellent careers pursuing challenges that everyone else wants to avoid. You know those jobs that no one else wants to do - Do them.
- First you will be a hero for taking on the task that on one else is wants.
- Second, you will be your own boss, because no one else will want to get involved.
- Third, everyone will expect you to fail, so when you succeed everyone is amazed.
- Fourth, there is no competition for the job, so you don’t have to worry about someone trying to take the job away.
- Fifth, jobs are what you make of them, so with the job no one wants, you are free to do as much or as little as you want – do more.
- Sixth, when you establish a reputation for taking on jobs no one wants, you will be in high demand.
- Seventh, when companies are cutting back, they won't cut you
- Eigtht, if its worth doing, do it right and do it to the best of your ability.
So that brings me back to forty years from 17 August 1968 – its about commitment, respect, sharing, give-take, responsibility, love and understanding. Every relationship has its ups and down … but enduring relationships weather the adventures and build on the shared experiences and memories… "To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do us part." “I Do!” We did. Happy Anniversary, Nancy!
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