View from the Ridge
Pro 31:10-31 A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long. She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing. She's like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises. She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day. She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she's put aside, plants a garden. First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started. She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day. She's skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking. She's quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor. She doesn't worry about her family when it snows; their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear. She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks. Her husband is greatly respected when he deliberates with the city fathers. She designs gowns and sells them, brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops. Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile. When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly. She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive. Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise: "Many women have done wonderful things, but you've outclassed them all!" Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-GOD. Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises! MSG
Sometime during the year 1955 a very shy, snot-nosed kid of 16 starts noticing a 15 year old Valley girl cheerleader. Their first date was the summer of 1956 when he finally got up the nerve to ask her out. The church youth group was going to meet at Zuma beach for the grunion run. Grunion are a small fish that come up on the beach at high tide and spawn and people take nets and buckets and try to catch them. I equate this to one step above a snipe hunt.
Like a snipe, they never found the group and sat on the beach until way past the time the grunion were suppose to show up – which they never did. The teenagers suddenly realized that they had only 20 minutes to get “Valley Girl” home before curfew and a showdown with a very controlling father. Unfortunately, this was normally a 30 minute or better drive through Malibu canyon. The now 17 year old idiot decided it was better to risk life and limb rather than face her father’s wrath and the two took off for home. Driving his 46 Ford convertible like a Porsche, the young man makes it to her door step just as the checkered flag drops, with no time to spare. This was the beginning of the life and times of Mike and Jeri. She got a hint of what life was going to be like with me and married me anyway. We have never lacked for adventure and excitement.
Our wedding took place on April 2nd, 1960. I was just 21; Jeri was 19. I was fresh out of flight school and our honeymoon was a two week trip to Topeka, Kansas, stopping at Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Denver and the Royal Gorge Bridge. I was this dashing young Lieutenant navigator who appeared headed for a military career. Jeri was yet unaware of my secret dreams of farming – and I was not about to tell her.
We spent 18 months in Topeka, where Chuck was born, 30 months in Newfoundland where Kris was born, 4 years in Pomona going to college, then six years in La Grande where Andy was born and Lani arrived from Korea. Then it was out to the farm in Summerville where we will mark 36 years this summer.
There are varied reasons a marriage lasts 50 years. Ours boils down to two. The first is that God was a part of this relationship from the beginning. I was a new Christian at 17 and I can specifically remember praying and asking God to show me who He had chosen for my future wife. I didn’t want to waste my time dating girls just to be dating and I was surely interested in Jeri, also a Christian; so I let God know that it would be fine with me if she was the one. Besides if Jeri ever rejected me, I am not sure I would have ever had the nerve to ask anyone else out on a date.
The second is that Jeri is probably the only woman on this planet that could put up with me for 5 years, let alone 50. The above scripture is a living testimony to what she has been for me over the years. What has it been like?
The short version is like this: 1) One week after arriving in Topeka, I have to go to Arkansas for a week of tropical survival school, leaving her in our new mobile home still parked at the dealership not 30 feet from a railroad track, in the heart of tornado valley; 2) 18 months later I move her, 2 month old Chuck and the mobile home to California near her folks while I ship out to Newfoundland; 3) Thee months later, she sells the trailer, drives with my mother to Indianapolis in February where I meet them and drive back up to Newfoundland. Mind you, before our marriage Jeri had never been out of the state of California, yet in less than two years she has had one kid and moved three times, a total of over 7,000 miles. Jeri was used to two seasons: summer and not so summer. In Newfoundland there were three seasons: spring (one month), fall (one month), and winter the rest of the year where 250 inches of snow is common. She now has two kids and a husband that is on alert 1/3rd of the time plus flying a couple of days a week.
4) Deciding military life, particularly flying, is not for us, we separate from the Air Force and move 4,000 miles back to California and college for me. Jeri starts working in 1964 as a police/fire dispatcher on swing shift and promptly gives notice that her last day of work will be June of 1968, whether I graduate or not. Just a tad bit of pressure applied for me to hold up my part of the bargain.
Then, 5) we move to La Grande where we live high on the hog while I am Purchasing Manager at the Fleetwood plant, making more money than I have good sense. Mean while Jeri gives birth to Andy and a year later we adopt Lani. Four years later, not content with that prosperity, I return to my idiot 17 year old self and decide that I would rather farm and raise hogs. 6) Three years into the hog and farm thing Jeri and I both have to go back to work in order for the six of us to eat. She works for a while at the post office, and then works in admitting at the local hospital. During this time we move on to the place a 75-year-old house that had been rented out and then used for storage for the previous 5 years and I ask her to make this a home. And she does! This large, two story house is not pretty enough to qualify as ugly, yet she makes it a home. She also planted and cared for a garden, baled hay, drove grain truck, fed sows and cleaned hog pens when I broke my arm, cared for two and three litters of pigs in our bathroom when we would loose a sow or the pigs were rejected by the mother, cared for runt pigs, got up in the middle of the night as we took turns checking on sows ready to give birth, chased cows and horses when they escaped, and raised four kids. In addition she taught Jr. High Sunday school for 32 years. Nothing out the ordinary for a farm-wife, but she never signed up to be a farm-wife. That was never in the picture when I asked her to marry me. I’m reminded of the greeting card with the grizzled old cowboy stating “There were a hell of a lot of things they didn’t tell me before I signed up with this outfit.” Yep!
7) The farm thing doesn’t work out and it is clear that if I don’t change careers – again – we will loose everything. So Jeri continues to work and I am off to college again for two years. Then God, with his great sense of humor, decides that I need to be an IRS agent, which requires 8 months of training in Portland and California and Jeri working. The winter of 1988 I am in Portland, coming home on weekends, hauling hay back to where the horses are and Jeri is having to trek a half mile each way through the snow to feed every day.
You might ask “What were the kids doing?” They were an immense help where they could be, but that is another story. I don’t think you can farm without your kids help, but by 1988 only one was still at home.
Jeri continued to work until the mid-nineties when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. A cruel blow but one she has accepted with the grace and dignity shown with life’s past challenges.
Now, with both of us well into retirement, she has watched her husband fight cancer – twice. She cared for me in 2006 as I went through 8 weeks of radiation treatments for prostate cancer, living out of our 5th wheel in Portland, and now in 2010 caring for me again as I have recovered from surgery for Mucosal Melanoma and facing additional radiation for that. Again, living out of our 5th wheel in Portland.
In all the years that we have been married, with all the moves, career changes, trials and tribulations, never once, N-E-V-E-R once has she complained or suggested that I do something different. Never once has she implied that I was off on some fool’s chase, needed to be doing better, or complained about moving or about our living conditions. I have asked her to follow me to New Zealand, Israel, Jordan, Fiji, Tasmania, Mexico, Canada and Ecuador, up back roads and down trails trying to see what was around the corner or next bend, over the next hill or down to a secluded beach. Life with me has not been easy, but it also has not been dull. Not a fat chance of that ever happening!
Is she a saint? To me she is! Is she the only one? No. There are other guys out there that could write about their wives that would equal or better this story. But today it is my turn, to try and give her everything she deserves and to shower her with praises.
"Many women have done wonderful things, but you, Jeri, have outclassed them all!"
With all my love, forever, Mikey