This is an updated post from April of 2010. On April 2nd Jeri and I celebrated our 54th wedding anniversary in our usual convoluted and unusual style developed over the last 54 years. We spent the day at Oregon Health Science University hospital with three doctor appointments, all trying to determine the reason for all my stomach and lower gut pain. By the time we were done, we were too tired to go out for dinner. Happy Anniversary, dear! Sorry about that.
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! MSGSometime during the year 1955, a very shy, snot-nosed kid of 16 started 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. People take nets and buckets and try to catch them. I equate this to one step above a snipe hunt.Like the snipe, the two teenagers never found the group or the Grunion 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 Parnelly Jones driving a load of corn liquor through Kentucky, 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 2, 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. From there, it was out to the farm in Summerville where we marked 38 years before moving off to Hawaii.There are varied reasons a marriage lasts 54 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 54. 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) Three months later, she sells the trailer, drives (a 1960 Pontiac Bonneville w/389 ci. engine, stick shift, three carburetors and a corvette Cam) 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 a child 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 when not on alert.
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 had good sense. Meanwhile 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. What the heck was I thinking??
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 farm a two story, 3,000 sf., 75-year-old house that had been rented out and then used for storage for the previous 5 years. 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, a large pumpkin patch, baled hay, drove grain truck, fed sows, and cleaned hog pens when I broke my arm. She often cared for two and three litters of pigs in our bathroom when we would lose a sow or the pigs were rejected by the mother. We cared for runt pigs, got up in the middle of the night and 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 lose 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 with 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 and he was doing a lot.
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, 13 years and counting, she has watched her husband fight cancer – twice – and now is faced with a third tour of duty as designated care giver. 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 suffering through two of the rainiest months on record, and in 2010 caring for me again as I recovered from surgeries for Mucosal Melanoma and facing an additional 6 weeks of radiation with that. Again, we lived out of our 5th wheel in Portland. Are there campaign medals for care givers? Should be!
As I eased into my 70’s, weak from surgeries and radiation, I made the tough call that, for both our sakes, we have to move off the farm. Moving just into town was not an option for me, I still hate winter. Arizona was not an option. I can’t live there year round in the awful heat. Made three trips to Hawaii and found the perfect year round weather and can play golf 12 months of the year. Woo Haa!!
But, and there is always a downside to every decision, that meant tearing Jeri away from her home, her nest of 38 years, the longest we had ever lived in one place. It meant leaving the best neighbors we had ever had, a church of 44 years, church family and friends cultivated over those same years through sharing our lives and hardships with each other. It meant giving up treasures collected over 50 some years of marriage for both of us, but especially Jeri. It meant leaving family here on the mainland and hoping they would forgive and come visit.
But God had a plan. We leased our ranch to a neighbor and their son and daughter-in-law with an option to buy. That freed us up to be able to buy a home in Hawaii. God opened doors so wide that there was never any doubt that His hand was guiding us each step of the way. He found us the perfect house, the perfect elevation for temperature and view, and just 5 min. from the church that we now attend. Closer than the 30 minutes we drove for 38 years to First Baptist in La Grande. AND, only 12 minutes to Costco, Home Depot, and Lowe’s.
It has been a two year adjustment period for both of us. Being used to every day having something to do on the ranch to a 6,000 sf yard, where there is not that much to do, has been tough for me. Of course, Jeri will tell you otherwise, because she is the one who loves gardening and enjoys pulling weeds, discovering new plants to put around the yard, and learning you can plant tomato seeds in September from a store bought tomato and it will produce tomatoes. We only have two seasons in Hawaii; high tide and low tide.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, 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. We have been up back roads and down trails trying to see what was around the corner, the 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 again 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