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The Last Windrow: A long life together

It was a mild Jan. 18, 1946. World War II had just ended and the boys were heading home from overseas. It must have been a joyous time and I’d bet there were a lot of weddings happening.

One of those weddings was that of my parents, Clyde and Millie.

I checked my dad’s Army discharge papers a few weeks ago and found out that he was discharged in early Jan. 1946. A wedding license was stored next to his discharge papers, stating that this couple was married on Jan. 18, 1946. Not much time for planning a wedding, but I don’t think that was a big issue back then.

After writing to each other since 1942, they probably knew each other well enough to forgo a big wedding. They found a couple of sponsors, Vera Buryanek and Donald Diediker, a preacher and a church and the event was held without much further fanfare.

That commitment worked because Clyde and Millie are celebrating their 67th wedding anniversary this week. There won’t be much fanfare at this occasion, either, except for visits and telephone calls from their six kids and a bunch of relatives on both sides of the family.

As the oldest of the kids, I’ve been around these two for some time. I can’t remember a time they weren’t somehow together. They didn’t take separate vacations. Their lives were entwined since the preacher uttered the word “go.”

Rearing their brood on that small Iowa farm demanded that they work together. There were no tasks that were designated as male or female. They milked cows together, gathered eggs together, chased livestock together and tended their garden together.

That was just the way things were done back then.

One of my favorite mind-picture-memories of these two was one evening at the beginning of our oats harvest. I was just old enough to be in the field and I remember watching Clyde driving the WC Allis Chalmers, pulling a binder with Millie sitting on the steel seat and tripping the cradle where the oat bundles accumulated. Clyde steered the machine along, white cigarette sticking out of one corner of his mouth, looking back at Millie wearing her white headscarf and waiting to trip the next batch of bundles as the sun descended in the western sky. That was the way they worked throughout their years together.

If they ever argued, we kids never heard much of it. I’m sure there were conflicts here and there, but we were never exposed to any unpleasantness. There was never a time when we feared one of them might leave. That was a comforting way to grow up.

In these days where we see so many short marriages, the example of Clyde and Millie’s long life together seems harder to attain and I sometimes wonder why. Perhaps it was their knowledge that after worrying through a war, when no one really knew for sure if they would return, it just made people appreciate each other a little more?

Perhaps it was their upbringing from parents who shared the same feelings of commitment that they felt? In any marriage, a lot of things can go wrong, but somehow people like Clyde and Millie work through and around those ruts in the road and move on together.

We won’t be popping any champagne corks this week. We won’t be hosting any big open house. We’ll celebrate Clyde and Millie’s anniversary like we always have, with a piece of cake, a cup of coffee, a good hug or two and pat on the back. They wouldn’t feel comfortable with anything more than that.

They have each other and that’s just good enough. It always has been. Happy anniversary you two!

See you next time. Okay?