50th Wedding Anniversary -- a tribute to my Father and Mother

Deep in the Egyptian desert stands the great temple of Abu Simbel. Massive; Grand; Towering. Ramses II built it and dedicated it to his wife Nefertari with these words, engraved in stone:

"To Nefertari, for whose sake the very sun doth shine!'

Now -there’s- a tribute to a marriage. We don’t build edifices like that today, but Mom and Dad’s marriage leaves no less a legacy. Its true ‘tribute’, its legacy, is here today in each of us. It is made up of all the lives they have touched, of the goodness of their children, of their grand children, and of their great grand children; of the goodness of their friends, of their mothers and fathers, of their sisters and brothers -- of all of us.

How does such a marriage start? Listen, says the storyteller, and I will tell.

The bus was dark, the ride very long, as the boy rode with others to ‘The Passion Play’ in the ‘Big City’. Predictably, the boys sat on one side of the bus, the girls on the other. But up ahead, just a few rows, sat a girl that interested him. "Who’s that?," he nudged his friend next to him, "The girl in the middle, three rows ahead?" "That’s Rowena Killian", his companion answered. "Rowena Killian . . . " The words awakened a memory of months ago. He was to move down from Price to Spanish Fork with his Dad while his Mom stayed in Price with the younger kids. He didn’t want to, not in the middle of the school year for sure, but his Dad insisted. A friend who often traveled from Price to the ‘Stock Show’ heard of his dilemma. "Don’t worry Pat", he’d said, "there’re plenty of friends for you down that way, lots of things to do - heck there are even some real nice girls down there too. One in particular you just gotta meet -- Rowena Killian -- she’s really somethin’". Yes, he’d forgotten about that -- now he’d remembered. "So that’s who she is . . .", he mused" . . . and a plan begin to form in his mind. A plan for total world domination? A plan for one world government? No, nothing so grand -- just a plan to get to talk to Rowena without a lot of snickering from his friends and without drawing too much attention on the way back from the play.

. . . and it was a good plan too -- as most plans are initially at least -- now was the time to put it into motion.

The play was over, the bus headed home. Up ahead sat Rowena -- the target -- the boy watched intently, waiting, biding his time. The bus made frequent stops on well-lit streets as it made its way out of the city -- not a good time to saunter up nonchalantly and introduce yourself to a girl. No, No, he’d wait until they were out of Salt Lake, out of the light, when the monotony of the road put whisperers to sleep and boredom dulled the senses of gossips.

Suddenly, at one of the stops, Rowena stood up and got off the bus. The driver helped her collect bags from the bowels of the bus, and soon the bus left her behind standing at the bus stop.

His plan was toast!! Drat!!! "Where’s she going?", he accosted a friend" "Oh, she’s staying with her boyfriend and his family". The boys heart sunk -- ‘Taken," he thought, "Dang!, she’s taken -- get used to it!" And he forgot about the girl . . . for a while that is.

"What", you ask, "was Rowena thinking all this time?" Well not a lot about Pat that’s for sure. Sure she heard of him, a big football player moved down from Price. Yes, all her friends ran to choir practice vying for places next to him -- well let them, she wasn’t -that- interested. Besides she’d heard he had a ‘steady’ in Price anyway . . .

Now I ask you gentle listener. What can we do to get these two together? The boy thinks the girl is already spoken for, the girl thinks nothing really of the boy. What magic must be woven to bring our hero and heroine to their senses?

No, not THAT you scream! Not magic THAT powerful!

Yes . . . we must . . . I intone.

Let us invoke that hideous, deep magic -- the thespian magic of OPERA!

Yes, we’ll bore them together ;-) That’ll teach um.

And that’s just what happened. The Opera ‘The Chimes of Normandy’ was to play. Both Rowena and Pat made the try-outs -- she as the heroine, he as the hero, and for ever after became inseparable. At the end of the school year, after graduation, they were married. They honeymooned in Ogden, no less, at what mother says was the ‘Bates Motel’. Hmm . . . . . ;-)

Life was tough in those days, ‘closer to the bone’, and Mom and Dad didn’t have much. They bought a wood burning stove -- a ‘Monarch’ -- for $90. It was a beauty. Their first furniture was made of orange and egg crates. Dad fashioned their first refrigerator out of egg crates and burlap -- yup, just an ‘swamp cooler’ affair. But it was all they could afford. They lived upstairs in grandma and grandpa Cloward’s old house -- up where the bats lived. Dad bought their first car -- a 1935 Chevy -- and painted in buff blue with yellow wheels. Mom cried when she saw it. "I can’t drive something that looks that horrible", she said. But she did. Dad worked for the U.S. Geodetic Survey, hiking, mostly in the dark, up mountains to set signal fires. Mom worked hard at Barbazon -- a clothing manufacturer in Provo. When Dad decided to attend the University of Utah, they lived in a small trailer (only 20’, including the hitch) with no bathroom, and no running water in the winter, in a trailer park up near the Kentucky Friend Chicken on 13th East and 21st South. At nights, in the bitter winter wind, the blankets froze to the sides of the trailer . . .

But things got better.

Both Dad and Mom graduated in 1952, he with a degree in Engineering, she with her PHT -- Pushing Hubby Through. They moved to California, then Colorado, then back ‘Home’. $40 rented a house then. Later they scraped and ‘penny-pinched’ to have $79 a month for a mortgage and their very own home on Villa Circle. With $400 in the bank Dad and Mom started Surveying Associates -- SA . . . They struggled together, worked together, planned together -- always together. The winds blew, rains came, but also the sun too, and blue skies -- no matter what troubles came in life, they faced them together -- for 50 years now. That’s what we call ‘love’. The next time you go to the grocery store, scan the paperback novels for sale there -- yes you know, the ones with rugged, handsome men and beautiful, buxom women, entwined on the cover, to see what now passes for ‘love’. Thoreau, in Walden, wrote in disgust at this -- what I would say is our inability to separate ‘dime novel’ kind of ‘love’ from the ‘real love’ that keeps a husband and wife strong together for 50 years. He wrote:

"They read the nine thousandth tale about Zebulon and Sophronia, and how they loved as none had ever loved before, and neither did the course of their true love run smooth- at any rate, how it did run and stumble, and get up again and go on!"

But we have the ‘real McCoy’ in Mom and Dad.

A while back I sat up on a great dome of sandstone at Lake Powell with one of the younger ones -- trying to counsel them -- a situation for which I am neither prepared, nor practiced at, and always uncomfortable with. Suddenly a miracle occurred. A parable came from heaven. "Look down there", I said. "See grandma and grandpa". There they were, hunting arrow heads together on the edge of the desert where the sandstone met the sand. "That’s what you want," I said. "grandpa ‘gimped-up’, grandma hobbling too. Look see how they take care of one another. See there goes grandpa back to camp, and grandma going with him to help. They’re both worried about something -- and they are going to go take care of it together. Now that’s what you want. You want someone who will stand by you even until you’re sixty and seventy -- until the end of your life. Someone who will stand by you for 50 years and more. That’s what you want -- that’s what you deserve -- and there, right there, you have an example of it too. Now you deserve the best -- go out and get it, insist on it, and don’t settle for anything less."

Well enough of the past and present -- what of the future? Now that they’ve reached that magical number of 50 years of marriage, what does the future hold for them? What will years 51, 52, 53, and after, bring?


Dad’s retired, Mom too. But they remind me a little of Winnie the Pooh. Remember when Pooh planned to ‘Do Nothing’ , and then ‘he went out and did it"?

Well later on, in ‘The House at Pooh Corner, he recants.

"I'm not going to do Nothing any more."

"Never again?"

"Well, not so much. They don't let you." said Pooh. ;-)

Click on the image below for a 'full sized' special collage of Mom & Dad in the 'early years' (and one in the later years):

Click for a larger version


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