I consider this story to be the most important advice I’ve given to my kids and grandkids.
As I grew up on the farm, we seldom took vacations. Except for an occasional family dinner with Aunts and Uncles on Sundays, we worked most of the time. Spring and Fall were seven days a week, and livestock had to be cared for everyday of the year. During summer and winter, the work on Sunday was feeding the livestock and was considered a day off. One of my dad’s sayings was “If you aren’t in the field before daylight, you might as well go back to bed because the day is wasted.” Working seven days a week never bothered my dad. He loved farming so much he could not understand why people wanted a day off or to go on vacation.
When I started seventh grade I changed from a small country school to an in-town school. What an eye opener that was. Most of the town kids didn’t have chores after school. On Saturday and Sunday, they didn’t have to work. Wow, they could play, go places, visit the library, or just hang out. That world looked pretty inviting to me. One of the things I grew to desire was weekends, weekends for fun.
After high school, I got a job working at a full service gas station in town. We pumped gas, did oil changes, minor service work, washed cars, and fixed car, truck, and tractor tires. I worked 63 hours a week and was paid 65 dollars a week. That was the most money I had gotten in a paycheck. Also, I didn’t know what to do with all my spare time.
We worked ten-hour days and stayed open an extra three hours until 9 p.m. on Saturday. I had every other Saturday night off and every Sunday off. What a treat that was for me; especially since Maxine and I were secretly engaged. We had weekends to be with each other. In December, after high school graduation, I had saved enough money for an engagement ring. We announced our engagement to the world.
The next fall I entered Iowa State University. For the next two years, I studied mechanical engineering technology. I was still living at home because that was the only way I could afford to go to school. I helped some on the farm to assist with the cost of my tuition and books, but I still had time to be with Maxine. After Saturday morning classes, we had the weekend to do things and go places. That was something I was seldom able to do when I was growing up on the farm.
I graduated from the Technical Institute of Iowa State University in May of ’65. Maxine and I were married in June, and I started to work for John Deere on July 1. On weekends we would “go home” to our parents and friends. We had weekends to do things together.
Our first child was born in October of ’66. Our life changed. The ominous words of advice we had been given, “life as you know it is over” were coming true. Our weekends of fun were becoming limited. We didn’t have much time for fun and entertainment. Saturdays were spent washing cloth dippers with a wringer washing machine and double rinse tubs. We continued to work to make our way in the world. Our daughter arrived in August of ’69. We continued to “go home” once in a while. But, it had been a long time since Maxine and I were together with each other by ourselves. How we longed for some of the “good old days.”
We decided we needed a long weekend together. We saved some money. We left our kids with my mother. We set off on Friday morning, just the two of us. As we left Nevada, Iowa for Minden, Nebraska, and the Harold Warp museum, something seemed strange. About halfway to Omaha, we discovered what it was. The strangeness was silence. No kids bawling, or asking the perpetual question, “How much further.”
The weekend was wonderful. We had time together, just the two of us. Our schedule was slower and flexible, not driven by the needs of our kids. We had time for romance. We had time for uninterrupted conversation. We had time for uninterrupted passion. We were able to renew each other.
As we headed back to Iowa on Monday, we were so refreshed. We decided we should try a long weekend getaway at least once a year.
We were not able to have a long weekend every year, but we did most years. However, as the kids got older we were able to get away for two, three, or sometimes four weekends a year. Our annual long weekend was a key factor in achieving 40 years of marriage before Maxine’s death. We recommended long weekends to others to renew the romance in their marriage.
When our kids were in college, the long weekends turned into long weeks. We took multiple weeks in October to celebrate Maxine’s birthday, enjoy the fall colors, and catch fish.
For several years we enjoyed Lake City, MN and fishing Lake Pepin. Viewing fall colors from the water of the Mississippi River was spectacular. If the fish weren’t biting, we could drift along watching bald eagles soar high in the air against the clear blue sky. We could talk, plan, and dream like we began to do many years ago in Nebraska. We could refresh and renew our love for each other. We had time for romance and passion. We had each other.
As we got older, we wanted more tranquility than Lake Pepin could provide. We did some exploring and relocated our fall getaway to the Red School Resort on Lake Chetac at Birchwood, WI.
The lake had very few powerboats. Jet skis were discouraged. The boat dock provided marvelous views of the sunrise that Maxine could enjoy. No phones, no cell phones, very little TV. Two picture windows in the cabin looked out onto the lake. Two lazy boy recliners sat in front of the picture windows in the comfy living room. Lake Wobegon stories softly drifted out of the boom box as the flames flickered in the gas fired heater.
Birchwood was an ideal place to renew our love and romance. We maintained our passion and covered each others necks with hickies. It was our youth again, we could renew ourselves.
So my children and grandchildren, schedule one or more long weekends every year. Use it to renew your love, romance, and passion with your partner in life. It is a key to having a long, joyful, and rewarding marriage.