#763 – Dick Bernard: Congratulations, Tom and Jennifer, at your 25th Anniversary. "For everything, there is a season."

(click to enlarge photos)

Rick, Joan and Ron reminisce, August 21, 2013

Rick, Joan and Ron reminisce, August 21, 2013

Today is son Tom and Jennifers 25th wedding anniversary.
Congratulations to you both.
Achieving 25 years together is one of those significant accomplishments, not easy to attain. That’s long enough to experience both the unknown and unknowable. For a couple to reach 25 years together is a significant achievement, as anyone who has ever been in any relationship can attest.
For just a single example, Tom’s Mom, Barbara, and I married 50 years ago this year: June 8, 1963. Neither of us were expecting that she’d spend almost all of our very short marriage ill, dying little over two years later, July 24, 1965.
Roughly half-way through that brief marriage, Tom was born. He will turn 50 in a few months.
I became a single parent early.
Just two days ago I was out to Anoka, our first home after Barbara died, part of a reunion of fellow staff members of Roosevelt Junior High School in Blaine MN. I had signed a contract to teach there three days before Barbara, died, and I began teaching there scarce a month later, doing my best to cope, with the substantial help of new friends in my new home, far from ND, where we had lived the earlier years of our lives. I was there seven years, moving on in an unexpected direction which occupied my next 27 years.
Roosevelt Jr. High School, Blaine MN, Summer, 1968.  Photo by Dick Bernard

Roosevelt Jr. High School, Blaine MN, Summer, 1968. Photo by Dick Bernard

I told a colleague, Wednesday, that I still have not pieced together the events of that month of August, 1965…I guess it’s like living through a disaster: you remember it happened, but not exactly what. Survival trumps memory.
The picture which leads this post, was taken at that reunion two days ago: three of my colleagues from those early years. The photo started life as a mistake, but under the circumstances it is an ideal representation of times past. I taught with these folks. They are about my age. They can represent everyone I’ve ever known on the path of life thus far.
Earlier that same day, August 21, I received an e-mail from someone in Maryland, whose Mom remembers my parents, most likely in 1939-40, when they lived in Valley City, North Dakota, essentially next door to her then-young Mom and Dad. It caused me to dig out the earliest photo I have of myself, with my parents, 73 years ago in Valley City:
Henry and Esther Bernard with newborn son, Richard, May, 1940, Valley City ND

Henry and Esther Bernard with newborn son, Richard, May, 1940, Valley City ND

Her Mom has to be somewhere near 100 now.
(It’s odd what such pictures sometimes bring to the surface. For those of a certain age, who can forget the coal chute, whose door is visible behind the crib.)
We all know, as we age, priorities begin to change, often due to circumstances we couldn’t anticipate; often because our perspectives change.
Anybody whose life begins to approach old age is reminded of this when more and more frequently we attend someone’s funeral, or visit someone we know in a Nursing Home. To paraphrase the Bible phrase Ecclesiastes 3: 1-15, Weddings are replaced by Baptisms are replaced by Graduations are replaced by Weddings…. For everything there is a season. Fall is as certain as Winter, as is Spring and then Summer.
Last Saturday, at another reunion of former colleagues from the ever-more distant olden days of work with the Minnesota Education Association (1972-2000), an early must-do was to read a partial list of colleagues who had departed this life. It is an ever longer list. Each name, as read, brought back memories to all of us in attendance.
John reads the roll of departed colleagues, August 17, 2013

John reads the roll of departed colleagues, August 17, 2013

We were all young, once.
Enroute home on Wednesday, an unexpected detour on the freeway gave me an opportunity to stop in and visit a retired minister I’ve known and been good friends with for the last ten or so years.
Till very recently he, another friend and I have had a long-standing date, once a month, to meet for coffee and conversation.
Earlier this summer, William collapsed in Church, ending up in a convalescent facility.
Yesterday, I stopped to visit him there, and he’d been transferred to an assisted living facility, so I traveled a few more miles to visit him there. Returning home seems not an option for him any more.
Three short months ago, William and his wife had certain routines. He’s well into his 80s, now, so they knew the odds of change increased every day.
But we never like to anticipate the winter of our lives, whose evidence I increasingly see at funerals and memorials for people that I know.
Had Barbara lived, earlier this summer we might have celebrated our 50th anniversary. Such possibility was not to be.
“Lord willing”, as Dad would say, my 75th birthday is not far in the future. Wednesday night came a call that my once-young Uncle Vince is hospitalized once again. He’s made it to 88, but the slope is ever more slippery. At some point, reality becomes undeniable.
The family script mitigates against he or I or anyone within seeing 100, but that’s okay.
Contribute in some way to others lives today.
There may not be a tomorrow.
Happy anniversary, Tom and Jennifer.
We’re proud of you. We love you.
Barbara Sunde Bernard, June 8, 1963 - July 24, 1965

Barbara Sunde Bernard, June 8, 1963 – July 24, 1965

Dick Bernard and Barbara Sunde Wedding June 8, 1963, Valley City ND, with families.

Dick Bernard and Barbara Sunde Wedding June 8, 1963, Valley City ND, with families.

#494 – Dick Bernard: On New Years Eve, A look back to 1960

“What are you doing New Years…New Years Eve?”
For us, our six year old grandson will be an overnight guest tonight. That makes for a reasonably predictable “New Years Eve”.
As for the year just finishing, and the year ahead: 2011 depends on the interpreter; 2012 is as yet unknown. They’re all important, these New Years. Collectively we’ll be fashioning that six year olds future in the days and years ahead. We’re all he and all of his cohort, everywhere, have to depend on.
My favorite blogger, Alan, writing from LA, summarizes the year now ending in today’s Just Above Sunset posting.
His columns are long, but always a worthwhile read.
Earlier this week I took a stab at what’s ahead by reflecting on a college newspaper column I came across from November 3, 1960.
What I wrote follows: (if you’re one of those who wants to ‘cut to the chase’ read the bold-faced sections.)

Watching the Election Returns, November, 1960, in the "Rec Room" at Valley City ND State Teachers College. (from the 1961 Viking Annual)

I’m old enough to live in the fog of the “old days”.
But there are lessons…and teachers…from that past – people who are most often ‘anonymous’ or ‘unknown’. Here’s one such lesson, from someone called “Mac”.
Over 50 years ago – it was September 23, 1960 – a headline of the Viking News at Valley City State Teachers College (STC) proclaimed “Bernard Chosen as Viking News Editor”.
That fellow, Bernard, was me. Somebody concluded that I’d do okay at the job. Newspaper adviser Mary Hagen Canine kept copies of the fourteen issues published ‘on my watch’, and somehow the issues and the memories they record have managed to survive until the present day.
When that first issue published in late September, 1960, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy were vying for President of the U.S.

NY Gov. Nelson Rockefeller had whistle-stopped Valley City in June. He was a possible Republican candidate. I went down to the City Park to hear him speak.
In that first Viking News, I wrote an editorial, part of which referred to a column on the same page called “Meditations” by “Mac”. Mac, I said, was “Charles Licha [who] attended STC several years ago”. He had returned “for his last quarter before graduation. He is married and is the father of five children, and presently holds the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army.”

November 3, 1960, right before the election, “Mac” wrote a long column including a section, “A Time to Think”, directed to we students, many of us not yet 21 and thus ineligible to vote.
The column would fit today as well as it did then:
In part: “Walking down the hall the other day, I was suddenly struck by the thought that here at STC, a wonderful thing is taking place. I’m speaking specifically about two tables that are placed in close proximity to the rec room door. As closely as I can determine, one of these tables is strictly Democrat while the other is strictly Republican…What party are you for? Which man do you think is the Best Man? What are your reasons for your choices? Even if all of you are not of voting age, every one of you should have an answer to these questions and others questions equally as important.
He continued, “just remember that a portion of this country is yours, just as surely as though you held title or deed to it! For that reason the selection of the Chief Executive and lesser dignitaries charged with the affairs of the nation and the individual states should be of immediate concern to you. An attitude that smacks of “My one vote makes no difference, “I won’t vote because I don’t like either man,” or “I just don’t have the time” is not only anti-patriotic and stupid, it’s anti-you, and a direct denial of your responsibilities.”

Capt. Licha died in 1975 at only 48. By 1965 he was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam (scroll down for photo). He had earlier served in WWII and Korea, and was career Army. Residual effects of Malaria contracted in WWII contributed to his death at a young age. The last few years of his career he taught ROTC at North Dakota State University in Fargo.
Compared with the rest of we collegians, he was a ‘senior citizen’ of 33 when he wrote his column.
He spoke much wisdom 51 years ago.
We his modern day contemporaries might well listen, reflect on his final piece of advice: to “vote intelligently and wisely” in 2012.


#286 – Dick Bernard: Visiting the Fielding Garr Ranch and some thoughts about the past.

On our recent trip to Salt Lake City, we had an opportunity to visit the Fielding Garr Ranch on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.
While the ranch, on the south end of the island, is only several miles west of Salt Lake City, the necessary driving trip is perhaps 50 miles or more, as the sole road entry to the island is over a long causeway on the north end.
It was a chilly late afternoon when we visited the ranch, and all of us probably wondered in various ways “why am I doing this?”, but I found the half-hour or so visit to be thought-provoking.
The story of the island and the ranch are told in the links (above).

Touring the ranch

I kept thinking, as I shivered, and our guide gave us a most personable ‘tour’ of the environs, about that time back in the 1840s and 1850s, especially, when the west was being settled by white settlers seeking land.
We learned (and kids probably still learn) the romanticized ‘Cowboys and Indians’ version of the story, but this was a rough-and-tumble time in our history. The Cowboys won, the Indians lost, and that was that.
What the cowboys won, were they Mormon, or any other settler, was an unforgiving land where laziness or mistakes were not rewarded. Simply put, it was a struggle to get there, and to survive once there. At Salt Lake City’s Temple Square is a sculpture that tends to capture the difficulty of the move west.

Pioneer Statue Temple Square Salt Lake City

We’re a nation of immigrants. In my case, my French-Canadian ancestors got a bit of a head start on this continent, attempting to eke out a living in the 16 and 1700s in what is now Quebec, and like the Mormons, came west beginning in the 1850s; my German ancestors arrived in Wisconsin in the 1850s and 1860s.
All of the things we now take for granted, they couldn’t even imagine. Food had to be processed to last through winter, and, often, parceled out carefully. One didn’t jump in a car to get anywhere, or start a gasoline engine to do the chores. It was all by hand, often backbreaking.
As we viewed that chilly but bucolic area I would call the ‘farmstead’, I could imagine how life might have been back then. We wouldn’t have been sitting in a golf cart, listening to an enthusiastic and pleasant guide telling us about this place at which he was a volunteer.

The Ranch house

(“Back then” in reality is not all that far back in time. I can remember my grandparents farm before rural electrification brought electric current to the farm in the late 1940s. The end of the “olden days” is really pretty recent.)
It was a different time, then; a time almost unimaginable to today’s kids.
Out on Antelope Island these days, successful attempts are being made to reintroduce buffalo who are as nearly as possible the direct genetic descendants of the buffalo we very nearly exterminated back then. In other ways, the ranch and the island have become places to help visitors become better aware of the need for careful stewardship of ever more scarce resources.
Near the end of the trip the guide pointed out a building in front of the main house which had been the pump house. For many, many years it had been the source of spring water for the farm. In recent years, the spring stopped running – the water table beneath had receded due to increasing use in Salt Lake City to the east. No one in Salt Lake City would notice this change….
Be aware. What is may not necessarily be forever.

Deer near the Fielding Garr ranch house

#284 – Dick Bernard: advent of Advent

In my own faith tradition, American Roman Catholic, today is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year. It is a part of the liturgical calendar in many churches, observed in various ways in the present day.
As the visiting Priest pointed out today, the religious Advent has lots of competitors, primary among them the long-time dominance of consumerism called “Christmas Shopping”. In our society “Christmas” has become centered on business and profits (Black Friday, etc.)
So, the advent of Advent can be and is all things to all people, from just another weekday, to an especially significant religious marker, to a very deeply depressing time.
I’m not exactly sure how I will try to make Advent meaningful in my own life, but I am trending towards looking for and emphasizing the good surrounding me at this season.
Even if my resolution lasts only today, I’ll start with the father and son, both named Philip, who I see almost every week at Church, normally in the side aisle, with Dad pushing his son in a wheelchair.
The Dad tells part of their story in the most recent of Basilica magazine. You can see it here AdventGonzales2010001 . You can read more at Philip Gonzales website here.