Friday, April 6, 2012

"A Tribute to a Good Wife"

I realize that most people wait for someone to die before giving them a tribute. Well, I am of the opinion that a tribute will likely do the most for a person while they are still alive and breathing. And since I have tended to take my good wife for granted too much of the time, it won't hurt me either.

And I'll tell you this also; so far everything I've posted here has been purely my thoughts unedited by any of Mary's opinions. And tonight's post will definitely be that way as she is in Harrisonburg and there is no chance that she will stumble downstairs and look over my shoulder. Actually there's not much chance of that anyway; she's a morning person and is usually all conked out by nine o'clock. Me, not so much. Of course then it's the other way around in the mornings, but that's a topic for another discussion.

Mary grew up in Harrisonburg on the family dairy farm. She claims she was in the barn as one of the main milkers by the time she was ten years old. She says she never ever remembers having enough time to get bored.

She was shy when she started first grade; she cried every morning before going to school from the time school started in the fall until Christmas. After that she seemed to get over the  hump and I haven't noticed it since.

She was always tall for her age. In the fourth grade she was taller than her teacher. By the seventh grade she was all grown up. And me? Well, it's the same old story; not so much.  In the seventh grade she was a foot taller than I and weighed twice as much.(I was 75 Lbs. and 4' 9" tall) Fortunately we didn't learn to know each other until we were nineteen and by then I was finally mostly grown up myself. And for the record, I was always good with the tall. My opinion is that the majority of Mennonite women are stunted; down about 5' 5"somewhere.

Mary's family comes from Old Order Mennonite stock on both her dad and mom's side. The Rodes's tend to be high-strung and outgoing. They're the thoroughbreds of the human race. The Burkholders are quieter and more laid back but are very forthright when they do say something. You usually don't have to wonder what a Burkholder is thinking about you (whether good or bad) because more than likely he will tell you. Mary is a delightful combination of both of these genetic lines.

She has been an above and beyond the call of duty help-meet for 35 years now. To this day I never thought she was any cuter than when she was headed to the barn in her bandanna and Tingley boots. When she knew I was extra busy, here she would come with her cup of hot tea in hand.

Headed for the barn back in '88 or '89
And nobody put  themselves into their children any more than she. She homeschooled them for most of their education. She was determined that son Myron would learn braille since he was nearly blind. The county had a "vision teacher" that would come out once or twice a week for maybe 45 minutes, which isn't a whole lot of time for learning anything. The vision teacher at the time didn't know braille herself so Mary talked her into getting us the information and she proceeded to teach it to herself. Braille has a series of dots for each letter of the alphabet but it takes up an awful lot of space to print every letter out like that. So there are also 200 more combinations that stand for whole words or a series of words.  She got to where she could read it about as good as Myron could, although she was reading it by sight as opposed to Myron reading it with his fingers.

I wonder how many books she read to the children over the years. She is a good reader and could go on for chapters at a time. I remember one cold winter night she was reading "Treasures of the Snow" and as it got later the kids kept begging for her to keep reading. I was  laying on the couch with a cover over my head pretending to be asleep so no one could see me getting emotional at the touching parts of the story.

She and I are about as different as night and day, and living with me has been a trial at times.  When we lived on the farm we raised up all the bull calves (and left them as bulls) till they reached 1,200 lbs. or so. There were maybe forty bulls in a pasture just up the road from the farmhouse. On quiet summer nights (especially full moon ones) you could hear them down the road bellering and generally raising cain. You always hoped they stayed on the right side of the fence.

Sometimes they didn't and it was always a dreaded thing to hear that the "bulls are out!!"  One night we woke up to hear a beller and cattle running past the bedroom window. Mary said right away, "The bulls are out!!" She says that without even opening my eyes I said, "Sometimes cows make noises like that". She also says that if I ever die unexpectedly don't even bother to do an autopsy because she already knows what caused my sudden demise. Its sand in the lungs, from "putting my head in the sand" all these years instead of choosing to face reality.

I'll close with a story that illustrates better than anything her character and personality. I've told her that I will tell this story at her funeral but considering the amount of sand in my lungs already, I better not wait in case I don't get the chance.

Now one thing Mary isn't is gullible. (Just look back at that picture of her going to the barn. Isn't there just something in those eyes that says, "Yeah, right, just go ahead and try to pull something on me.") Our daughter's first husband was quite a smooth and slick character and he said something to the effect that he could pull the wool over my eyes and get me to believe something but "Mrs. Yoder", now she was a different story.

 Anyway, back to my story......... Sometimes in the summer we have "Southwestern" salesmen that come door to door selling  Bible study type books. These guys are usually clean-cut college kids trying to make some money during the summer months.

Mary has always insisted that the first thing they always do is ask you for a drink of water. Then if you let them in and give them a drink, there's something about that that breaks a barrier down or something. It makes  them seem like part of the family and you're more apt to  buy their books. 

So one day a few years ago, (I wasn't at home) a young man knocks on our door. A "Southwestern" young man. Could he come in, he asks, and show her what he has to offer? She says, yes he can as long as he doesn't ask for a drink of water. And she went on to tell  him her theory.

That won't be a problem he says, since he just had several glasses of water  up the road at Esther Bowmans. So he went on showing her the books he had for sale. Somewhere along in the presentation he hesitantly asks, "Ma'am, would you happen to have a bathroom I could use?" Mary says she supposes that is a legitimate request seeing as how he had all those glasses of water at Esthers.

He goes on with his sales pitch and Mary actually does buy a book or two.  Then when he is doing the paperwork she refuses to put all her information on his list because you can look down over it and see who all in the community has bought books along with their personal info.

 So he's finally done and ready to leave. (He probably can't wait to get out the door!) She says, "Sir, you've been asking me all kinds of questions, now could I ask you one?" Well, yes go ahead, he says. She goes on, "Do you happen to like Dr. Pepper?" Well, yes, in fact he does. So she goes and gets him a nice cold one out of the fridge and sends him on his way. Probably the most interesting call he made all day.

I gave Mary a card once some years ago on our anniversary. It said, "Being married to you has been a lot of things but boring hasn't been one of them."

Now don't get me wrong, Mary isn't the only one to have had to endure a few things in this marriage. I've endured a thing or two every now and again. But would I do it  all over again?? You betcha I would.

P.S. As I said, Mary doesn't look over these posts before they are published. In fact some of you will probably read this before she does.  I'll just ask this favor of you; if you don't hear anything out of me for several weeks, would you come looking for me? I may be stuck in the doghouse somewhere.


  1. Great post about a very fine lady!

  2. I love your dear wife, and I agree she is a treasure...and an excellent role model. I have no doubt that she has also been enhanced by her marriage to you! [: