Love, commitment — and homemade cookies
LAKE CITY — Margaret Rabe likes to go to bed earlier than her husband, Clifford Rabe, but he has medical problems and sleeps in a recliner where he likes to have his feet put up high on cushions.
To get his feet up, he needs help. Margaret stays up late and puts up his feet. "I do it because I love him enough to keep him healthy," she said. "I don't mind."
Clifford said he likes to help out around the house. "I do the vacuuming and mopping and sweeping the floors and wash windows and wipe dishes," he said. He also will mow the lawn. If she needs help stirring batter for cookies, he will stir the batter. Cookies are important.
That give and take, helping out with the little things, has served them well in their marriage. They will celebrate 75 years together July 10 at their Lake City home with family and friends.
While sitting at their table in their Lake City home this week, the couple, both 93, tried to find a major revelation, a deep insight into what has made that marriage work for so long, outside of having good genes. Mostly, they talked about the practical things.
"We married the right person," Margaret said.
"It takes a lot of respect and forgiveness," Clifford said.
"Respect, love one another and be kind," she said. They've had their ups and downs, but "there was nothing we couldn't go to bed and sleep on."
'We just got along'
The two grew up south of Lake City, centering around Oak Center and the Lincoln Trinity Lutheran Church. There once was a school there, and the two — she was Margaret Wiebusch at the time — attended seventh and eighth grade together in a class of eight. "The families were friends before we even looked at each other," he said.
They became friends, talked and met at dances. Then Clifford's mom died, and he and his brother were living in Zumbro Falls. "We didn't have any cook, and I got her to come and cook for us," he said.
It was at that time that "when we first thought that we were right for one another, that was when I was working for them, keeping house," Margaret said.
"We just got along," Clifford said.
"I guess I just never got interested in anyone else," she said.
They were 18 when they were married at the Lincoln church in a small ceremony. People thought it wouldn't last -- too young, they were told. "I'd like to have some of them people come and see me (now)," she said.
They farmed together and then moved to their Lake City home more than 50 years ago. He did carpentry work in the area; she worked as a clerk at local businesses.
They have two daughters — Judy Becklund and Janet Hein, both of Millville. They now also have two grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and 15 great-great-grandchildren. Her mother, Lucy Wiebusch, was alive when her first great-great-grandchild was born, so they have a picture of six generations living at one time.
They hope all those people will have learned the basic lessons about respect and listening. But outside of that, they couldn't find any of those revelations or insights.
When their daughter, Becklund, their granddaughter, Kathie Erickson, and grandson, Gary Becklund, all of Millville, joined them at the table, however, they had something to say. They did learn from them, they said. But it's hard to put those lessons in words.
Margaret and Clifford were not the kind that told them how to live or gave lectures, but showed their how to live through their lives. "As they learned, they taught us … what to do, what not to do," Judy said.
"Hard work," Gary said. "Ever since I can remember, he's been calm, never got excited over anything. He would think before he said anything." In his marriage, "I try to be a lot more like Grandpa."
"That you can have spats and disagreements and still be together," Kathie said.
"He taught us how to fish but would never teach us how to catch fish," Judy said. His daughters would sit on either side of him but only their dad caught fish.
"He did that with his grandkids, too," she said.
"I caught a great big carp once with Grandpa," Kathie said.
In the end, Kathie said what she thinks she and her children and others in family can take away from Margaret and Clifford is the respect and commitment they showed. It's "something to really look up to, those two as far as commitment to marriage and just being the kind of person that people look up to."
Oh yes, one more thing Gary thinks people should know about his grandparents: Whenever they left that home in Lake City, they never left without ice cream and a homemade cookie.
"We bake cookies all the time here," Margaret said. Her family's two favorites are chocolate chip and molasses. "I always have cookies on hand," she said.