February 9, 2023 at 4:46 p.m.
Al and Lorraine
One of the most ideal couples I have ever known was Al and Lorraine Warnes, next-door neighbors who lived on the farm west of ours. Al and Lorraine (which only sounds right when it’s pronounced as one word) were an unlikely couple in some respects. For one thing, Al was a 40-year-old bachelor farmer when he first started courting Lorraine. For another, Lorraine was 20 years Al’s junior and, as she put it, a totally clueless town gal.
But love somehow finds a way. Al and Lorraine were perhaps the happiest married couple I have ever observed. And, I had plenty of opportunities to observe them while I was growing up.
This was because I spent a lot of time over at Al and Lorraine’s farm when I was a kid, playing with a certain red-headed boy who spent summers at their place. I had been introduced to the red-headed boy, at Lorraine’s suggestion, as a prospective playmate. She must have had an intuitive sense about such things because it’s been over five decades now, and the red-headed kid and I are still best buddies.
Childless themselves, Al and Lorraine took on Steve (the red-headed kid) and me as their surrogate progeny during the summertime. As a result, I was privy to many of the secrets of Al and Lorraine’s marital success. One of them was to have similar opinions on important issues.
Steve and I were prone to coming up with half-baked, half-witted and sometimes downright dangerous schemes involving the construction of such things as cars or tree houses. But no matter how foolish our plans might be, Al and Lorraine never said anything to the effect of, “Stop that. You keep on pulling stupid stunts like those and you’re going to break your fool necks!”
Al and Lorraine’s attitude instead seemed to be, “Either they break their fool necks or they don’t, and there isn’t much we can do about it.” I always admired them for that.
It wasn’t all serenity, though. I remember once, when we were having lunch, Al said something that Lorraine regarded as out of line. (You married guys know how easily this can happen.) A sharp rejoinder fell from Lorraine’s lips. Al responded by cocking his ever-present seed corn cap to a goofy angle and by saying to Lorraine in a clownish voice, “Oh c’mon now, ‘Ainnie. You know I didn’t mean it!”
Lorraine responded with a stern look. But within moments, her harsh expression melted as she tried in vain to stifle a giggle.
The lesson there was simple: A little bit of humor can go a long way when (and I do mean when) a guy messes up.
Steve and I eventually grew up, and those magical summers at Al and Lorraine’s farm became a thing of the past. But Al and Lorraine continued to be a part of our lives – maintaining their roles as a second set of parents – long after Steve and I matured into adulthood. It seems they weren’t yet finished with teaching us lessons.
For instance, when I became engaged to be married, a group of female friends and relatives threw my fiancée a bridal shower. Lorraine stole the show when she presented my bride-to-be with a massive marble rolling pin.
“Now, remember,” Lorraine instructed the ladies, “you don’t use this thing to roll out pie crusts or lefse. You use it to keep him in line!” With that, she swung the rolling pin in a graceful arc, exerting all the force her 98 pounds could muster. My fiancée later related that everyone at the gathering laughed and cheered with approval.
The lesson: Women are powerful creatures and are not to be trifled with.
Lorraine passed away nearly 30 years ago followed by Al seven years later. The red-headed kid and I were among those who helped carry Al to his final resting spot. As Al’s coffin rolled into place, I glanced down at Al and Lorraine’s headstone. I saw their names etched into the polished granite and in between a wedding ring upon which is carved the words “Together forever.”
And so, Al and Lorraine passed on one final lesson: forever means forever.
Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry works full time for Dairy Star as a staff writer and ad salesman. Feel free to email him at [email protected].
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