For virtually all of my life, my parents have lived in the same house on the same small Minnesota farm.

They grew up together and attended high school together, and they’ve always been each other’s best friend, as far as I can tell.

Five years after they were married, I was born, and in the following eight years, they had three daughters.

The farmhouse that became our home originally was a one-bedroom, one-bathroom house with an enclosed porch, an unusable basement and a virtually useless upstairs attic/second floor. Today, it’s a 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom beauty, thanks to endless plumbing and electrical and Sheetrock projects my parents have done almost by themselves. And the surrounding yard couldn’t look more like a Norman Rockwell portrait if Rockwell lived there himself.

For nearly 45 years, my father worked full time for the state of Minnesota. After eight hours on that job, he came home, hopped on a tractor and worked on the farm until long past dark. There were many days when I saw him in the morning before school (he and my mother got up at 6 each morning to feed our 40 head of cattle), and that was it. Some days, I never saw him at all, even though I knew he was around the farm somewhere. The guy literally worked all of the time.

Meanwhile, my mother was cooking and cleaning and canning and washing clothes around the clock. Every day, she fed and hand-milked the cow that provided our table milk and cream. She was our shuttle to and from school activities seven miles away. She lorded over our homework. She attended our games and our practices. She managed the checkbook and paid the bills, which often mounted faster than the deposits. She was the iron hand of discipline when we needed it.

The only time I ever saw them sleep during daylight was on Christmas Day, after the gifts had been opened. I don’t remember either of them being sick enough to take to their bed – ever.

And we always, always, always went to church and Sunday school on Sunday morning, no matter how late we’d been out the night before.

This month is my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, and as my family recently made the 20-hour driving trek north to celebrate with my sisters and their families, I tried to dredge up the inspirational and life-changing things my parents had said to me over the years so that I would have something to thank them for when we arrived.

As the miles blurred the roadway and my memory wouldn’t cooperate, I felt sorry that I couldn’t remember anything more than the mundane stuff I’ve just detailed for you.

But I guess a lifetime example of hard work, faith and love is more than a lot of people have the opportunity to experience, and perhaps I could thank them for that.

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