Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reflections on 35 years of marriage May 15, 2017

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This photo is from my files, taken at a 50th wedding anniversary celebration several years ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


HOW DO YOU DEFINE 35 years of marriage?


My husband, Randy, and I exit St. John’s Lutheran Church in Vesta following our May 15, 1982, wedding.


Today Randy and I mark that numeric anniversary. Maybe we’ll go out for dinner. Either this evening or another evening. I prefer not to cook on special occasions.

Mostly, we’ll be content just to be with one another, finding comfort in simply being in the same space. The fireworks of early love have settled into a loving relationship that has endured and grown stronger through shared experiences. Some joyful, others difficult. Life can be challenging, but it’s easier when faced with a loving and supportive partner.


Son-in-law Marc, left, daughters Amber and Miranda, and son, Caleb, taken several summers ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


We’ve mourned the loss of parents, rejoiced in the births of children and now a granddaughter. Together.


Grandfather and granddaughter. This is my favorite picture of Randy with Isabelle, taken shortly after her birth in April 2016.  When it comes to Izzy, Randy is an open book of emotions in his love for her. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.


Randy matches my often emotional reaction to situations with a balanced calm. And I sometimes push him to examine and express his emotions. When I am too serious, he makes me laugh. I’ve mostly always appreciated his humor.


My husband at work in the automotive machine shop where he is employed. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


I appreciate, too, his strong work ethic. But I’m thankful he’s finally stopped working six days a week. We both realize time is fleeting and long work days are not worth missing out on life. Looking back on our years of early home ownership and parenting, I wish we’d been less focused on getting projects done around the house. So, yes, there are regrets.

But we’ve learned. We’ve learned that the work can wait. If the lawn needs mowing but we’d rather take a Sunday afternoon drive into the country or to some small Minnesota town, we’ll go. We share a passion for discovering the nuances of places during day trips.


My son and I pose atop the Tisch Library at Tufts University with the Boston skyline as a backdrop. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo May 2016.


Last spring we drove from Minnesota to Boston and back for our son’s college graduation. And survived. Only once, while lost in a seedy part of Buffalo, New York, did I demand to return home. Randy calmed me, assured me that he would find our way out of the mess. He did. We joke about my inability to read a road map and to hold a sense of direction in any place but the familiarity of the gridded prairie.

I am especially grateful to Randy for his continuing support of my creative work. He’s been to more poetry readings than he ever imagined. And he never complains. That’s something for a hardworking blue collar man with permanent grease rimming his fingernails and stamping the creases of his hands. He’s learned that poetry is more than roses are red, violets are blue. Poetry is what his wife writes (even about him; click here).


Lilacs, up close. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Occasionally Randy brings me flowers for no reason other than he realizes I need them. Each spring he gathers a bouquet of lilacs for me. I love that about him, that unexpected gesture of love.


My husband grilling in our snowless and warm backyard on Christmas Day. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


And I love how nearly every single weekend—yes, even in winter—he fires up the Weber to grill tasty meals.


Randy prepares brunch nearly every Sunday after we attend worship services together.


He also prepares an incredible Sunday brunch of made-to-order omelets and hash browns with fresh fruit on the side. On Friday evenings he slices the homemade pizza I make and pours our mugs of craft beers. He knows I like IPAs.


Audrey and Randy, May 15, 1982


He also knows my preference for a house that’s comfortably cool. If we disagree about one thing, it’s room temperature. I’m dialing back the heat while he’s notching up the temp. That ongoing dispute seems trivial and laughable now that I’m writing it here.


Audrey and Randy in 2015. Rare are the photos of us. That needs to change. This was photographed outside Vang Lutheran Church by a woman at the church following an impromptu stop there. We love touring country churches.


When Randy falls asleep in his recliner on a weekend afternoon with NASCAR races droning in the background, I let him be. I immerse myself in a book, ignore the roar of race cars and consider how blessed I am to love, and to be loved, by this man. For more than 35 years.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Minnesota Faces: My husband May 15, 2015

Portraits #21-23: Randy

Randy relaxes at a family gathering in 2012.

Randy relaxes at a family gathering in 2012.

Thirty-three years ago today, I married this man. Randy.

We have been through a lot together. Good times and challenging ones. Laughter and sorrow. Days that have tested our strength and days we want to remember always for their joyfulness. This is life.

I am immeasurably blessed to journey through my days with Randy beside me. He makes me laugh, even when I don’t feel like laughing. Occasionally he’ll clip a fitting cartoon and post it on the refrigerator. And when I notice it, I smile, because he thought of me.

Each spring he pulls a jackknife from his pocket and snips an armful of lilacs to set on our dining room table. That bouquet holds more meaning than a dozen roses.

Modeling a vintage straw cowboy hat, like those we wore as children, in a North Mankato antique shop several years ago.

Modeling a vintage straw cowboy hat, like those we wore as children, in a North Mankato antique shop several years ago.

He is light-hearted to my serious nature, calm to my storm, even-keeled to my sometimes emotional reactions. A balance. Not always perfect, because we are human, but a difference in personalities that works for us.

He works hard. Grease rims his fingernails from his job as an automotive machinist. His work is always in demand. He is good at what he does. Really good. I tell him he works too hard. Last summer he cut back on the overtime and no longer works Saturdays. I am thankful. He deserves more than one day a week off from work.

Randy obliges my request to pose with a sculpture in a Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, park we toured while vacationing.

Randy obliges my request to pose with a sculpture in a Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, park we toured while vacationing.

Because of him, I’ve learned to appreciate vintage cars and, because of me, he’s learned to appreciate poetry. He is my greatest cheerleader, encouraging me in my writing and photography and even recently telling me he had an idea for a poem. “Roadkill,” he said. And then we laughed.

To laugh with this man, to worship and pray with this man, to remember all the Sunday afternoons Randy sprawled on the living room floor reading comics to our children or playing Monopoly with them reminds me all over again of why I love him.

He is quiet and caring and strong and loyal. A man of faith. And I love him. Always.


This is part of a series, Minnesota Faces, featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Defining Valentine’s Day love February 14, 2014

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Floral bouquet full

SIX DAYS BEFORE VALENTINE’S DAY, as I shoveled snow from the driveway for the umpteenth time, my husband arrived home from work, opened the front passenger side door of the Chrysler and presented me with flowers.

Have I told you how much I love this man?

Floral bouquet, really close-up

He knows me so well, enough to realize that at that moment, on that Saturday afternoon, I needed this bouquet bursting in brilliant spring colors of mostly sunshine yellow and sweet orchid.

I love when he gives me flowers for no particular reason except a realization that I “need” them.

Floral bouquet, close-up

Now some women might protest such a gift as an unnecessary expense. Not me. I will claim and celebrate and embrace this symbol of my husband’s thoughtfulness, love and care.

He needs to give these flowers as much as I need to receive them. I will not deny him this joy.

To each of you this Valentine’s Day, I wish you such moments of thoughtfulness and love. You deserve them, whether you are in a committed relationship or not. You do not need to be “in love” to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

A friend and I recently discussed the relationship pressures we as a society place on young people. Typically this begins after high school graduation, with “So how are the boys/girls?” I myself have asked this. I should know better because I, too, was subjected to such questioning 30-plus years ago. I married at nearly 26, considered “old” by 1982 standards, “young” by today’s.

Since that conversation, I’ve vowed not to knowingly place such pressure on others. Rather, I will focus on the individual, his/her interests and life. That is cause to celebrate. We are each our own person, whether in a romantic relationship or not.

This February 14, consider the broader definition of Valentine’s Day. It is not all about romance. It is also about the care and love between a child and a parent, friends, siblings, co-workers, neighbors…

It is, too, about loving and respecting ourselves as unique individuals created and loved by God.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling