Be Good

by Scott Miles

Jim & Mylah 30 December 2008

www.BeGood.us

 

James Verner Miles Junior was born (28 Feb 1921) and grew up in Ellendale, North Dakota. Doc & Pearl Miles were his parents. Mylah Lorraine Sands was born (31 Mar 1922) and grew up in Alvarado, Minnesota. Her parents were Henry & Julia Sands.

 

Jim & Mylah both attended the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks from 1939-1943. They met during their freshman year when the President of the Freshman Class, Jim Miles, presented the Most Representative Freshman Girl Award to Mylah Sands.

 

While they didn’t officially start dating until the end of their senior year, Mylah’s sister (Grace) recalls that Mylah was interested in Jim during all four years at UND…but one of the things that kept them apart was Jim’s roommate (and good friend) liking Mylah a lot. Then, at the end of their senior year at a big UND graduation party, Jim & Mylah danced together — and that moment changed the course of their lives. Several days after the dance Mylah left on a scheduled trip to California. Jim sent a letter there to tell her he was in love. A few weeks later, in the spring of 1943 after Mylah had returned to North Dakota, Jim proposed to Mylah in Riverside Park in Grand Forks.

 

21 Sep 1944

 

Jim & Mylah were married on 21 Sep 1944 in Alvarado in the Sands’ home, followed by a quick honeymoon in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The above image was recorded by Mylah’s sister (Earliss) and it shows the new husband & wife seconds after they were married…and it’s the first time this moment has been shown as a photo. Mylah’s brother (Bill) said it was a beautiful day. 

 

Dad told me that one of the bonuses of marrying Mom was how much he loved her family. Dad was an only child, but he felt like Mom’s sisters and brother were his siblings, too.

 

Dr. & Mrs. Miles were married from 1944 to 1994, and in that half century of marriage they had four children: Julie (born in 1947 in Philadelphia, PA), James V. Miles III (also Jim/Jimmy…born in 1949 in Jamestown, ND), John (also Johnnny/Johny…born in 1955 in Rochester, MN) and me, Scott (also Scotty or SMiles…born in 1967 in Jamestown, ND). A handful of times through the years, friends of mine would teasingly mention that I was a mistake or accident. Each time she heard that, Mom would politely correct the person by saying she preferred “bonus” or “surprise.”

 

In 1991, Dad & I were sweating in a sauna in Estes Park, Colorado. (I didn’t like saunas, but if Dad was inside one my attitude would change — because saunas were always good places to talk.) I was asking him a bunch of questions about his time together with Mom, and he ended up telling me what the biggest surprise of his life was. Dad said he and Mom had been blessed with many close friends and relatives who they loved dearly, but “Lo and behold, our kids turned out to be our best friends.”

 

Mom & Dad had five grandchildren during their lifetimes. Jay, Tom, and Sam are Jimmy’s three sons, and Julie had Eric and Katie. Mom & Dad loved their grandkids a lot. Sam told me he admired them for always putting “family first.” Mom passed away at 11:40p CT on 29 May 1994 in Fargo. Dad died at 10:15p CT on 7 Jan 1998 in Fargo. Grandchild #6 was born in 2006…Scotty became a Dad when Reagan James Miles arrived.

 

While I would give almost anything to see Reagan James with James & Mylah, even for just a moment, I’m very thankful I had Mom & Dad around for as long as I did. When I was born Dad was 46, and Mom turned 45 the same month she had me. Growing up with parents who could also be your grandparents definitely made me more appreciative of my time with them. They were essentially both gone by my late 20s, Mom for real and Dad because of his dementia, but I can’t believe how fortunate I was to have them as my parents.

 

During their 18,148 days of marriage, Mom & Dad were best friends and an amazing team, and they had a lot of respect for each other.

 

Mom took care of the house, including all the finances. She was very good with money and I learned a lot from her, especially about being frugal. Mom taught me that keeping up with the Joneses was a silly waste of energy, and just because you could afford something didn’t mean you should buy it. She clipped lots of coupons, too. Giving was an area where Mom’s frugality would disappear. Jim & Mylah were very charitable, particularly at church, and most of their financial gifts were made in private (I know about them only because Mom would sometimes show me the outgoing checks to teach me about giving). A key to their financial success was the premise that it wasn’t his money or her money, it was their money.

 

Mom & Dad loved dancing together. They also enjoyed walking and playing pinochle, bridge, ping pong, and tennis together. In bridge Mom nearly earned a master point and Dad would proudly tell people that fact. Mom was a good golfer, too. Every once in awhile Dad would golf with her, but he could never quite embrace Mom’s philosophy of “enjoy the good shots and forget the bad shots.”

 

All four of Jim & Mylah’s children got the huge benefit of having Mom stay at home. It was so nice to know Mom would always be there for us. She had the perfect balance of nurturing her children while encouraging them to do their best. Mom was an active volunteer in the community, especially at church where she was a Deacon (and Dad was an Elder). She also sang in the church choir for many years. Mom had a beautiful voice. Listening to Mom sing and play the piano at home was always very comforting. She also had a GREAT laugh and smile. Sometimes she’d be laughing so hard, in her quietly intense way, that she could barely breathe.

 

Some of Johnnny’s favorite memories include Mom planting flower/vegetable gardens and Dad planting trees (especially apple trees) in each one of their yards. Every night before bed Johnnny remembers either Mom or Dad asking him what his favorite thing was that he did that day. I like Johnnny’s reminder that all our “Milesness” came from Mom & Dad. He recalls one summer weekday when Dad called Mom from the clinic, and Mom mentioned that Johnnny was drawing everything in sight. Dad then asked if Johnnny could draw him a bourbon and seven…which he did. Johnnny also remembers Dad’s answer when someone asked what the secret was to raising good, well-behaved children: “Threats and bribes.”

 

When Johnnny & I were exploring our Milesness together (which would usually include us having one or more of our laughing attacks), it would commonly result in Mom saying, “Oh-oh-oh-ohhh, boys, wait now!” The number of oh’s was often directly related to how much trouble we were causing. I loved it when she said that line. Part of my Milesness came from Johnnny, starting with my name. Mom & Dad gave their 11-year-old 2nd son complete control to name their just-born 3rd son. Johnnny thinks they did that because he had been asking for a younger brother for two years before Mom got pregnant with me.

 

In 1972 Mom & Dad built their dream home on two lots at 2404 East Country Club Drive in Fargo, North Dakota. The four special things they wanted in the house (den, ping pong room, pool room, laundry room) all ended up in the basement, so they had to design the rest of the house over that big and fun basement. The resulting four-bedroom, four-bathroom home with a four-car garage was a classic. It was tan with brown trim, and there was a lot of green inside…Mom’s favorite colors were green first, and brown second. Every vehicle they owned while living at 2404 was either green or brown/tan, too. (Fun bonus fact: Mom almost always wrote with a green Flair pen.) Mom & Dad captured many happy moments and memories in their more than 20 years at 2404.

 

Jim & Mylah were superb hosts. For many years they hosted an annual Christmas party at 2404, which quickly grew into two Christmas parties. Mom & Dad would have one wave of 50 guests over for a couple hours, followed by a second wave of 50 guests. But no matter what time of year it was, whenever a friend would stop by, Mom and/or Dad would always take time to visit and offer them something to drink and eat.

 

Mom was an awesome cook. Some of my favorite things she’d make were: homemade cinnamon rolls (especially the center one), molasses sugar cookies, Norwegian potato sausage, beef stew with carrots and potatoes, French toast with powdered sugar, pancakes with sausage, mussed eggs with bacon, grilled cheese, cream dried beef on toast, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, chicken and vegetable stir fry, spaghetti with meat sauce (without any chunks of tomato), ham and scalloped potatoes, fresh green beans in a white sauce, salmon on crackers, lemon cake, pheasant with orange sherbet, goose, duck, orange roughy, Thanksgiving turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, warm butterhorn rolls, flatbread, Christmas burgundy meatballs and Christmas spritz cookies…all of a sudden I’m very hungry. Dad would often say “ambrosia” while enjoying Mom’s cooking.

 

Almost every weeknight when I was young I’d watch Dad come thru the door after being at the clinic all day. Mom would take a break from cooking dinner and they’d hug and kiss and say “I love you” to each other. The next thing that routinely happened — after a few minutes had passed — would be Dad asking Mom, “Is this a good time for a snort?” The answer would usually be yes, and he’d make himself one bourbon and seven (and she might have one gin and tonic with him). We’d visit and play some ping pong and then a great dinner would follow.

 

It was a wonderful way to grow up. Mom & Dad set quite an example of just how loving and happy a marriage can be…I really miss them.

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