Category Archives: Don Halverson

My Favorite Season of the Year

My Favorite Season of the Year

As a boy, I loved summers because there was no school. I could do anything I wanted all day long.  I had to report in for lunch and dinner unless I made other plans and kept my mother informed.   My bicycle gave me enough mobility that I could go anywhere in Salt Lake City.  I remember riding my bicycle to the zoo or airport from the East Millcreek area where we lived.  Several years, during summer, a friend and I rode the bus downtown to take swimming lessons at the Deseret Gym.  At the Deseret Gym, swimming suits were not allowed, and we had to swim naked for our lessons.  It had something to do with cotton from swimming suits clogging up the filters, or something like that.  Boys and girls used the pool on different days.  I wonder how different life in Salt Lake City would be if boys and girls used the swimming pool on the same days.  The American Association of Nude Recreation(AANR) would be doing a booming business here.

When I got old enough to have a job, summer lost some of its allure.  School sucked, but working sucked even more.  While working, I was confined to one place and had to follow someone else’s directions. Ever since I was old enough, I always had some kind of job—a paper route at about 11 or 12 years old, but not a job full-time during the summer until I was 16.  Working brought in money but cost me the freedom I had enjoyed previously.

My mother married my stepfather when I was ten; my father died from polio three years earlier.  My stepfather was a skier and taught me to ski. He was friends with the Engen brothers. Alf Engen developed the first ski resort in Utah when Alta’s Mayor Watson asked Alf to develop a ski resort at Alta.  As a matter of fact, Alf gave me my skiing merit badge when I was a boy scout.

At ten, I was able to fit into my step grandmother’s skis and boots. The skis were the right length because they came up to the palm of my hand when my hand was stretched as high above my head as possible.  They were wood skis, but good skis for their time because they had metal edges.  The bindings were referred to as “bear claw bindings” because your foot would not come out of them if you fell. If you fell wrong, your leg would snap before the bindings would give.  The boots were leather lace-up boots with a thick sole that would fit into the bindings.  The bindings had a front section that held the toe of the boots and there was a cable that went through rear guides and around the heel of the boot.  The boot had a groove in the heel to hold the cable. For cross-country skiing, all you had to do was remove the cables from the rear guides and the heel could rise up off the ski for easy walking.

Since the boots would not come out of the bindings, one of the first things taught was how to fall without breaking a leg.  If you felt you were in trouble, you would just sit down on your uphill side.  Skis were not as high tech then, and body rotation was taught for turning.  It was not easy to get those long, straight wooden boards to change direction.

It took me about five years and a whole lot of patience on my stepfather’s part to get me to the point where I could ski any terrain on my own.  By then, safety bindings had been developed, and toboggans transporting skiers with broken legs were not as common on the slopes as they had been before safety bindings that could release before your bones snapped. I believe it was safety bindings that made skiing much more popular in the sixties.

I was never all that good at team sports.  I attribute that to the fact that my birthday was just four days before the cut-off date for the school year.  I was younger than the others in my class, and therefore, I had less skill and coordination.  I was always chosen last when teams were formed during recess and after school.  Skiing gave me a sport that I was good at and I did not have to compete with my classmates. It also gave me freedom, speed, and a constant challenge to improve.  I loved skiing.  Skiing had not become popular when I began to ski.  I only knew of two or three others in my school that skied. I was a better skier that my friends, and it as I began to teach my friends to ski, gave me a little badly needed confidence.  I remember once, I was skiing with some friends who were just learning and I caught an edge and flipped over.  Fearing embarrassment, I tucked and rolled back into a standing position and continued my momentum as if I had just performed a real cool trick.  My friends were totally impressed.

When I was in high school, I became a ski instructor.  The cost of a day pass had risen from $3.00 to $5.00.  Teaching beginners to ski helped me with the cost of skiing.  I would teach from 10 am to noon on Saturdays and ski the rest of the day for free.  In addition I got a day pass to use another day and more than enough cash to pay for the gas to drive to the resorts.

Even after I was married with kids, I still taught skiing on Saturdays.  The commitment made it possible to keep skiing at a high enough priority to trump yard work or house work. However, when we moved to Denver in 1975, 20 years after I began skiing, the ski resorts were too far away to make skiing a weekly event.  It took four hours instead of a half hour to get to the resorts in the mountains west of Denver.  As a matter of fact, for a weekend of serious skiing, sometimes I would travel to Salt Lake City to ski.

I did find the time to teach my kids to ski.  I loved the time I could spend with them.  I enjoyed having the undivided attention of my kids while I sat next to them on the ski lift.  There was nothing else for them to do; they could not go away, and we could just talk.

The last four years, I have purchased season passes.  That has given me a renewed interest in skiing.  I can go for just one or two hours, almost every day.  Last year I loved teaching four of my grand kids to ski.  This year the five of us have already purchased season passes at the same resort, so I am looking forward to skiing with them a lot this winter.

I believe skiing had made winter my favorite season of the year.  In addition to skiing, there is little yard work to do.  Shoveling snow is not nearly as much work as cutting and trimming lawn, weeding and pruning.  Cold weather has never bothered me. I am not usually aware if the temperature is too high or too low until someone else mentions it, and then I think, “Oh yeah, I guess it is.”  Now, in winter, I get that one-on-one, undivided, attention with my grand kids while on the ski lift.  Living in Little Cottonwood Canyon, I can be working in my office and then on the ski lift in 20 minutes.  So when everyone around me is complaining that summer is coming to a close and the temperature is getting colder, I don’t say anything, but I begin to look forward to the snow flying.

Someday, when my wife retires and is no longer tied to the Utah legislative session during the best part of the snow season, she will be able to join me on the slopes with her own season pass.

Desolation Raft Trip

Desolation Canyon Raft Trip

kayak

Sometimes there is an event or series of events that, in review, represents a microcosm of your life, and that microcosm can be helpful in understanding your life why questionable decisions are made.  Why did I not report Elder (Phil) Bradley after that first night on my mission?  Why did I marry Nancy in spite of all the warnings I received, such as the engine problems and Nancy being too young to get married without her parents permission?  Why, when she told me she was going to build a life apart from me with friends (male and female) whom I would never know, and she discussed getting a divorce, did I not pursue the divorce?  I could have started over with a marriage to another woman who was not constantly expressing criticism of me and her disappointment in who I was. I could divorced her and have more children who would be raised my a loving mother and father instead of being subjected to the angry, controlling and insecure person I was married to.  The only counseling I pursued was an academic counselor who I thought could help me find an alternative to suicide.  I was raised to follow directions without question  Did I not get a divorce because I did not want to loose my children, or was it because there was no one to tell me to pursue a divorce.  A river trip was going to be one of those microcosms. 

At the time we moved into our new home in North Salt Lake all the home at our end for the street were new and several families were moving in about the same time. Billy and Betsy War moved into their new home across the street from us.  They had a daughter the same age as our daughter Amy.   Billy had been transferred in from Denver to work in one of the nearby oil refineries.  Like us, they had no idea how conservative a neighborhood they were moving into. They felt snubbed when they noticed that all the other new families on the street received numerous visits from their neighbors often bringing plate cookies, but no one visited them.  Billy and Betsy were Catholic, but even though we were active LDS, we also did not fit in either since Nancy worked outside the home. This was frowned upon since the conservative LDS culture favored women staying home to raise their children.  It was especially offensive to the LDS housewives who had to justify not working themselves. Billy and Betsy became our closest friends in the neighborhood.

Billy was an engineer for the Husky oil refinery in the valley just west of us.  The refinery manager, Al Guraltei and his wife Charla, also moved into a home on our street.  He, Billy, and several others at the refinery were river rafting enthusiasts and they were planning on a 4 day, 90 mile trip down the Green River through Desolation Canyon between Vernal and Green River, Utah; a trip that several of them had taken before. They were going in May when the river would be at its highest and the rapids would also be at their highest level. They were confident enough in their abilities that they did not engage a guide for the trip. Billy and Al had two-man Kayaks made by Folboat for them and their wives, but for some reason Betsy could not go, so Billy asked me if I would like to join them and go down the river with him in his two-man Kayak instead of his wife Betsy.  Nancy did not have a problem with me going for four days.  She even encouraged it. I was sure she had plenty of friends to keep her entertained while I was gone.

The kayak was made of sturdy vinyl over a collapsable frame and could be easily transported in the trunk of a car.  I liked Billy and I thought it would  a great experience.  I had never done river in any kind of boat, let alone in a kayak.

The refinery manager, Al Gualteri and his wife Charla, would be going in their two-man kayak.  Five other friends including another couple, an attractive and flirtatious single woman with her boyfriend, and a teenage boy, would also be going not the trip, but they would be riding in a 6-man rubber raft along with the food and cooking equipment.  I was new to the group and having had no experience river rafting, and I was a little intimidated.

I was going to go on a kayak 90 miles down the Green River through something called Desolation Canyon when the rapids were at their peak. I figured that if it was my time to die, as it was my father’s when he died of polio, this would be a fun way to go, and if not,  it would be a great experience that I would never forget.  I knew only Billy, and all the others worked together at the refinery, but I was sure, by the end of the trip, we would be well acquainted with each other.

Al and Charla seemed to have the most experience and was leading the group and acting as our guides.  Billy assured me kayaking down a river was not too difficult and I would have no problem picking up the basics.  I had paddled a canoe at scout camp as a boy scout, so I figured I could pick up the rest.

We all met downtown at a restaurant to get acquainted, plan the meals, go over the logistics, and determine how much the trip would cost.  Not having to pay for a guide, made the cost quite reasonable.  The food would be mostly dehydrated, but we would have a large cooler for the few things that needed to be kept cool. We also needed to pack our own drinking water, since the Green River earned its name from an abundance of algae and other contaminants.  We could also either boil water from the river or use chemicals to purify the water for cooking and for drinking.  Billy and I were to share a two-man pup tent that we had to carry in our kayak. Our sleeping bags, clothing, and personal items, were in water-tight bags tied to the inside of the kayak.

Desolation Canyon was a long canyon with little access except by the river.  The water would be mostly calm or light rapids at first, but would turn to serious rapids later on down the river.  There are several rating systems for rapids, and in this case, they were rated from one to ten.  Ten was the most difficult rating, and was found in Catarack Canyon on the Colorado River within the Grand Canyon.  The highest degree of difficulty on our trip would be an eight.  We would be traveling in the last half of May during the season with the highest volume of water which would make the trip more challenging.

At the restaurant, I was offered a cup of coffee, and being my usual flirtatious self and the only non coffee drinking Mormon in the group, I turned down the coffee and said, “If I do any sinning on this trip, I am not going to waste it on a cup for coffee.”   I really did not have any sinning in mind, and it seemed like a harmless joke, but Billy must have not only noticed the comment, but taken it seriously, because in the tent the first night, he mentioned that the attractive single woman in our group had a social disease.  I was fully committed to Church standards and was surprised that he had taken my comment seriously enough to feel the need to warn me about her. I admit, the conversation was arousing.

Al had arranged for a couple of vehicles to get all of us and our equipment to Sand Wash, a place on the Green River down stream from Vernal, Utah, where we would launch the boats and get on the river.  Al also arranged for our vehicles to be driven to Green River for our trip home.

When we reached Sand Wash, we setup our collapsible kayak, attached our personal items, and went through some basic instruction.  A kayak is very agile and easy to upright if it overturns, but a two-person kayak is a little more cumbersome.  Not only is it larger and heavier, but it takes some coordination between the two people.  For instance, in the case being overturned, it needs to be discussed ahead of time what direction to attempt to upright the kayak, or the two people will fight each other and never get upright.  Normally one person paddles on one side of the kayak, while the other person paddles on the other side to keep it going straight and when a rapid turn is required, a quick response needs to be rehearsed. There is also the drill for getting out of the kayak quickly if it is upside down and the uprighting action does not seem to work.  We would release the ties holding the watertight skirt around our waist and do a kind of forward summersault while holding on to the sides of the kayak. We ran through it quickly for my sake since everyone else was experienced.

Once we were on the river, it became evident that kayaks traveled considerably faster than the rubber rafts, so the kayaks had to slow the pace occasionally and wait for the rubber raft to avoid getting too far ahead of them.

The first day we encountered a few small rapids, but nothing that required any special attention.  We found a place to camp in the afternoon leaving us plenty of time to make camp, set up the tents, cook and eat a meal before dark.  The food seemed to be plentiful and tasty and the cooks had the necessary experience with dehydrated foods.

The second day, was still mostly calm water, with the exception of a few more serious rapids.  I was having a great time in the kayak and the scenery was spectacular.  Everyone got along well, we hunted scorpions and cut open a barrel cactus.  I had never seen a barrel cactus before and found the inside was very watery like a melon, but tasted more like a tomato and was an obvious source or water if one was stranded in a desert.  Later on we sat around telling stories and commenting on the experiences of the day.  We all seemed to be having a great time.

Once we got into Desolation Canyon, the scenery was even more amazing.  The canyon walls were 200-300 foot high on either side and it was obvious why it was called Desolation Canyon.  It is hard to believe how anyone could get in or out of the canyon expect by boat.  We did see one abandoned cabin and what looked like an old road, so there must have been a road into the canyon.

It was not easy to find enough level ground to camp for the night.  The rapids got increasingly more difficult in the canyon, and by the third day, the rapids were difficult enough that we had to stop above the rapids, get out of the boats, and look at the rapids to strategize as to the best approach.  The more severe rapids changed the overall experience from a peaceful sightseeing journey down the Green River to a technically challenging and dangerous adrenalin high.  More and more, the rapids represented life-threatening challenges.  Most people run the river in rubber rafts, but two-man kayaks are a different story.  The fun and excitement of the easier rapids of the previous day were augmented by an element of fear.  By the end of the third day, we were drenched and exhausted when it was time to make camp. Thanks to our waterproof equipment bags, we were able to get into dry clothing and sleeping bags. The stories we told around the campfire reflected the most severe challenges of the day.

The next day the rapids were even more challenging, and two in particular were the most difficult of the entire trip.  One was Rattlesnake Rapids where the river flowed forcefully into a rock wall and made a sharp left turn.  The turbulence caused by high water flow in May made that turn in the river especially savage.  We beached the boats well above the rapids and walked as close as we could to the bend in the river, but we still could not get a good enough view to identify the best strategy. As far as we could see, there was not one place in the rapids better than another to shoot for.  The entire river was churning, muddy rapids with no apparent focal point.  We decided the best approach was to stay as far away as possible from that rock wall where the water was most turbulent.  We got back into the boats and it became every boat for itself when we entered Rattlesnake Rapids.

Billy and I had to work hard to keep our kayak upright and facing down stream.  The flow was so swift that it did not take long to pass through the roughest part.  When the water became calm, we looked around for the others.  We saw the raft, but there was no sign of Al and Charla in the other two-man kayak.  We finally did see their overturned kayak up river from us.  We waited for them to upright their kayak, but there was still no sign of them.  We feared the worst and after what seemed like too long, we saw a couple of heads bob up in the rapids up river from us and Al and Charla’s kayak.  We immediately rowed to the heads and could not see any signs of life.  We reached for them and grabbed their life jackets.  We could not bring them aboard the kayak since it could not hold more than two people. We were relieved to see they were both breathing, but too exhausted to say or do anything.  Al and Charla were able to hold on to our kayak as we paddled to shore.  Kayaks may be easy to maneuver normally, but with two people hanging onto them, they are extremely slow.  We finally got to shore while the others of our group in the raft went after the kayak and oars.

Later, they explained that the force of the rapids had capsized them, and the current held them under the water with such strength that their life jackets had little effect, and they could not get to the surface.  While getting them to shore, we floated far enough down stream to be in calmer water, and when they had enough of their strength back, we reunited them with their kayak and oars. We were all happy they had survived. If the most experience couple barley made it out of those rapids alive and we had made it easily, maybe it was not our time to go.

The next major set of rapids was created by another river called Clear Creek that flowed into the Green.  It was rated more difficult than Rattlesnake Rapids and the rapids were huge. There was more open terrain, and when we beached and walked along the shore, we were able to get a good view of the rapids.  There was a large rock toward the far side of the river and a clear “V” in the middle of the river leading into some very high white water.  It looked like there was calmer water on the far side of the big rock, but we could not see the flow on the other side or the rock.  The others decided to head for the middle of the river and the “V”, but Billy and I decided to shoot for the other side of the big rock.

Out group was not alone on the river at that point. There were some other people on the other side of the river taking movies of their friends as they negotiated the rapids.  When they saw our kayaks, I am sure they wanted to hang around to see the crazy kayakers give it a try.  I never did find a way to contact the John Ford wannabes to get a copy of our attempt.  It would have been nice.

As Billy and I ventured to the far side of the rock, it became evident that we had possibly made a mistake.  The rapids were smaller, but the force of the river was pushing us into the big rock faster than we could move around it.  I was in front and tried to push us away from the rock with my oar, and in so doing, broke the oar and we capsized.  We were not wearing helmets, and the water was just shallow enough that my first thought was to keep my head from hitting the rocks on the bottom as I was upside down in the capsized kayak.  It was kind of like walking on my hands along the rocky bottom of the river.  That worked for a while, but I needed to breathe.  I don’t know what Billy was doing, but I remembered our drill on righting our kayak and went through the motions.  After a couple of tries, that did not seem to work.  I remembered the forward summersault drill, and I used that to get out of the kayak and did it without hitting my head on any of the rocks. I guess it was still not my time to go. Billy and I were shaken, but both unhurt.  I had broken my oar and had to get by with half an oar for the rest of the trip.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, partly because the rapids were not as severe and partly because we were now old pros at river rafting.  We got off the river a little above the town of Green River.  We could not go any further because there is a small dam above the town.  The River below the town of Green River is another great rafting trip.  It goes through Moab and the confluence where the Green River combines with the Colorado River, then into Lake Powell.  I had experienced enough excitement for one trip and was not disappointed to get out of the river.

The vehicles were there in Green River as we expected. It took us a while to get the boats folded and loaded into the truck along with all our other gear.  Then we found a small cafe and went in to have a real meal.  It was certainly not a 5-star restaurant, but after four days of freeze-dried food, nothing could have tasted better.  Everyone but the teenage boy and I ordered beer.  I guess if you are a beer drinker, a beer after four days without, is a big deal. I felt like I needed to order one, too, until I realized we were off the river and I no longer needed to follow our leader.

Everyone talked about what a great trip we had.  We talked about how close Al and Charla came to not surviving the trip, how happy we were that they did, and the excitement of walking on my hands on the rocks underneath the kayak.  We also talked about the spectacular scenery and the magnificence of the 90-mile Desolation Canyon trip and when and where the next rafting trip would be.

While negotiating the Rattlesnake Rapids or walking on with hands on the rocks while upside down in the kayak, I was not afraid.  I made it through the Rattlesnake Rapids and I got out of my kayak in the Clear Creek Rapids.  I was only bummed that I broke the oar. I was doing what I was told. There was no reason to think I might get hut or drown.  It was only afterwards when we were discussing the events of the day that I understood I could have died.  If I had run out of options as how to get out of the kayak, I may have become afraid.  Why should I think for myself if I had instructions to follow.

Why did I marry Nancy in spite of all the warnings I received, such as the engine problems and her being too young to get married?  Why, when she told me she was going to build a life apart from mine with friends (male and female) whom I would not get to know, and she discussed getting a divorce, did I not pursue the divorce?  I could cut my losses and start my life over with another mate who was not constantly expressing criticism of me and her disappointment in my life. I could have more children who would be raised my a loving mother and father instead of subjecting those additional children to the angry, controlling and insecure person I was married to.  I did not even consider this.  The only counseling I pursued was an academic counselor who I thought could help me find an alternative to suicide.  Was it just because I did not want to loose my children, or was it just because no one told me to pursue a divorce.  I was taught to follow directions? I saw no other options.  Did I stay married to Nancy because there was no one else to tell me what to do?

A few years later, Nancy and I moved to Denver, and we never saw Billy and Betsy again.  The last I heard, that they had moved to Cody, Wyoming. We never did that next trip.  I went on one or two-day trips on rafts, but nothing like that four-day trip down Desolation Canyon.

 

Lunch with Mom

Lunch With Mom

If I had the chance to enjoy a casual lunch with anyone, living or dead, I would choose my mother.  She died about 14 years ago, and more than anyone else who has passed on, I miss her love and advice the most. I always knew she loved me, and no matter what, as long as she was alive, there was always a place I could go and be safe and loved.

This is how I think it would go.

“Hi, Mom; boy you look great. I love you, Mom, and I really miss having you nearby. You look just like I remember you when I was little.”

“Yes,” she said, “I love you too, and the wrinkles, the bad back, the aches and pains, and the failing organs are all gone.”

I said, “Now I am the old one here. I have inherited your aches, pains, and wrinkles.”

She said, “Yes, but don’t worry; they are only temporary.”

“Are you living with Dad?“ I asked.

“Yes,” she replied. “We live together in a beautiful home, and he sends his love.”

“What about Bart (my step father)?” I said.

She said, “He is with us and sends his love, too.”

“I always thought you had a pretty tough life,” I said. “You buried two husbands, and you were plagued with health problems, but it does not look too bad in comparison to my life. I guess I have really screwed things up, haven’t I? If we learn from our mistakes, well, I guess I have an advanced degree.”

She said, “You have made some big mistakes, but you are on the right track now, and yes, you have learned a lot.“

I said, “I almost joined you prematurely a few times, but now I am not ready to join you just yet.”

She replied, ”It was touch-and-go there for a while, but you got the help you needed at the time, and you still have a lot of work to do; but keep going the way you are going, and you will be fine. “

I said, “Yes, I am doing much better since I married Janeen. She was a lifesaver.“

She said, “Yes, she is. There are a lot of people who love you and are looking out for you.”

I said, “Do you mean she was not just an accident?

” She said, “You asked for help and you got it. She was just what you needed at the time, and she was looking for someone like you, too, so it was a match made in heaven.”

I said, “Oh, that’s good. You always liked a good pun.”

I said, “ I ask for a lot of things that I don’t get, like a relationship with my kids; what about that?”

She said, “They make their own decisions. It is hard for them, too. They need to want a relationship with you bad enough to fight for it. They will come around in time. You need to be patient. They will always be your kids. No one can take that away from you.”

“So, what do you do now besides look out for your kids?”

She replied, “What! You don’t think that is a full-time job?”

I said, “If they all need as much help as I do, then yes, it just may be.”

She went on, “We do a lot of things that you may not understand or appreciate. The things you need and work for are plentiful here. We don’t worry about food; we all have lovely homes; transportation is not a problem; if we want to be somewhere, we are there. There is no limit to time. As a matter of fact, we don’t see time like you do. We have already died, and we will never do that again. We will never grow old. We continue to learn, to love, and build relationships with others. There are more ways we can continue to improve and grow in experience and intelligence.”

I asked, “Do you sing much?”

She replied, “Yes, your father and I have some special musical talents, and we are called on to sing quite often. Bart sings with us sometimes, too. You have some talent there, too. I wish you would have sung more.”

I replied, “I was always intimidated and not confident enough to sing, but I wish I had overcome that long ago. I would like to have put music higher in my priorities.”

I asked, “What about your parents, Muzz (my mother’s mother) and her husband?”

She said, “They are all here, and Rays’ parents, too, and their parents, and their parents. It goes on and on. You have done enough genealogy work that you should have an idea of who I am talking about.”

“Yes,” I said, “I enjoyed putting that book together on Grandma and Grandpa Halverson and their ancestors. I would like to do one on your side of the family, too.”

She said, “Yes, that would be good. There is a lot of material to work with. That Halverson book was wonderful. It meant a lot to a lot of people. You should keep at it. You have experiences of your own that would benefit many people. So, keep writing about your life, your loves, your achievements, and your mistakes. People will love you for it.   I will love you for it.”

“Mom,” I said, “This has been so wonderful to have had this discussion with you.   It has meant more to me than you could ever imagine. It is like you are still there for me giving me the love and counsel I did not think I would ever have again.”

She replied, “I will always be here for you. I have always been here for you. You are my son and always will be, just like Amy, Jason, Julie, and Michael are your children and always will be.   You just need to have faith, patience, see it through to the end, and never give up.“

I asked, “Mom, what advice can you give me. What should I do now?”

She replied, “You know what to do; follow your heart and stand up for what you believe without concern of what others may think.   Don’t let anyone tell you what you believe in your heart is not right. That does not mean you should stop learning through studying and through making more mistakes.   You will never know everything, and you will never be perfect. You should just keep making corrections and listening to your conscience. You still have a lot of years left in your mortal life. Enjoy what you have and share your love with those around you. You will be surprised at how many people love you and look up to you.”

I said, “We have not even ordered anything to eat yet.”

“That’s okay,” she said. I don’t need to eat. I am more interested in talking to you. You go ahead and eat, but watch the cholesterol.”

I finished with, “Thanks Mom, I love you.”

She said, “I love you, too.” Then she left.

The Road Trip

 

The Road Trip

If someone wrote an instruction manual on how to live life and they separated the “what to do” from the “what not to do,” my life would be the model for the “what not to do” category.  I have made a lot of dumb decisions and I have made a lot of mistakes, but there is one decision that turned out to be an exceptionally good decision, and I have had ten years to validate that fact. I don’t know if meeting Janeen was an accident or divine intervention, but I can’t take any of the credit.

I had been divorced from Nancy about seven months when I was given an ointment from my dermatologist to treat a mild itch on my back.  Realizing I could not apply it to my back myself, I began to think I should maybe meet someone who could rub the ointment on my back. I was lonely, but I had not wanted to open up my life to the scrutiny of anyone else and face that much reality.  The divorce had been devastating for me; I was not in love with Nancy, but I just did not believe in divorce.  My father died when I was only seven, and I did not want my kids to grow up without a father.  I also did not want to have some other guy raising my kids. That is why I remained married to Nancy for 36 years.  Whenever I was asked why I had gotten a divorce after 36 years of marriage, I would respond with, “A serious case of procrastination.”  Actually, the divorce was not my idea, but Nancy’s idea.  I was the defendant and I gave her everything.

Nancy had controlled our social life, and our only friends were those who had allegiance to her.  She had alienated my two sisters and she had been working successfully for years to turn my kids against me.  I was totally alone. I was still an emotional wreck from my failed marriage and I had had little involvement with people since then. I had never been able to share my emotions with another person, and I did not know why I would ever want to, but I needed a friend and someone to love.  Since my divorce, I had focused on healing mentally and physically, but primarily I had only worked on my physical health.  I was either working out at the gym or taking long bike rides almost every day and trying to eat healthy food.  I finally worked up enough courage to try and meet someone.

I was not into the bar scene, and church was the only place I really had contact with people.  I was still attending the same ward I attended before my divorce, but my ex-wife had gone inactive so there did not seem to be a problem, and I had only been attending that ward for about a year before we split anyway.  I had not been attending my ward long enough to distinguish between women who were sitting alone because they were single and those who were sitting alone because their husbands were “on the stand.” I had also never been in the habit of looking at women’s hands for wedding rings.  On a Tuesday, in late July, I signed up with an Internet dating service called LDS Mingle.  I filled out a long questionnaire about my outlook, objectives, likes, dislikes, and I even took an extensive personality profile test to determine my personality “color” within the criteria of the psychologist and author, Dr. Taylor Hartman.  I turned out to be blue and white, which meant I was a do-gooder and a peacekeeper. These personality traits must have come from 36 years of trying to keep the peace and doing the best I could in a rancorous marriage.  There are also red people, who are power brokers, and yellow people, who are fun loving.  In the space for, “What I wanted in a companion,” I wrote, “I want to be with a woman who wants to be with me as much as I want to be with her.”

The site matched my criteria with potential candidates whose criteria matched mine.  My profile was then sent to the potential candidates, and whoever was interested in me could respond.  I received several responses from all over the U.S. and Canada, but one response from a woman who also lived in Sandy caught my eye.  I emailed her back, saying we had a lot in common and should possibly meet.

Great Legs
Great Legs

She was very attractive and I could see she had great legs because one of her profile pictures showed her in a tennis outfit. Her legs were the first thing caught my attention.

The very next Sunday, for the first time I went to church with female companionship on my mind and I took notice of the organist.   I had never really noticed her before, probably because I had not been looking before.  I thought she was pretty cute except for the funny glasses she was wearing.  That same afternoon, after church, I got an email response from the woman in Sandy I had noticed on LDS Mingle.  She said:

“We do have a lot in common, more than just interests and outlook.  In fact, I saw you at church today. I was playing the organ.  I looked up and saw you in the congregation.  I couldn’t believe it! I would love to chat with you. We can do it by e-mail or I’m on the ward list.  Hope to talk to you soon.” 

She had recognized me from my profile picture on LDS Mingle, but I did not recognize her—probably because women don’t go to church in tennis outfits, and even if they did, her legs were behind the organ. I replied six minutes later saying, “Oh my gosh! I saw you playing the organ.  I was even thinking about you and how attractive you were. (I did not mention the glasses.)  I definitely think we should meet.”  I was surprised that of all the candidates from the Internet site, I would connect with someone in my same ward.

I called her immediately and we arranged to meet for lunch downtown at Market Street Grill the next day.  We had a great conversation over lunch about life, kids, our exes and divorce, and I took in her beautiful eyes, her smile, her wit, and her cleavage.  We ate salads and I left my avocados on my plate.  She told me later that she loved avocados and really wanted mine, but she did not yet feel comfortable enough with me to ask for them, but since then, she gets all of my avocado slices.  I felt some definite electricity between us when I put my hand on her back and she reached around and put her hand on my back as I walked her to her car.

Janeen had a pool in her back yard, and she asked me to come to her house the next Wednesday for a swim and I agreed. When I arrived at her home on Wednesday evening, there were several other people at her home including her daughter who lived there, her married son, his wife, and his wife’s father.  The daughter was in the house and the rest were sitting in the hot tub as Janeen and I got into the pool.  I do believe they were there to check me out and possibly to protect their mother in case I turned out to be the king of creep. We talked for a while in the pool and then, as we hung on the side in the deep end, I said, “I want to do something.”   I leaned over, pulled her in close, and kissed her long and hard on the lips.  Speaking of hard, she could tell from my swimming suit that I was attracted to her.  She could not wait to tell all her single girlfriends about it the next day.

We got together several times a week after that, either for lunch, dinner, or hanging out in my apartment.  Her daughter living with her made my place more private.  She must have had some bad experiences with Internet dating because she asked to see my divorce decree to see if I was really single.   There was one evening when she came over, and after we had been kissing on my bed, I reached over her and turned on the stereo.  I had Johnny Mathis ready to go (I knew she loved Johnny Mathis). She got up, went into the kitchen, and without saying anything, grabbed a banana from a fruit bowl.  She seductively peeled it and slowly put the banana into her mouth, bit off a little in a very sensual way and put the other half in my mouth.  The symbolism was strong, and I was so aroused that I wanted to hold her and never let go.  I was hooked, in love, and in her house a few months later, I said, “Why don’t we get married?”  There was no ring, no kneeling, just an idea for consideration.  She thought it was a good idea and did not say no, so did that make us engaged?  I guess so.

* * *

It had been nearly a year for me and eight years for Janeen since our divorces from similarly abusive spouses.  Since then, Janeen had tried dating a few guys, including some other guys she met on the Internet, but had never developed any lasting relationships, and Janeen was the first woman I had dated since my divorce.

Four months had passed since we had met.  The Thanksgiving weekend was approaching, and Janeen suggested a road trip to St. George for the weekend.  We had never been further than Park City together where one afternoon we did some shopping and visited the No Name Saloon on Main Street. The greeter asked us our names and gave us a temporary membership in the name of Don and Janeen Halverson.  We got a kick out of the guy thinking we were married because we had only known each other for a month.  That slip of paper ended up on the wall in my apartment until my ex-wife saw it and tore it down, but Janeen replaced it with a copy.

I was apprehensive about a road trip because for years, my ex-wife and I could not tolerate being together in a car for any extended period of time, nor did we ever go out to dinner together by ourselves.  We always took separate vacations unless other people were included and she needed a husband along for window dressing.  Most of my vacations were spent traveling around the country, and even Japan on one occasion, to attend BMX races with my two sons, which Nancy never attended.

Nancy’s took vacations to to Egypt, Hawaii, Scandinavian cruises, usually with with her friend Betty, from Japan, whom she met in Hawaii while attending a business development seminar.  She did not say so, but I found out later that David Isom, her boss at the law firm where she was the administrator, accompanied her to the seminar, and “Betty” was an alias for David Isom.

Traveling to Southern Utah was commonplace for me as a child.  Before freeways, there were only two routes to the south, U.S. Highway 89 and U.S. Highway 91, and they split at a town called Levan. Both routes were mostly two-lane roads passing through towns about every 20 miles because that was the normal distance a horse and buggy or wagon could travel in a day when those towns were established and travelers needed lodging.  Highway 89 went on the east side of the mountains through Sanpete County where my father was born, and 91 went on the west side of the mountains through Iron County where my stepfather was born and raised, and where we went to several really boring family reunions in his home town, Parowan.  Highway 91 became I-15 in the late 50s or early 60s.  Southern Utah has some interesting scenery, but it can get tedious if you travel the same routes regularly.  The worst part, however, is Utah County.  I do not ever remember a time when I-15 through Utah County was not under construction.  Either they just can’t get it right, or the Governor has too many friends in the road construction business.

Travel with Nancy had not been enjoyable, so I did not know what to expect when traveling with Janeen.  Nonetheless, we left for St. George late morning on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

I was surprised to see how pleasant it was to be in the car with someone when there was not friction.  There were no long periods of silence, no “constructive criticism,” and no complaining.  (I have often said, “If I was alone in a forest and said something, and Nancy was not around to hear it, was I still wrong?”)  We enjoyed the music and scenery and munched on some goodies we had packed in a cooler on the back seat, including cold turkey sandwiches with lots of cranberries and pieces of chocolate pie left over from Thanksgiving dinner.  We had brought some CDs, and I discovered she and I liked a lot of the the same music, in particular The Carpenters.  I love Karen Carpenter’s smooth alto voice, but my ex did not, and we could never listen to The Carpenters.

As we drove I began to realize that life could really be different from what I experience in my last marriage and that I could relax and be at ease with a woman and there was nothing wrong with seeking that kind of companionship.  There was a moment in the car when Janeen sat back and put her foot on the dashboard in such a way that reminded me of another couple I had ridden with over 30 years before who were very much in love and the girl did the same thing. It was a small thing, but to me it was a sign of comfort, trust and love—a powerful sign.  Not long afterward, I realized that Janeen enjoyed being with me as much as I enjoyed being with her as I had said I wanted in my profile on LDS Mingle. I had not experienced that for many years, if ever. My previous marriage was always a competition, never a partnership.  There were too many hidden motives, manipulations, and never enough trust for such a comfort level as I was experiencing with Janeen.   Janeen and I had both been co-dependent support for our sociopathic exes who were incapable of this kind of honesty and mutuality.  It was a catharsis for me and a whole new way of thinking of what a relationship could be.  Janeen’s “baggage” had cooled over the last eight years so we did not share the same level of apprehension.

I told Janeen about one trip to Southern Utah I took with my family when I was a child. We traveled Highway 89 one summer to the Grand Canyon and stopped to see the Glen Canyon Dam while it was being built.  I was fascinated with the huge cement buckets that were being used to pour the cement for the dam. The guide said that the flow of cement was so fast that if a worker fell into the cement as it was being poured, they could not stop the operation soon enough to get him out.  They just left him in the cement, and unfortunately, there were already several men buried in the dam. This and the scale of the construction process required to build the dam left a lasting impression on me as did the Grand Canyon.

In addition to the reunions in Parowan, we took several trips to California when I was a teenager.  We usually spent the nights in tents in campgrounds, and we actually camped out on Doheny Beach one summer.  That was significant to me since I was a fan of The Beach Boys, and they mentioned Doheny Beach in one of their songs.  On each trip to California, we stopped to see Zion National Park and drove through the tunnel-like road with view ports that looked out on the beauty of the park.

Janeen and I stopped at Zion National Park, but we wanted to get to M & S Jewelry in St. George before it closed, so we could not spend a lot of time there.  Many of our friends have condos in St. George, and Janeen had lived there as a child when her father owned a motel on St. George Boulevard for a few years.  It was fun to see the familiar sites, including the motel where Janeen lived and made beds, and the rock on the top of the hill overlooking the town that she and her brothers would climb. We also made a point of stopping to see the St. George Temple that my great-grandfather helped build.

I bought Janeen a silver bracelet with an Amethyst stone at M & S Jewelry.  After the jewelry store, we checked into the Fairfield Inn, had dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and went to the outlet mall to do a little shopping. Shopping was something we liked doing together.  Janeen bought me a dark blue wool jacket and I bought her some sheets.

The next morning as we thought about what to do, we decided we had already seen everything in St. George of interest so we headed to Las Vegas.  The canyon between St. George and Mesquite is always an interesting drive, especially with my lead foot.  We tried to think of what it was that our friends liked about St. George, and to this day, have not come up with anything except warm weather in the winter and that jewelry store. We live six miles from Snowbird where I always have a season pass, so why would I want to spend my winters in St. George?  Besides, the summers are way too hot.

We were almost to Las Vegas when nature called.  I thought I could wait until we got there, but I was wrong.  I got off the freeway at a convenience store and figured I would make it, but the restroom was occupied.  The anticipation of relief that was not going to occur made it all that much worse. I waited for a while, but some guy must have been in there reading the morning newspaper.   I went back out to the car to see if there was any other alternative, and from the look on my face and my body posture, Janeen knew I had a serious problem!  She handed me a paper cup and said she would look the other way.  We were engaged, but not familiar enough for that.  I was utterly embarrassed, and Janeen was laughing hysterically and did not quit laughing for what seemed like forever.

Our next adventure was the Fashion Show Mall on the strip in Las Vegas, and we were delighted at the sales they were having that weekend, particularly at the high end stores we do not have in Salt Lake City such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.  This was before the economy crashed, and they had a lot of good merchandise to clear out at 60-75 percent off.  It also started a trend of me choosing Janeen’s wardrobe for her.  She liked the clothes I select for her,  so since then, I do most of her wardrobe shopping.  I love it when I recommend something, she likes it, we buy it, and she wears it.  We did some Christmas shopping, and we ate lunch at the California Pizza Kitchen, but I had to keep going back to the car to keep up with the BYU/Utah game that was being played and broadcast on KSL.

We drove back to our room in St. George for the night. (In case you are wondering, we behaved ourselves even though we shared a room.) We stopped at Bryce Canyon on the way home.  I had not seen it since I was a kid, and Janeen had never seen it.  We loved Bryce Canyon and thought it was an amazing experience. There was snow on the ground and no one else around as far aw we could see, which added to the mystery of this surreal experience.  We have been back to Bryce Canyon during the summer with the crowds, which is wonderful, but entirely different.

I found I loved traveling with Janeen because I loved being with her.  We enjoyed the road trip to Las Vegas so much that we repeated the Las Vegas buying spree for the following six or seven Thanksgiving weekends and began staying in Las Vegas instead of St. George.  We did venture out to other malls in Las Vegas, but most of them were disappointing outlet malls with little we wanted to purchase. We only went to a few shows and I was never good at gambling.  I would set a limit on how much I would lose and stop when the money was gone, and it did not take long.  We basically went to Las Vegas to shop each Thanksgiving weekend until the economy tanked, and the clearance stock tanked along with it.

Bridge over Hoover Dam
Bridge over Hoover Dam
Hoover dam from the bridge
Hoover dam from the bridge

On one of those trips, we took a side trip to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead.  The road to the dam was narrow and slow, but as we got close to the dam, we were able to see far above us the beginning of a huge suspension bridge being erected.  I marveled again at the immensity of the project.  We drove across and walked on that bridge a few years later. Walking along that bridge so far above the ground is both breathtaking and frightening. It reminded me of the time I visited Glen Canyon Dam when it was under construction.  I think I was making a connection between the two times in my life when I was comfortable; when I was a child and now, bypassing that first marriage

The first road trip with Janeen was more to me than just a road trip.  It was an awakening to a life I had always been denied.  I had a glimpse into what freedom and comfort was available in a relationship where there was trust, honesty, and selfless love, a feeling with another adult that is similar to the feeling I have when my granddaughter falls asleep in my arms.

A New Beginning

A New Beginning 

I had been divorced about seven months when I was given an ointment from my dermatologist to treat a mild itch on my back.  Realizing I could not apply it to my back myself, I began to think I should maybe meet someone who could. I was divorced, but I did not believe in divorce.  My father died when I was only seven, and I did not want my kids to grow up without a father.  I also did not want to have some other guy raising my kids.  I was still an emotional wreck from my failed marriage and had minimized my involvement with people since then. I had never been able to share my emotions with another person, and I did not know why I would ever want to, but I needed a friend and someone to love.  Since my divorce, I had focused on healing mentally and physically, but primarily only my physical health.  I was either working out at the gym or taking long bike rides almost every day and trying to eat healthy food.  I finally worked up enough courage to try and meet someone.  

I was not into the bar scene, and church was the only place I really had contact with people.  I had not been attending my ward long enough to distinguish between women who were sitting alone because they were single and those who were sitting alone because their husbands were “on the stand.” I had also never been in the habit of looking for wedding rings, so I signed up with an Internet dating service called LDS Mingle.  The site matched my criteria with potential candidates whose criteria matched mine.  My profile was then sent to the potential candidates, and whoever was interested in me could respond.  There were several responses from all over the country and Canada, but one from an attractive woman who also lived in Sandy caught my eye.  I responded back, saying we had a lot in common and should possibly meet.

The next Sunday, I went to church with female companionship on my mind.  I was still attending the same ward I attended before my divorce, but my ex-wife had gone inactive so there did not seem to be a problem, and I had only been attending that ward for about a year before we split anyway.  That day I took notice of the organist.   I had never really noticed her before, probably because I had not been looking before.  I thought she was pretty cute except for the funny glasses she was wearing.  That same afternoon, after church, I got an email response from the woman I had responded to on the Internet.  She said, “We do have a lot in common, more than just interests and outlook.  In fact, I saw you at church today. I was playing the organ.  I looked up and saw you in the congregation.  I couldn’t believe it! I would love to chat with you. We can do it by e-mail or I’m on the ward list.  Hope to talk to you soon.”  I replied six minutes later saying, “Oh my gosh, I saw you playing the organ.  I was even thinking about you and how attractive you were.  I definitely think we should meet.”  It seemed surprising that of all the candidates from the Internet site, I would meet someone in my same ward.

I called her immediately and we arranged to meet for lunch at Market Street Grill the next day.  We had a great conversation over lunch about life, kids, and divorce, and I took in her beautiful eyes, her smile, her wit, and her cleavage. I already knew she had great legs because one of her profile pictures on LDS Mingle showed her in a tennis outfit, and her legs were the first thing that drew my attention to her.  We ate salads and I left my avocados on my plate.  She told me later that she loved avocados and really wanted mine, but she did not yet feel comfortable enough with me to ask for them.  I felt some definite electricity between us when I put my hand on her back as I walked her to her car, and she reached around and put her hand on my back, as well.

Janeen had a pool in her back yard, and she asked me to come to her house the next Wednesday for a swim. When I arrived at her home on Wednesday evening, there were several other people at her home including her daughter who lived there, her married son, his wife, and his wife’s father.  The daughter was in the house and the rest were sitting in the hot tub as Janeen and I got into the pool.  I do believe they were there to check me out and possibly to protect their mother in case I turned out to be the king of creep. We talked for a while and then, as we hung on the side in the deep end, I said, “I want to do something.”   I leaned over, pulled her in close, and kissed her long and hard on the lips.  Speaking of hard, she could tell from my swimming suit that I was attracted to her.  She could not wait to tell all her single girlfriends about it the next day.

We got together several times a week after that, either for lunch, dinner, or hanging out in my apartment.  Her daughter living with her made my place more private.  There was one evening when she came over, and after we had been kissing on my bed, I reached over her and turned on the stereo.  I had Johnny Mathis ready to go (I knew she loved Johnny Mathis). She got up, went into the kitchen and without saying anything, grabbed a banana from a fruit bowl.  She seductively peeled it and slowly put the banana into her mouth, bit off a little in a very sensual way put the other half in my mouth.  I was so aroused that I wanted to hold her and never let go.  I was hooked, in love, and in her house a few months later, I said, “Why don’t we get married.”  There was no ring, no kneeling, just an idea for consideration.  She thought it was a good idea and did not say no, so did that make us engaged?  I guess so.

 

The Bubble People

 

 

The Bubble People

My LDS mission was coming to a close, and I was looking forward to returning home.  For two years, I had been teaching LDS doctrine to the English, and now that part of my life was coming to an end.  I had been looking forward to returning home, holding a girl in my arms and feeling her body next to mine, and having my own car to drive; but returning to school, earning money, and dealing with the looming draft gave me cause for apprehension.

For two years, I had been doing exactly what I was told to do every hour of every day.  I had no financial issues. I just studied and taught the gospel and enjoyed England and the English people.   I had adjusted to the arm’s length policy regarding women, and I managed to live without parental control.  Although I had to rise at 6:00 am each day and work 60-80 hours a week, life had been easy.

I had dated several girls just before I left home two years ago, but Nancy was the only one who kept writing. I had taught skiing and she had been in one of my classes the winter before I left.  We dated that summer, but mostly we talked on the phone,  sometimes for 3-4 hours at a time.  I could be myself with her since she was from the other side of town and younger than me, so I was not at risk socially with her.

The first few months of my mission she wrote long letters faithfully every week that must have taken her hours to write.  She wrote the things a missionary wanted to hear, such as how much her seminary teacher liked her and how she prayed often and long.  I enjoyed writing her, too, as often as I could.  We even fantasized about getting married some day.  We created fantasies about lives we imagined.

Eventually the letters became less frequent and less lengthly—both hers and mine.  I figured she was just busy and had less time to spend on the letters, but there was comfort in knowing I had a girlfriend who would be there when I returned.  I did not want to think I was no longer the love of her life; she never said she wasn’t.  Even though I received just one or two letters during the last six months of my mission, I wanted the comfort of believing she still loved me.

When I got off the plane in Salt Lake City after spending a day or two with my sister in Kentucky, Nancy was there along with my family to greet me.  I noticed she had put on some weight, and she told me later that she had gained the weight on purpose because she wanted an excuse to explain why I did not want her if my interesting had waned.  It seemed like totally illogical thinking, but how could I begin to understand a girl’s mind?

The next few days were busy.  I had to meet with church leaders to finalize my release from my mission, I had to meet with a neighbor across the street who had recommended me for a job with a florist delivering flowers, I had to meet with the florist,  I had to finalize my registration for school which started the next Monday, and I had to register for the draft. I had left on my mission early so I could arrive home just before classes started at the University to avoid being drafted.

I had arrived home on a Wednesday afternoon, and by Monday I had a job, a full load of classes at the University of Utah, and on top of that, Nancy wanted me to drive to Granger to see her every day.  (Did she really want to see me or did she just want me to have no time to see any other young woman?)  The next few weeks were insane.  I wanted to study hard and do well in school, but with working, school work, and having to drive from the east side of town nine miles to the west side of town to see Nancy, I was having a hard time and something had to give.

My parents were not helping either.  I am sure they understood my frustration, but instead of talking about it, they just made demands.  I had to be home by 10 pm and by midnight on weekends.  I was 21 years old and I had adjusted well to living away from my parents, and I did not need that kind of hassle on top of everything else.  I had told them that Nancy had mentioned getting married, and their response was to threaten to not let me have any of my money if I were to get married. They had control of my money while I was on my mission and still did.

I had always had some kind of job ever since I was old enough to have a paper route, and by the time I left on my mission, I had saved enough money to pay cash for a new car.  I even had it picked out, a new Pontiac GTO.  When I returned from my mission, however, I found that my parents had a new car and I had $400 in the bank.  I was surprised to find out that those checks I received every month while in England had come from my own account. So I was broke, too—real nice—one more thing.  I was angry, but I was never allowed to be angry. It was not so much that I paid for my mission, but that it had never been discussed if I would pay for my mission.

During the first two weeks of classes, Nancy came to the University and attended my mythology class with me a couple of times.  One of those times, after we said goodbye,  and without her knowing it, I followed her to her car; and when she got in the passenger side of her car, she leaned over and kissed a guy who was sitting in the driver’s seat.  He had evidently been waiting for her while she attended mythology with me.

So what did that tell me?  Nancy had another boyfriend.  I did not know then that they had been lovers while I had been on my mission, but I did not expect her to have “sat home like a toad” either (an expression we used back then).  How could they still be lovers when she wanted me to come to see her in Granger every evening?

I could not handle it.  I had to ignore it.  I could not deal with a breakup at that time.  For two years I had assumed I had a girl in love with me, and now I find out she is two-timing me.  I did not want to have to go through the process of finding another girlfriend. I just did not have the energy.  Obviously, love is blind. I did ignore it.

I had been home just over three weeks. On the 7th of October, Nancy and I were at a concert at Skyline High (where I had attended) to see a group called “Up With People.” My parents were out of town for the weekend, so Nancy and I went to my house after the concert where we ended up on my bed. We had a saying regarding sex that as Mormons we could do A, B, C, D, E, but not F.  We had gone through E, but I figured we had not done F when Nancy said that it counted as F—and that we indeed had sex. I was confused.  I had never had sex before and was she right?  The guilt engulfed me. I did not think we had intercourse, but  it didn’t matter; we had come close enough.  Every sin I had ever committed came back to me.  I felt worthless, a sinner, an embarrassment to my family and to myself.  The pressure of the last three weeks compounded my apoplectic consternation.

Nancy suggested we just go to Nevada and get married.  It was a totally insane idea, but it may be a way out.  I would not have to travel to Granger every evening. I could get out of the house and out from under my parents’ control.  Much of the insanity would stop.  What were my other options?  There was always Vietnam. The army would take me in a minute. I may die over there, but how bad would that be; I would not have to get married.  Just moving away from home for no apparent reason would mean a direct confrontation between me and my parents.  I would have to tell them I did not want to live with them.  It would be a big crack in their idealistic glass bubble to find out that I was not and did not want to be one of the bubble people. There was something in my upbringing, some kind of control that I did not fully understand, but it kept me from considering just moving out for no “acceptable” reason. I could not talk to my parents about this, and there was no one else.  All my friends were on their own missions.

Nancy viewed me as her ticket out of Granger.  She hated living in Granger on “the west side,” she hated her abusive father, and she hated her impoverished family, so she set a trap.  I suspect that her attraction to me was motivated not by love but by her desperation to get out of Granger.

I figured, “What the hell!” We decided to go for it.  We gathered some of my clothes and some food from the kitchen, including a roast from the freezer, and my collection of old pure silver half dollar coins.   I took Nancy home and she grabbed some things and climbed out her window (a classic elopement scene—where was my camera?).  She went to a friends house and borrowed a ring, a veil, and a little cash and we headed out for Elko, Nevada.

We got as far as Wendover where half the town is in Utah and half in Nevada.  I did not want to get busted for taking a minor over state lines (Nancy was only 17 years old) so I made her get out and walk when we crossed the state line.  We found a cheap motel and got a bed for the rest of the night.  We climbed in bed together. I did not know Nancy was not a virgin, but I soon found out. She seemed to know a lot more about sex than I did.  While we were in bed together, she explained that she was not a virgin and that she and Eddie (the guy in the car) had been sexually active for quite some time.  I was a virgin however, and I had no idea of what I was doing.

We had sex for sure that night.  It was awkward and very disappointing.  I remember thinking, “This is not that great; what is the big deal?  I have committed this huge sin for this?  Is this what I have been working so hard to avoid these past few years?  If I had known it was like this, I would not have had to worry so much about it.”  “The anticipation is often better than whatever is being anticipated,” is not an uncommon phenomenon. It was disappointment fueled by anger, betrayal and a sense of hopelessness, and being totally alone emotionally.

We did not talk about it in the morning.  We just had breakfast, got in the car, and headed across the Nevada desert for Elko where there was a Justice of the Peace on duty all weekend long for idiots like us.

I learned that the girl I loved only existed on the pages of her letters—a misrepresentation of the girl she actually was. Why was I running off with this girl when there were other girls?

My first day home I went to visit a very attractive girl, Mary Billeter, who lived in my ward and whom I had know most of my life.  I had had a crush on her since one evening when I was about 15 and rode with her in a very crowded car.  She had to lay across the laps of four boys in the back seat.  Her legs were on my lap, and I had no place to put my hands but on her legs.  I held my arms in the air for a few seconds, but that looked , so I laid my hands on her legs.  Her legs were smooth, firm, shapely, and the most marvelous thing I had ever seen and especially felt.  I did not know Mary all that well, but I certainly fell in love with those legs.  It was one giant step in my sexual awakening.   Mary was pleased to see me, but she was leaving in two days to attend school in Switzerland. Unfortunately, there was no chance for a relationship with Mary.

Dana Howarth was in my linear algebra class at school.  She was from Idaho and I liked her a lot.  I had not asked her out, but I was looking forward to someday having the time to, and she seemed to have an interest in me.

Then there was Sandy.

In London, just before I came home from my mission, I was in the mission home speaking with the mission secretary about my reservations for my flight home. I wanted to visit my sister and her family who lived in Murray, Kentucky, a small college town about 80 miles North of Nashville.  He recommended flying from London to Washington D.C.  and then on to Nashville. That sounded great to me since I had never been to Washington D.C., and I asked if he could arrange a layover to give me some time to see the sites. He said I could arrive in the evening and out the next morning. I could at least see a hotel room.  There was another missionary, Elder Doug Marriott, standing nearby who was from Washington D.C.  I asked him if he could recommend a good hotel there.  He and some of the other elders laughed, but I had never heard of a Marriott hotel so I was none the wiser.  He just wrote a number down a phone number on a piece of paper and told me to call his father when I got to the airport.

My companion and I were living with a member couple named Hammond in Greenwich, and I told them of my plans to stay in Washington D.C. on my way home.  There had been an attractive young woman  in the Greenwich branch named Sandy, who was a good friend of our landlady, and who had just gone to the United States to be a nanny.  Just before she left, she and I had sung a duet with guitars together for a church program.

When I got off the plane in Washington D.C., I was surprised to see Sandy at the gate.  I had not known she had gone to Washington, D.C. to be a nanny, only that she had gone to the U.S.  We talked for a while until after the last shuttle had left and I needed a taxi. I was alone with a very attractive young woman in the Dulles Airport.  I was still a missionary and would be until I met with my Stake President after I returned home.  The arm’s length rule still applied.  This was a bit of an awkward moment.  I needed a hotel room, but what about Sandy?  She and I in a hotel room together?  I had barely enough money for one hotel room and a taxi.  I could not afford two rooms.  She was way too attractive to share a hotel room with and still be a missionary, but the way she looked at me let me know that a hotel room was just what she had in mind.  She had the most beautiful blue eyes, long blond hair, a body to die for, and although I had honored the arm’s length rule, we had become good friends while practicing our singing and guitars together.  I had feelings for her.  If this was only some other time…

I remembered the phone number of Elder Marriott’s dad, so I called him and told him I was a friend of Doug’s and that Doug had told me to call him to recommend a hotel.  We talked about the mission for a few minutes, and then I told him that a young lady from England had met me at the airport.  He was a Stake President himself and he asked me what gate I was at and told me to wait and he’d be right there.  It did not take him long to arrive, and we climbed into his Mercury station wagon. We were making small talk as he drove, and I asked him what line of work he was in.  He said he and his brother were in the hotel business.  The timing could not have been more perfect because at that moment, we drove past a large 20-story building with “Marriott” on the top.  I said, “Is that one of yours?” He replied, “Yes, that is one of ours.”  Then I knew what those elders were laughing about when I asked Doug Marriott if he knew of a good hotel in Washington D.C.

I mentioned to Brother Marriott that I had wanted to see some sites, but my flight out the next morning did not leave me much time.  So after we had dinner in one of his hotels (The waitress did not give him a check; he just gave her an account number.), he drove us by some of the sites.  The city was beautiful at night, and I loved seeing the monuments, the capitol, and the stunning beauty of the city.  We drove by the side of the White House, and I asked him to stop the car so I could take a picture.  I got out of the car, grabbed my tripod, ran out onto the lawn to set up for a timed exposure photo, and as I was setting up, I was suddenly swarmed by secret service agents.  I guess it is not a good idea to set up a tripod at the back of the White House.  I had to explain who I was and what I was doing, while noticing how Brother Marriott (I guess I should refer to him as President Marriott) was in the car laughing.  I got away without taking any pictures, or going to jail, and we ended up at the Marrott’s home where Sandy and I were properly separated and chaperoned. The next morning his wife took me to the airport, and I assume she took Sandy home.  It would be a long time before I ever had the opportunity to stay in a Marriott Hotel, but not too long before I saw Sandy again.  She was not going to give up that easily.

Nancy and I were in my old 14-year-old Plymouth and I was pushing it a bit too much (95 mph) when somewhere in the middle of Nevada, I began to hear a knocking sound in the engine.  I pulled into a  service station, and the attendant said it was a rod knocking.  I had blown my engine just as I was about to  blow my life.  It would still run, but I had to go slow.  This was one more bad omen.  The car had about 100,000 miles on it, and cars just were not made to go any further than that in those days.  My father had once told me that he would never want to own a car with more than 50,000 miles on it.

* * *

That Plymouth had been a great car.  It was a plain, light green sedan with a flat-head 6 cylinder engine, but I loved it, and it was very reliable, so I guess you could say it loved me, too.  My mother had purchased the car in 1953 just after my father died. It had only 6,000 miles on it.  It had become the second car when my mother married my stepfather, and after I got my drivers license the June before I turned 16, I became the primary driver and was responsible for its maintenance.  I had installed new seat covers, replaced the tires, shock absorbers, installed a rear speaker, and a new battery.

The battery should have been replaced earlier before the winter of my senior year of high school, but I was tight on money.  On cold mornings I had to push the car to get it started.  I parked it on the street in front of our house that had a slight incline towards the rear of the car.  I would get in the car, turn on the key, put my right foot on the clutch, and my left foot outside the car to push the car backwards.  After one or two pushes with my left foot, I would release the clutch and the car always started.  I did that all winter long.

It was great in the snow, too. It was made of heavy steel with a relatively small engine, so the weight was evenly distributed. Even though it was conventional rear-wheel drive, I did not hesitate to drive it up the canyon to Alta when there was 8 inches of new, unplowed snow on the road.  It made it up with no problems, passing several cars that could not make it up.

For a while, the car had a front-end problem.  It would begin to shimmy at about 50 mph.  One evening I was late for a date with a girl attending BYU in Provo, about 50 miles south.  I did not have the patience or the time to keep it under 50 mph, so I just let it shimmy up to about 85 mph when I heard a kind of pop.  It stopped shimmying at that moment and it never shimmied again.  I was told it had something to do with king pins somewhere in the front end, but auto mechanics was never my focus.  I was just happy the car loved me enough to fix itself.

The car had an emblem on the dashboard with an image of the pilgrims’ ship Mayflower (I still have the emblem), so my friend Jim Wilson called my car “The Mayflower,” and the name stuck. We called it the Mayflower from then on.  Now the car was offering itself as a supreme sacrifice in an effort to save me from a huge mistake.

* * *

We finally arrived in Elko.  The first thing we did was to go to the Justice of the Peace.  We first had to get a license before we could get married, but there was a problem.  Nancy was not of legal age; we could not get married without written connect from her parents.  How many times did I need to be told that I was making a bad decision?  Here we were in Elko, Nevada, with a blown engine, very little money, and we couldn’t get married.  We found a motel room where we could go and figure things out.  I had to pay more for a room with a kitchen because of that damn roast we grabbed from my mother’s freezer.  We also had to buy a pan to cook it.  That roast cost  us a lot of money, but grabbing it was not the only dumb thing I did that weekend.

We discussed it and decided to call Nancy’s parents.  My parents were still out of town.  Nancy’s parents did not even know she was gone; they just thought she was sleeping in.  I only heard one side of the conversation, so I don’t really know her mother’s reaction, but it must not have beed too bad because they agreed to have a permission document notarized and put on a Greyhound bus going to Elko.  They were probably happy to have her gone without needing to pay for a wedding.  The document was not going to come soon enough for us to get married on Saturday; we had to wait for Sunday.  When we got in line for the Justice of the Peace after getting our license, the couple ahead of us was drunk and the couple behind us was expecting a baby any day from the looks of her.

Nancy’s parents set out on Sunday morning to meet us with the idea that maybe our car would not make it back.  We met them half way.  I did not dare drive the car over about 50 mph, but it made it home. That evening in Nancy’s parents house, we began to think of real world issues like where we would live.  We all laughed when Nancy’s little brother said I could sleep with him.  As it turned out, Nancy’s grandmother had a vacant room in her home near the University of Utah that she normally rented out that we could have for $35/month.  I was making $30/week and Nancy’s dad owned a service station and he offered to gives us our gas.  Nancy was working for a hamburger joint part time. I figured we could make it for a while.  We had to share a bathroom with some old guy we had never seen, but the price was right.

I was wondering what my parents would say.

* * *

My parents’ lives were governed by a stifling set of religious ideals.  There was always  pressure to live up to the expectations set by the leaders of the church, the scriptures, and my  parents.  Anyone who did not meet those standards was severely criticized.  If I ever slipped up, my parents said it was either someone else’s fault or it was not discussed at all.  As a child, my parents did not want me to play with Jimmy Morton because he said “gad.” I could not play with other boys whose mothers worked outside the home.  As a teenager, my stepfather once found a Playboy magazine in my room.  He took me into the fruit room, a small cement room under the front porch where we kept all our food storage, to confront me with my sinful behavior lest my mother should see that evil magazine.  I almost laughed at the drama of the fruit room scene, but the fear of criticism along with the the severe criticism of others who likewise erred is partly what kept me in line.  We lived in a kind of religious bubble that kept the rest of the world out.

Once when I was about 8 or 9 years old, I was asked by my Sunday School teacher if I had chores to do around the house.  I said, “Yes, I take the garbage out.”  Someone (likely an old lady who was hard of hearing) overheard it and thought I said, “I clean the coffee pot.”   “Good” Mormons do not drink coffee.  It hit the gossip mill, and my mother heard it from someone in the ward and she was humiliated.  It became a scandal, and I was drilled as to what I had said.

My mother took me to Utah Bank and Trust when I was 5 years old and had me open up my first bank account to “save for my mission.”  Since that time, the subject of my saving for and paying for my mission was never discussed.  If we had discussed the money, of course, I may have had a problem with it or I may even have questioned it.  That would put me outside the bubble; I would be a disgrace to the family that I did not want to give all I had to the work of The Lord.  It would have broken the crystalline structure of the perfect family of which we fervently subscribed to in all our communications within the family and without.  If such a fact were exposed, we would be a disgrace as perceived by all their friends in the church and the bubble would be broken.  My parents could not take that risk so such things had to be ignored.

I cannot remember ever being counseled as what to do when confronted with temptation or how to deal with moral slippages. I had no brothers to talk to, only two sisters, a totally anal stepfather, and a frustratingly obedient mother.

I remember similarities when my father died of polio when when I was 7.   When I heard of my father’s death, I remember faking crying because everyone else was crying and it was expected of me to cry.  I also remember thinking a lot about what it was going to be like not having a father and how my life was about to change.  I remember very strong emotions, but I had to fake crying.  I was told that my father died because he was too perfect and he had more important work to do on the other side, but what was more important than me having a father? I did not want to die young, so then I did not want to be that perfect, but I dared not say anything and reveal the illogic of what I was told. I guess I learned at a very young age that you did not express emotions; you suppressed them or acted them out in some other passive way.

Young Mormons go to Sunday School and Primary every week from the time they are three years old until they are about nineteen or go off to college, join the army or get married.  In all those classes they are taught how to prepare for one thing.  For boys it is going on a mission.  For girls it is temple marriage.  So what about after that?  What about the other 60 years of life?  Should we, just maybe, have been prepared for that?  Either life is over when the mission is over or we should just figure it out ourselves. That is where I was, at that time of my life.

The bubble phenomena is supported in most every church classroom—Sunday School, Relief Society, Priesthood meetings and even Primary.  Teachers are required to stay strictly with the material in the lesson manuals from which the “ideals” are  taught.  Members naturally don’t want to talk about the problems they are having in their lives in front of all the other members, so they just nod and try to find something in their lives that conforms to the principles that are being taught  so they can contribute to the discussion.  An instructor may be telling women in a Relief Society class how putting stickers next to their child’s names on a chart may encourage that child to read the scriptures, while some women in the class are more concerned with keeping their children out of jail and off drugs.  There will be no discussion of how to deal with drug problems.  Those problems are ignored.  They have to be ignored; they are not in the lesson manual.  It is assumed that gospel principles have been taught to their children since they were three years old and that those principles have been practiced constantly and taught in the home during Family Home Evening, and as a result, there are no drug problems. This unlikely scenario often carries over to everyday life and some people make the assumption that, if it is not discussed in class, it will not happen and behavior or circumstances outside the lesson manual never need to be prepared for or discussed in the home.  For those people, life goes along fine as long as family issues never fall outside the lesson manual boundaries.

This was my mother and step-father’s life.  My mother had taught Relief Society classes for years. Our family never ventured outside the lesson manual.  She had never needed to deal with drugs or even alcohol and tobacco.  Except for Jimmy Morton saying “Gad” and the Playboy magazine I carelessly left out, life had been easy for her—until now.

* * *

When my parents found out that I had eloped that weekend, it was a far greater blow than I had expected.  My parents life had just collapsed.  The bubble had burst.  They had never experienced a tragedy like this one.  My mother was so upset she could not get out of bed for a week. I had eloped, I was married to that girl from Granger they did not like.  They called her Peek-a Boo because she wore her hair in her eyes.  We were not married in the temple, and everyone would know.  So now I was not as perfect as my father had been, and there was no escaping or ignoring that fact (good, I may not die early).  Either my mother or my stepfather called my bishop; he called me, we met, and he suggested I get an annulment, and he could make the arrangements.  I should have listened to him, but I told him I had made a commitment that I had to live with.  That just added to my guilt.  I talked to my parents very little for several weeks.

Nancy’s grandmother’s apartment was in a good location and roomy, but Nancy did not like sharing a bathroom. Nancy had an old Chevy, older than my old Plymouth.  My car was still running with the piston rod knocking, but neither car could make it up the hill to the University.  We needed a new apartment, a new car, and a good kick in the pants.

 

 

 

 

The Mission Call

 

The Mission Call

Ever since I can remember, I was going to go on a mission for the Church. It was expected of every Mormon boy to plan on and save for his mission.  I had my first bank account before I turned six, and it was for my mission fund.  My father, mother, and stepfather had all served missions.  I never questioned if I would go.

I anxiously awaited the response from my application for a mission to find out where in the world I would go and if I was to learn a new language, which would mean two and a half years instead of just two years. The letter came and I was called to serve in the British Mission with headquarters in London. I was pleased. It was a foreign country, but I was not going to have to learn a foreign language.  I was also leaving earlier than I expected. I was going before my 19th birthday, so I could immediately enroll into the University upon my returning to avoid the draft.  A gap in time between the mission and school would very possibly put me in Vietnam.

The first week of the mission we spent in training in the “Mission Home” in downtown Salt Lake City.  We heard lectures from general authorities as well as basic training as to what is expected of missionaries such as keeping women at arm’s length, always being with your companion, writing our parents weekly, referring to the male missionaries as “Elder” and the female missionaries as “Sister,” getting up every morning at 6:00 am, and praying every morning and evening.  It was all Rah! Rah! and would have put any Amway rally to shame. It is no wonder Utah is the multilevel marketing capital of the world.

My companion was Charles Manley Brown, a grandson of Hugh B. Brown, a counselor in the first presidency of the Church.  He was an okay guy, and I had fun saying my companion was Charlie Brown.

I went on my first commercial airline flight to New York City and then on to London. We arrived in London at about 10 am the next morning.  We were picked up and allowed to catch some sleep for a few hours in a small hotel before we were taken to the mission headquarters in South Kensington that afternoon.  I was surprised to see several guys from high school when we arrived at the mission headquarters including my District Leader and Zone Leader.

After buying a used bicycle for four pounds from a missionary who was going home, I was dropped off where my new senior companion was staying in Herne Hill just over the Themes in South London.  He was introduced to me as Elder Bradley, but as the van pulled away and we were walking into the house he said, “Just call me Phil; I hate this Elder stuff.”  Our room was on the top floor of a large home owned by a friend of our mission president.  Board and room was four pounds, ten shillings a week (about $13). My parents sent me $100 a month, but I could usually get by on $80.

After dinner we went out to call on people whom Elder Bradley and his previous companion were teaching. The first door we knocked on was answered by an attractive young lady in a negligé who said, “Hi Phil.”  Elder Bradley had an awkward moment and asked if she still had the book he had left for her (the Book of Mormon).  She had to think a few minutes and then remembered it.  It made me wonder just how “arm’s length” that relationship was.

The arm’s length thing was to be an absolute rule.  It had to be.  At 19, missionaries are at the peak of their sexual drive and away from home for the first time and without supervision other than a “companion.” The Church just cannot have their representatives dating or even flirting with young women when they are preaching the gospel.  In one English branch of the church I attended, there were 90 members on record and the Church owned property for a chapel, but only two members were at the Sunday meeting.  The cause of this extreme fallout was a missionary who had had a sexual relationship with a young lady in the congregation.  Sexual relations would cause a missionary to be excommunicated and sent home dishonorably, bringing disgrace to himself and his family.

I had been indoctrinated as to the seriousness of the arm’s length rule and was shocked to find out my companion who I was to be with 24/7, and who was to be my mentor, was acting in such a way. Should I report him, or should I let it ride and see if it goes any further?

That first evening, Elder Bradley (Phil) showed me which bed was mine, and when I pulled back the covers, I noticed the sheets which once had been white were now a light brown.  I asked how long it had been since the sheets had been washed. Elder Bradley scratched his head and said, “Well, I’ve been here five months and they haven’t been washed as long as I have been here.”  We had rules and we could not wash the sheets until the next Monday, which was our “diversion day” since washing sheets was not missionary work. I was not surprised when I got sick.

So here I was, sick, in a different part of the world, away from home for the first time in my life, sleeping in who knows what, and my companion was destroying every image I had of what I should be doing there. My mother had always changed my sheets once a week. They were always clean and white, but now I had to crawl between these filthy sheets.  I had planned on keeping arm’s length from girls, and I was actually looking forward to not having to deal with the dating scene. I think now that I should have reported these problems and not ignored them, but I was raised to ignore problems. I was actually more concerned with staying arm’s length from the brown sheets!

In our family, a mission was part of an idealistic, unyielding code of conduct to which obedience was assumed and expected. Any deviation was either ignored or was someone else’s fault. We never discussed problems, so we never gained any experience dealing with them.  We never discussed the issues around dating and how to deal with girls, so I became afraid of them.  Everything I learned about sex I learned from scout camp or my friends. Socially, I belonged in kindergarten.

Eventually I got to a chemist(pharmacist) who gave me something called “The Mixture” which helped reduce my trips to the toilet.  I eventually washed the sheets and managed to get by for a couple of months when I was assigned to another companion.

Another few months later I was transferred to Ashford in Kent County.  The leader of the district that covered all of Eastern Kent was my companion, Elder Yeates.  He was strict, a strong contrast to Elder Bradley.  For example, sometimes we would take the entire district to London in our van (all the other Elders rode bicycles) for a meeting or an evening in London to see a play or movie, and it would take us until 5:00 am to take all the Elders home.  Since we had to get up at 6:00 am, Elder Yeates said it was pointless to even go to bed, so we would study until it was time to get ready to start the normal day’s activities.  This lack of sleep was exacerbated by the fact that I had a low thyroid condition, which I found out about years later. I remember falling asleep while standing on porches, driving, or while siting in an investigator’s warm living room.

The next summer I was transferred to Margate, a seaside resort town on the northeast corner of Kent.  We were at a picnic hosted by the local members when it began to rain.  In England people say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes and it will change.” Someone raised a large plastic tarp, and we all climbed under to wait the obligatory ten minutes. While under the tarp, Sister Karchner, a beautiful wife of an American Church member, put her arm around me in some kind of embrace.  Suddenly, those 19 year old suppressed hormones hit me like a tidal wave. I did not know what to think, let alone what to do.  She was probably twice my age, married, but suddenly much more attractive. Nothing was said, and nothing further was done, but the feeling remained with me and dominated my thoughts.

It was very difficult for me as a young man to deal with all these emotions.   I was unprepared for such reality.  The extremes between Elder Bradley and Elder Yeates.  On one hand a total disregard for rules and on the other hand extreme adherence to rules to the point of sleep deprivation.  Then there were the thoughts of being sent home and the disgrace it would bring next to the flattery of an older woman showing desire for me added to my confusion.  Knowing that women (not just young girls) were off limits made it all that more titillating.  I thought of Elder Bradley, and what I thought of him, and it helped calm me down and put everything more in focus.

It was not the last time a married lady would make a pass at me, but I matured enough to deal with it. I don’t know what ever happened to Elder Bradley and I never saw him again, but missions are like that. You are with a person day and night for several months and then you never see him again. Each new companion is a new adventure.

On August 3, 2013 I posted the following on Facebook.

My daughter Julie is getting married this afternoon at the Waldorf Astoria in Park City. I asked her via text message if she would have a problem with me attending. She said I could not attend because of “big emotions” of some of the people there. (My ex wife, Nancy, I am sure)

They are so freaked out at the idea of my being there that they asked my bishop to tell me not to attend. They even mentioned hiring special security guards to keep me out. Can you believe it?

The only possible reason I can think of for this infantile behavior is that Nancy is terrified that I may tell my kids the other side of the story behind our divorce which they have never heard.julie wedding w jason

Here is a photo of my son Jason walking my daughter Julie down the aisle.  I should be there instead of Jason.  I wonder how she felt.  What is more important than having her father next to her at this time? What would make a young lady reject her father so?  Ask the one who hired the security guards.

There will be much more to come on this sub ject, but in the mean time I am going to share the short texts I submitted in my Creative Nonfiction class at the U.

Watch for “The Other Side of the Story.”

I welcome your comments.