How long would you wait for a drop-dead beauty?

The match game (self-responsorial)

Booie of Cottage Grove writes: “On October 22, 2002, you printed a submittal of mine for the category ‘The match game,’ on how you met your spouse.

“June 15th was our 50th wedding anniversary.

“While I am sure it is true in every marriage that some days are not diamonds, I still do not regret one second of the 3 1/2 hours I waited for my drop-dead beauty.

“Thank you.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Happy Anniversary!

Here’s Booie‘s original note, which ran (then, as now) under the headline “How long would you wait for a drop-dead beauty?”:

“I got discharged from the Army in 1967. I’d had two good friends before I went into the Army — John and Jerry — and when I got out of the Army, Jerry was in the Army, and John was married, and his wife was pregnant, so I didn’t have much in the way of people I could play with . . . and use up some of my accumulated testosterone from my time in the Army.

“I think John’s wife soon got tired of me dragging him out of there and hanging around their house, so she started to fix me up with her girlfriends. The first couple I met were, you know, nice people, very attractive — but there wasn’t anything in the life-partner category that clicked for me. I went out with them a couple times and then stopped.

“John’s wife then told me there was one more girl she wanted me to meet — her best friend in high school, and her Maid of Honor — and said I should come over to their apartment on a . . . Saturday or Sunday, I don’t remember which. I did — and I walked into their apartment and into their living room . . . and I lost my breath. There was a very attractive girl sitting on the couch — but she was extremely pregnant. I honestly didn’t know what to say. Probably ‘Hi,’ or something like that.

“And then John’s wife said: ‘This is my friend’s sister, and she’s here because my friend doesn’t drive.’ I hope the sister didn’t hear the sigh of relief that I probably let out.

“And then John’s wife’s friend came into the living room — and, my God, she was drop-dead beautiful! Whatever breath I’d gained from seeing her pregnant sister, I immediately lost.

“I am not a very good conversationalist, and we probably got to the ‘Hi. How are ya? Where do you work? What do you like to do?’ kind of stuff. We made arrangements for a date on the following Monday. She worked at a financial institution downtown St. Paul, and I told her I’d pick her up after she got off work, and we’d go to a movie, and I’d take her home — or something like that.

“I am compulsively punctual — punctual to the point where I get to places early. I will take this to my grave: She told me she would get done at 4:30 — so I was probably outside her office at 4 o’clock, waiting for her, because there was nothing I was going to do that was going to screw up any opportunity I had to get close to this girl. I mean, she was absolutely beautiful!

“So, 4:30 came and went, and I figured: ‘Well, she’s late, and there’s people still going out of the place.’

“”Five o’clock came and went . . . 5:30 . . . 6 . . . 6:30 . . . 7 . . . 7:30 — and I’m not going to give up! I’m gonna wait for her till this place closes! There’s people still going in and out.

“Finally, a little after 7:30, she walked out, and we said hi, and she said: ‘Been here long?’ I don’t know if I told her then, at the time, what time I’d actually gotten there, but I’d been waiting about 3 1/2 hours.

“We went to the movie. I took her home. And things . . . transpired after that: We got married in June of ’68 — and we will have been married 34 years this month.

“During the time that she was my fiancee, and subsequently, I had a Super 8 movie camera, and I took lots of movies of her and my family — pictures of our wedding and our family parties and our children as they grew up. I had all of that converted onto a DVD recently — and when I looked at it for the first time, I thought: My God! How could this beautiful, wonderful woman have selected me to be her husband?

“To this day, I have never, ever regretted, for one second, the 3 1/2 hours I waited for her, or the following 34 years of marriage.

“That’s my story.”

Now & Then
Or: Till death us do part

The Mambo King:  “My wife, the lovely Ms. Goody One-Shoe, went to the recent Paul Simon concert along with one of our daughters. Later, we were discussing his music, and the conversation turned to some of his earlier songs, including ‘I Am a Rock’: ‘Don’t talk of love / Well, I’ve heard the words before / It’s sleeping in my memory / And I won’t disturb the slumber / Of feelings that have died / If I never loved, I never would have cried / I am a rock / I am an island . . . / And a rock feels no pain / And an island never cries.’

“It occurred to me that, while I might have sympathized and agreed with the angsty anger of the lyrics when I was younger, I certainly don’t anymore. Maybe it’s an age thing (he wrote the song when he was about 24), but I find that now I’m much more in tune with the sentiment expressed by Garth Brooks in his song ‘The Dance’: ‘Looking back on the memory of / The dance we shared ‘neath the stars above. / For a moment all the world was right. / How could I have known that you’d ever say goodbye? . . . / Holding you I held everything. / For a moment wasn’t I a king? / But if I’d only known how the king would fall, / Hey who’s to say you know I might have changed it all. / And now I’m glad I didn’t know / The way it all would end, the way it all would go. / Our lives are better left to chance. I could have missed the pain, / But I’d have had to miss the dance.’

“I’ve been very happily married to Ms. G O-S for 42 years now. But I have to admit that there were one or two dances when I was much younger that I still remember with much fondness.”

Now & Then
Or: The Permanent Family Record

DebK of Rosemount: “Taxman and I have just finished our standard Father’s Day lunch: two takeout orders of grilled chicken (with trimmings) prepared by hard-working members of our farm parish, which annually hosts its festival on this Sunday. We dined on the front porch, where a hot, soggy breeze kept the insects at bay but did nothing to discourage the attentions of Rosie and Spike, resident canines, who love the St. Nicholas Chicken Cookout almost as much as Taxman does.

“At any rate, the combination of warm chicken and heavy air took my mind back to Iowa and the Independence Day observances of my childhood.

“The entire Bobzien clan gathered annually at Aunt Neva and Uncle Mart Decker’s farm
place, a few miles west of Hartley, for the Fourth of July picnic, our only formal ‘eating
out’ of the al fresco variety. Folks began gathering by midmorning. The women headed immediately for Aunt Neva’s kitchen to assist with frying chicken, peeling potatoes, brewing egg coffee, and the like. (The event was billed as a picnic, but the menu invariably included the staples of an indoor farm meal, plus watermelon.) The men laid claim to well-located (i.e., closest to the dessert table) benches and folding chairs and initiated exhaustive discussions of crop prices, precipitation patterns, and foolish politicians.

“We kids vanished into the depths of Aunt Neva’s apple orchard, there to indulge in a
little al fresco dining of our own. Whatever the variety, apples were hard and sour so early in the summer. They didn’t make for very good eating, but they were excellent
weapons. Girl cousins battled boy cousins until Aunt Neva’s goslings began to offer more interesting targets. Eventually, the men would notice the geese’s agitation and take corrective measures.

“Fortunately, by that time, the ladies of the family were distributing food among the
oilcloth-covered, makeshift tables. Tupperware bowls nestled among blue enamel roasters; heaped Melmac platters cozied up to sweating plastic pitchers. We didn’t dally in filling our plates with our favorites — first, because there were scores of others eager to lay claim to the same dish; second, because it was always nicer if you could get your food before the flies did. Flies adored our picnics, and each year they attended in Biblical numbers. We farm folks had strong stomachs, but even we were a little put off by the sight of flies drowning in pools of melted Lime Jell-O Salad and gorging themselves on Three-Bean Casserole. Small wonder we preferred to eat indoors!”

Then & Now
Phonograph Records Division

Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “While going through phonograph records I inherited from my parents, I came across a particularly intriguing one. It was an old (is there any other kind?) 78 of ‘Look Sharp, Be Sharp’. It was recorded in 1954 by the Boston Pops Orchestra with conductor Arthur Fielder.

“The song (or, more correctly, march) was the theme music for ‘The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports.’ I remember watching this show on Friday nights with my father and brother back in the 1950s, but I don’t recall any sport other than boxing.

“The record label includes several interesting facts. Besides ‘SPEED 78 R.P.M.’ is the statement ‘START OUTSIDE,’ because apparently some 78s were played from the inside to the outside, unlike the 33s and 45s which eventually replaced them. But even better was the statement: ‘This record has been specially prepared for the employees and friends of The Gillette Company.’ This explains why we had this record. My dad was a chemist at the Toni Co., which by the 1950s was a division of Gillette. I assume employees were given copies or were able to purchase them for a minimal price.

“Another oddity is that this record is one-sided. But rather than the back side being blank, it has an interesting pattern pressed into it, on top of which is ‘RCA Victor’ and the old RCA logo of Nipper the dog listening to ‘His Master’s Voice’ coming from a gramophone.



“One doesn’t see this kind of attention to detail today.”


The More-Permanent-Than-Once-Thought Family Record

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: You’re Starting Something.

“Mom used to look me in the eye, sometimes, and say ‘You’re starting something.’ She meant I was plunging into a situation to fix a problem, and creating work for those around me.

“For example, I befriended an elderly lady named Sadie in 1974, during the funeral of my Great-Aunt Kitty. Kitty’s death left Sadie as the last living person in her generation of one part of my family. Sadie and I cried together during the Mass, and I visited her over the next few years. I also took her to the old family cemetery and photographed her by the monument to my ancestor who was her aunt. It is near the graves of her parents, etc.

“Sadie was in an assisted-living apartment until her behavior became worrisome. Her niece Dorothy moved her to a nursing home, and I bought a few things from Sadie. But it took me awhile to visit her in the nursing home. My beloved grandmother had died not long before, and I just couldn’t walk into another nursing home back then.

“When I finally visited Sadie, she was angry with me. I was wearing a ring she had given me, and she demanded it back. So I gave it to her, and didn’t go back until her funeral. Mom retrieved it, but I don’t wear it.

“Mom announced that you don’t abandon an elderly person like that, and she added Sadie to her list of responsibilities. She started taking Sadie to her local button club, and herself became a member. The club became part of Mom’s social life, and Dad’s. I think Mom had some fun with it.

“Sometime after Sadie’s death, Mom gave me old family pictures that Sadie had still had — including the only photo of our great-grandparents, and early pictures of our great-grandfather and some of his siblings. These are treasures, to a genealogist like me. And at least one of the pictures went to descendants who didn’t have a copy of it.

“But the story didn’t end there. As a genealogist, I poke around in parallel families, when I get stuck on my own lines — which is how I heard of a rumor that Sadie’s niece Dorothy might have given one or more child up for adoption.

“For over 10 years I stewed over the adoptee(s). Privacy laws prevent outsiders from researching adoptions, though I never gave up on the search.

“Then, in 2012, I realized I could post Dorothy’s name in a family tree on Ancestry. Once I did that, a connection popped up. Her husband’s niece had also named her in a tree and (ta da!) had info on a man Dorothy gave up for adoption. I contacted him and his wife, and they were here within a week. I took them to the family cemetery, and his photo was taken at our ancestor’s monument.

“For years I didn’t really hear from the adoptee I ‘found.’ I figure he needs to handle his adoption however it works for him, and I (about a 3rd cousin) am here to support his choices. Sadie’s branch of my family had died out — except for the adoptee. How’s that for irony?

“Then, last year, a genealogist contacted me about a DNA match between her husband and me. Her husband (also adopted) was related to both me and Dorothy’s dad. Which meant he was probably closely related to the first adoptee I had found. I immediately phoned the first man, made sure his wife was on the line, and explained that he might have more kin. He sent for the DNA test that night, got a quick and close match, and he now has met the woman’s husband — with me cheering from the sidelines. I hope someday to meet them together.

“One other benefit for me: I still had pictures from Sadie and Dorothy’s family, which Mom had saved and given to me. Last year I sent them all to Dorothy’s family. One less responsibility for me!

“So I started something in 1974 that changed Mom’s life and mine, and helped me with my genealogy. It also meant that I searched for adoptees, starting in the 1990s, and am glad I got my DNA tested. And it meant that family pictures from a ‘line’ that legally died off were given to genetic descendants in 2017.

“In case you’re wondering, I placed a small public family tree in Ancestry, focused on Dorothy. I would not be surprised if perhaps one more adoptee popped up someplace. And, like the Boy Scouts, I believe in being prepared.”

The lowfalutin pleasures
Or: Gee, our old La Salle might still run great!

Bloomington Bird Lady: “Have you ever had a pen pal? Sounds quaint these days. Texting and computer messages have taken the place of actually writing a letter,
stamping and mailing it.

“Take heart: There are some elementary-school teachers who hate to see their pupils unable to even start writing a personal letter, and those kids have never seen their parents write one, either.

“Ten years ago, one third-grade class had a teacher who was determined that her class would learn to at least be able to write a thank-you letter to their grandma! She asked for help from our church, thinking that if her class would write letters to some adults who would actually answer, their interest would grow, and a ‘dying art’ would come back to life. One Sunday, there was a notice in our Sunday Bulletin that our church would be pen pals with a third-grade class if enough people volunteered. Since I love to write, I signed up.

“Some weeks went by, and then — voila! — the volunteers were each given a name to write to, and Westwood School’s pen-pal project had started. After the original
letters had been carried to the class and distributed by the teacher, we waited to see what would happen. As soon as the children had tried their hands at writing, they answered — their letters carried back to the church for us to eagerly see who our pen pal would be.

“I remember being excited at getting a letter from a totally unknown youngster. What would it be like? Well, I think the teacher might have helped a bit, but most of us got some pretty good letters — not long, not beautifully written, but a really good start in what would become a project that would continue, and this was my 10th year at being a pen pal. Third grade turned out to be a little too young, so now it has become a fourth-grade class, and the children are still excited about writing, excited about receiving a letter, and learning what to say to someone they don’t even know yet.

“We ended our school year with the annual Pen Pal Tea, where the volunteers and kids meet for the first time: such chatter as we all got to know each other . . . everyone talking at once, and then settling down to play some word games and learn more about our Pen Pal. I have had 10 unique kids in those 10 years — some too shy to say much at first; one who was so quiet until the end of the ‘tea’ and then finally told me: ‘My daddy is in jail.’ What do you say when you hear that? You come to love these kids, but that first meeting is usually the last one, too. I can only hope that a seed has been planted, and some of the ‘old-fashioned’ things that are pooh-poohed at times can catch on and be popular again. We now have the school’s principal coming to the final party, and our pastors have been pen pals, so they are there, too. Showing interest like that can do a lot to keep a good thing going.”

His world (and welcome to it!) (responsorial)

Mrs. J of Mounds View: “Here’s a recommendation for Tim Torkildson:

“A stealthier way of checking on the fillings in chocolates is to discreetly poke a thumbnail into the bottom of the candy — just enough to check on the contents. Much sneakier than his surreptitious bite. Unlike Mr. Torkildson, who enjoys coconut, I wanted to avoid it like the plague. Pretty much any other flavor was fine — and contrary to Mr. T’s preferences, maple was always enjoyed by me.”

His world (and welcome to it!)

Tim Torkildson: “I, Timmy, having been born of goofy parents, do hereby continue my personal saga and reminiscences.

“But before I get started, I want to share an illumination that came to me just this morning, after I’d gone to the Provo Rec Center for a swim and hot-tub soak, and then proceeded over to Smith’s for a bagel with cream cheese. As I sat at a table by their produce section, I watched a man in a black apron pick up each onion, one by one, and vacuum them off. This struck me as so absurd that I nearly strained a cheek muscle from grinning. I can just imagine his homecoming tonight . . .

“‘I’m home, honey!’

“‘How was work, sweetheart? What did they have you do today?’

“‘Oh, not much — just vacuum the onions, like always.’

“In a world where a man gets paid to vacuum onions in a supermarket, why bother to take things too seriously? That’s all I’m saying.

My previous entry about Elder Lang and the stolen fish inevitably reminds me of my very first missionary companion in Thailand: Elder Bart Seliger. We hit it off from the start. He was a genius with the Thai language, and I was a dunce. He slept in, sometimes until 7 a.m., and I was always up by 5, before the cleft of dawn, trying to read the Book of Mormon in Thai. ‘Round about 6 my eyes would cross, my head would droop, and I’d snooze in a pool of my own drool until Elder Seliger gave me a hearty slap on the shoulder blades, asking ‘Well, Elder Torkildson, are you ready to go get ’em?’

“Elder Seliger’s teaching and leadership methods were simple and direct. Whenever we got into a house, he would introduce us and then have me tell the Joseph Smith story. Didn’t matter that I could not yet put more than two or three Thai words together at a time; he never interrupted or corrected. In fact, sometimes he dozed off as I sweat blood to finish my narrative. I have to add that our Thai hosts never grew bored or fractious with my mangling of their native tongue. They sat and smiled and nodded, not understanding a word that I said.

“Thailand has always been cursed with packs of feral dogs that roam the humid sois and patrol the weedy banks of klongs, just waiting for a farang to show up so they can snarl and hurl themselves at him. The Thais, being Buddhist, cannot bring themselves to gather up strays and put them down, so the mutts grow in numbers and impudence until the local village council calls in a Muslim butcher to eradicate the most egregious canines. After my first encounter with these slavering beasts, I took a stout bamboo walking stick with me whenever I went out with Elder Seliger. He, on the other hand, had a more subtle and effective approach. He had a small plastic squirt gun which he filled with ammonia. Any dog that even looked at him the wrong way got a spritz in the snout and ran away howling in agony. After a while, all the dogs in the neighborhood recognized his lanky, sharp-nosed appearance, and gave us both a wide berth.

“Unlike Elder Lang, Elder Seliger never got trunky. But he did find ways to work smarter instead of harder. He liked to business-tract — not in the local stores that sold fish sauce, rattan furniture, and pickled skunk cabbage. No, his idea of business-tracting was to go into the busiest and most modern business section he could find, full of banks and skyscrapers, and then barge into the offices of every executive on each floor, give the secretaries the brushoff, and see the head man to give him a pamphlet about Family Home Evening and ask if we could come to his home to show him how to conduct this inspired program for the benefit of his family. And he did it all in English, which impressed the heck out of most executives, who had a smattering of English or had actually lived in Great Britain or the United States. The first few times I did this with him, I was paralyzed with fear — but when I realized that nobody ever called the cops on us, I got into the swing of things with Elder Seliger, and we would split up on each floor to tackle the bigwigs two at a time.

“Getting past the secretaries, who always had a great opinion of their own self-importance, was not too difficult — if you didn’t mind a little play-acting and bluffing.

“‘What do you want?’ a secretary would ask me waspishly, eyeing my white shirt and name tag suspiciously.

“‘I have a very important message for your boss. One that I must deliver to him immediately.’

“‘Do you have an appointment with him?’

“At this point I slowly slipped on my sunglasses and straightened my tie, then looked around the room carefully before replying in a soft, confidential whisper: ‘No. But he’ll be very happy to see me . . . if you know what I mean.’

“I could see the secretary’s face change as she worked it out: A young Caucasian male; white shirt; thin black tie; sunglasses, arrogant manner — Buddha save us, it’s the CIA!

“‘Please, sir, go right in! May I give him your name, please?’

“‘Don’t worry,’ I replied as I headed for the frosted glass door while pointing at my black plastic name tag, ‘he’ll know it very soon.’

“This was in 1975, remember, during the Vietnam War, which was practically next door to Thailand, and the country was lousy with various intelligence operatives.

“This was a great way to proselyte. We were inside, out of the tropical sun, in an air-conditioned building, with no stray dogs snapping at our heels. And the bosses were always extremely polite, although they never could understand why their secretaries ever let us in. And we never spent more than 10 minutes with ’em.

“‘These nacho grandes have the attention span of a 2-year-old,’ Elder Seliger told me, with his slight Texas twang. ‘We just get in, leave a brief message and a pamphlet and see if they want us to come on over to teach ’em.’

“Polite they might be, but they never agreed to have us in their homes. Elder Seliger told me this was because most of ’em didn’t live with their first wife anymore — but had a mistress, a ‘small wife,’ squirreled away in some cozy little apartment down by the river.

“Whenever business-tracting began to pall, Elder Seliger would switch us over to government-tracting. This was even more bizarre.

“Our section of the city had several huge government compounds where clerks and other minor functionaries toiled away in huge, un-air-conditioned halls, each at a modest teakwood desk, with a blotter, an adding machine (the kind you cranked to get an answer) and IN and OUT baskets awash with papers. These ballrooms for pen pushers and clock watchers were guarded by grim-visaged soldiers; Elder Seliger simply put on his sunglasses and waved an old University of Texas at Austin library card in front of their faces, and we were admitted without question. We tried to time our visits either early in the morning or after 3 in the afternoon, because every blessed one of these government clerks would clear off their desk promptly at noon, crawl on top, and go to sleep until 3.

“Elder Seliger decided that government pencil pushers would not appreciate the Family Home Evening approach, so he had me recite the Joseph Smith story at each desk — whether the clerk was busy or not. As I got better with the language, I was able to make the story not only understandable, but exciting. When my monologue was judged fluent enough, Elder Seliger simply placed me in the middle of the clerks’ huge room and told me to let ‘er rip. I’d begin the story of Joseph Smith, the angel Moroni, and the gold plates, in a loud voice, and soon I’d have a crowd around me, whispering to each other that the farang with the big nose was telling a ghost story. Don’t ask me where their supervisors and managers were; they didn’t seem to have any.

“I was sorry to lose Elder Seliger as my companion after just two months. But companionships, at least in our mission, never stayed the same for long. President Morris did not like companionships to get too cozy; he wanted us to stay alert and to keep an eye on each other. There were too many cute young Thai girls joining the Church at that time, whose sole purpose was to bamboozle an American Elder into making a slip and then having to marry them and bring them back to America. Elder Seliger had to come to my rescue several times, when a cute young Thai would set her cap for me and follow us around with a spoony look in her eyes. He would tell these fetching Thai sirens that I already had a girlfriend back home with the circus: the bearded lady — because I liked ’em rough and hairy. That always did the trick . . . .”

Band Name of the Day: The Resident Canines — or: Vacuum the Onions

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