2012/06/09 S – Two Men Talking

Late last night, a tune hit, and I tried writing lyrics… first about an idealised Myeong-Seon situation, and second about a fictionalised Claire Calvert (Brown…  Sheesh.  I’m trying.  Claire Brown.  It sounds like a frying pan smacking a guy’s head… nothing like that fairy dust of her original name.  But, whatever; I’m sure he’s a wonderful person.).

The first didn’t get too far; the second lost its tune and ended up a simple rhyming verse, which I finished up today.  Surprisingly, it’s called, “Claire”.  It suffers factually, but I think it tells my story in some stupid sense.  My father rhymed hitherto, and I rhyme.  Of course, these things flow better when read aloud.

Claire

Her name was Claire, a girl so fair,
with ribbons waving in her hair,
she sparkled as I saw her there,
her pretty smile beyond compare.
She caught my stare but didn’t care;
she had somewhere, someplace to go
as I still struggled with ‘hello’,
and dumbly mumbled ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
I fell in love but didn’t show;
I’d known that she was blind to me,
with cuter boys to find than me;
but she grew more divine to me…
although it wasn’t meant to be.

Her name was Claire; it wasn’t fair;
I don’t know if she was aware
she had my heart to break and tear
and curse me with despair; or keep
and hold, and share, and make me leap
into the air, or make me weep
each time she wasn’t there; but no,
I think she never did suppose.

I never quite knew how to hint–
her summer left me in a winter;
every time she’d go, I’d find
my heart would start to snow, my mind
would wander to and fro, without
another place to go, and not
a dearer name or face to hold
in time and space, in constant thought.
I grew distraught; I sort of thought
she was my owner, like she’d bought me,
brought me to a little box
and locked me up without a thought,
and naught to keep me from the cold —
except her smile.  I often stole
a look a while; it warmed my soul
with such a lovely silver glow;
to show me to a happy home
inside my heart I’d never known;
to throw me to my knees each night,
to always squeeze my hands so tight,
to ‘pretty please’, and pray so hard
(though always from away so far),
I’d hear her say my name one day,
if only once again — I prayed.

Her name was Claire; it’s safe to say
her mother had a certain way,
a cautious glare when I was there,
a doubtful gaze that made me scared,
a chilling glance that froze my veins
and made me want to run away;
or maybe it just seemed that way;
it could be I was just afraid
she wouldn’t like me if I stayed;
but either way, even today —
she looks at me, I look away.

Her name was Claire; she was prepared;
still had somewhere, someplace to go;
she left for college, met her beau
(I wasn’t there yet, wouldn’t know;
my grades were always much too low);
but it was sadly so; they married,
fell so deep in love, he carried
her across the door.  I’m sure
they’re laughing, rolling on the floor
with three or four, or maybe more
sweet little bundles to adore,
to make them glad, to come with tears
each time they’re sad; to hold them near
and call them ‘Dad’ and ‘Mom’, to dearly
love them so, and very clearly
let them know.

But still, I think it may be so
that as they grow, they’ll start to greet
new people, faces on the street,
and meet that special someone sweet,
and find it hard to be apart,
and start (like me) to share their heart,
but find it’s not their part, no matter
how they hope, or try to flatter,
how their teardrops pitter-patter,
and their wishes fall to tatters;
they may never know the sadder
story, how they weren’t the first;
another cried before their births,
and had to smother all his love
toward their mother — in their blood
were always other broken dreams
of happy things; but now it seems
much better than it would’ve been;
and if they knew, they’d surely try
to dry their eyes and stop their cries;
and come to realise, by and by,
that love is sometimes not as wise
as tiny little hearts surmise…

Well, I don’t mean to put down her good mom.  It was just an embellishment of my impression.  And… I really don’t know if they met in college.  And I don’t remember any ribbons.  And she never really ‘owned’ me; we weren’t so close.  I was trying to convey my possession by my own infatuation.

So, last Sunday, they asked for volunteers to go clean up a stake camp site, ‘Beaver Ridge‘ (also [1], [2]).  Todd Calvert said he would go… so, just like the olden days, I thought I would tag along too, to lean again toward that precious family that I once so fervently cherished (it being her family).  But by the time I found the sign-up guy, Steve Erickson, he said that they didn’t need any more help, but that he would add me to the e-mail list for future things…

It sunk me a little, after that refreshing day; I thought that I should have just volunteered at the start.  I took another dose of reality: “She’s married anyway, Steve.  That’s all this is about — and it was never anything to you from the beginning but idle thoughts, instead of an actual effort to board that ship that you couldn’t afford, and that has long since left the harbour.”  Nevertheless, a tiny voice sprang up a day or two later and told me to be ready to go up and clean that place, since things might change.  Sure enough, Steve Erickson sent an e-mail a couple days ago asking again for help, and I quickly responded.

I tried to sleep early on Thursday night, but failed.  I tried even harder on Friday night, and succeeded to some extent — but the verses kept me up, and I also decided on a quick hair-cut that night.  No matter; I woke at 4, and again at 6:30, and then again and again before my 7:00 alarm, finally quitting sleep at 6:50.  I got to the church, our meeting place, shortly before 7:30, our planned time.

The place was empty.  One other guy was there, driving back and forth on the road; I’ve forgotten his name already.  2nd ward, anyway.  Soon, others began to arrive from various wards… but we didn’t leave till nearly 8:00.

Richard Luce came, then Todd, then Jeremy Clegg (a youngish FBI guy, working with Spanish), then a guy named Mark Hyde, and then Steve Erickson.  Richard, a construction man, said he had room for five in his truck.  There were six of us connected with the 9th ward.  Not wanting to push my luck, I stayed near the other wards and said I’d find another ride… but luck pushed instead; Steve decided to take his own car with Jeremy, so up we four went together.

Mark was 39, an emergency room doctor, planning to leave soon with his young family to work in Abu Dhabi for a couple of years; he’d previously worked at our St. Mark’s, and more recently had been flying out for shifts in Elko and Nebraska.  We sat together in the back, but we only had a couple minutes to talk before Richard, with his booming voice, overrode the conversation in the vehicle, resuming the role on the drive back down later.

Richard, perhaps in his fifties, was a man’s man, a basically rural conservative, a real straight-talker and sound thinker, simple pragmatism his forte’.  He liked hunting and enjoyed the out-of-doors; his hope was self-reliance.  A blond, moustached fellow on the slightly sturdy side who used to play football, he now coached kids.  As the owner of his modest-sized company, he wasn’t thrilled with the economy or with dole recipients; he knew the educational value of the bleak fairness of the natural world.  His background lent him a great sympathy toward those disincluded from LDS society.  He was a fine, modest, respectable, and sincere man whose intelligence and deep spirituality seeped slowly but surely into the open.

Todd is Todd; he’s good with people.  Blue eyes twinkling from too much smiling in his life, and with his usual optimistic seriousness and fine, respectful tenor diction, he kept right up with Richard the whole time, fairly knowledgeably engaging all the topics that were raised, sometimes bringing in us two from the back seat, while overflowing with personal stories the whole time, which completely quenched my thirst to reacquaint myself with his dear, beautiful family.  More on the ride down than up, but both ways, really, he betrayed a chronic childlikeness as he occasionally interjected strange but relevant jokes at interesting moments, keeping the atmosphere quite positive at all times.

This is on top of the fact that he essentially has Claire’s perfect face, most of it, but in guy form.  It used to make me sad to see him, because there she was, and I still had no chance… but he was always quite a bit friendlier to me, anyway; and no matter who bears it, it’s a very pleasant and disarming smile.  Who knows; maybe they all think she takes after her mom or something.

Up we rode past Park City to Kimball Junction, then left toward Bitner Ranch, then up a dirt road to the campground.  I’d borrowed a pair of Dave’s gloves.  We got immediately to work sawing up and clearing dead aspens; several other stakes were scattered around.  I remember having come up there before for the same work, a decade ago…

This time I worked infinitely harder, trying to make a good impression, or whatever.  I knew it would have no such effect as I imagined, but all the same, it was motivation to be harnessed.  We were on the west slope of the (south)east property.  I probably took in about six or seven trees all told, sharing some others.  They weren’t that big, but what finally wore me out was dragging in the whole ones that had been felled but not sawed up, as the initial exuberance of the fellers took them quickly to other areas.  Still, I trucked ahead.  Just short of two hours in, the stake finally called it a job after making some nice log stacks.  I and Todd rejoined the other 9th-warders who’d been sequestered down the road at another spot and finished most of that site, then threw in our towels and drove back down to meet the estimated noon deadline.

It was lovely country, a strenuous task, and a splendid ride.  I was smiling for most of the morning.

Let’s see; what did he say…

He brought up a ward triathlon he was helping to plan, discussing the route with Mark.  At one point, he asked if I ran, but the question got joked off somehow; I guess I was a bit nervous still, since we’ve never yet had a real talk that I can remember.  In point of fact, I have recently started running again; my issue would rather have been with the swimming.

He mentioned his liberal dad, some kind of nightclub worker in his younger years, who woke up one day and turned conservative.  He said he’d reminded his dad, who was exasperated with his still-liberal son (Todd’s brother) that he (the dad) had also once tested the patience of his own father (Todd’s grandfather).  He spoke of his sister’s husband in California who’d suffered business losses and despondency before being renewed by the Glen Beck rally in D.C. (I happened to oversee that rally at BYU, in fact, and was extremely impressed, though I found fault with Beck on certain positions of his during the primaries).  After the event, Todd’s brother-in-law suddenly entered politics, running for either senator or state senator (apparently his father-in-law became his campaign manager, or something).  He was a passionate candidate and had a nice run, but it was the wrong party for his area, and with many other competitors, he had no chance.  That brother-in-law had also visited here and been introduced to the Church.

Todd talked about how he never wanted to hunt after having shot a bird with a BB gun as a lad.  Before I could reflect on the coincidence with myself, Richard tossed in that he’d done the very same thing (but that he must’ve gotten over it by now).  Both men in their childhoods had also had acquaintances shoot other acquaintances with guns, each incident costing a life.  But pacifistic Todd said that after so many years, he was finally getting a hankering to have a gun in his house and go hunting with his peers.  His relatives had hunted, he said, just not his father.  (Did I hunt? he later asked me.  Not since I was a kid, I told him… and on sailed the topic.  Ho-hum.)

What else…

He’d been in the bishopric for five years now, I think, and was due out this August.  He joked about Richard getting called to the bishopric.  He’d never imagined when younger that he’d become a Church member.

He wanted to go back and be a teacher; it seems he’d taught something at East High School before.  Something about the Vikings, a team up north, and their funny accent (at which Todd burst into a fairly thick Minnesota accent for about a minute).  The first word of his boy Josh (born in… Michigan, I think now) was “boot” (meaning “boat”, in the dialect).  He tossed a ball around with Josh every day now to make sure he spent time with him.

He and Janet had recently seen a movie, ‘Salmon Fishing in Yemen’ (based on a book, I found out at the library), at the dollar theatre.  He found the movie very interesting; Janet had instead suggested watching “Mirror, Mirror”.  Movie popcorn butter quickly made him sick, especially with water.

He’d digged out the “tramp(oline) pit” in their yard by borrowing a backhoe from a local guy, after some days of futile digging by hand with Brian; Janet later insisted on having a turn at the machine.  They almost fell in in the rain.

Oh, yeah…  A work friend of his had once been threatened by a grizzly bear in Alaska three times, but he cowered and backed off and wasn’t attacked.  Another friend had gotten an 850-pound bull elk somewhere.

And… right as we got out of the car at the camp (after having earlier considered falling interest rates and properties), he was telling about his boy Mike and his wife recently buying a house (short-sell) in Las Vegas (?) but selling it again… or something.  The details were fuzzy.  So, he mentioned his wife and all of his fine sons, but neither of the sweet daughters.

That was mostly it.

Anyway, I felt totally invigorated and fully re-Calvertized, just like the dearest and familiarest times of yesteryear… and I realised that, though it started with brilliant, blessed, cute, and now-married Claire, my attachments also came to envelope her entire family.  As a boy with sufficient good and bad examples around me, I saw Todd and his excellent brood as a window into my own happy potential.

And today, I saw it again.  We all got back to the church and shook hands, and I floated down the sidewalk home.  What a nice day.

Yes, I still miss the sight and thought of old Claire if I think of her, who unwittingly and unintentionally accompanied my youthful walk like a lamp.  Wherever and however she is, I wish her well in all things.  But… what a great family she had, too.  I’m a fan; I always have been.

Just now, I had a very serious and searching talk with Myeong-Seon.  I tried to compel myself to give her fair consideration… though I have not yet felt a clear imperative to unite with her…

I’d just talked about her with my mother, who prefers her.  In fact, even Todd had also inquired about her on the way back; I guess he’d spotted us at church one day, or else in the neighbourhood.  That’s what happens when you never hang out with any girls, ever; people notice when you finally do.

I do love her, as much as I can.  I’m a fan of her, too.  I wouldn’t abandon her, or ever turn cold.

I thought back about how false and meaningless my love has been, ever since the disaster of childhood loss — how I set so much hope and value on what in the end was a fantasy, with nothing more to it than bitter-sweet yearnings and silly rhymes.  Myeong-Seon was very understanding of my sadness and perplexities…

I would be glad to be a Claire to her — or an anti-Claire, who accepted her instead of vanishing away.  I just can’t see it yet…

We’ll pray, as we have always done.  I think she saw my weakness today, and realised again for an instant what I also have been forced to admit about dear and charming Claire, my prototype of love:

…That I’m only human, beneath the fantasy of the beholder.

It’s now 36 past midnight.

-Steve

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