“Thou hast an important work to accomplish upon the earth. The duties will be made known from time to time in answer to prayer.” — From my patriarchal blessing… —
I was born in June of 1959, in the old St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. I am the second son and third child of four children in my family. Less than a year later, my younger brother came along to join myself and my older brother and sister. I was raised in what was then a small rural town of Centerville, which is just north of Salt Lake City. My parents had been married civilly and were later married in the Salt Lake Temple while my mom was pregnant with me.
When I was born, the muscles in my eyes were too long and so I had little control over them, which affected my ability to walk. When my younger brother came along, my poor mom had to lug around a newborn and a one year old practically everywhere she went. When I was one year old, a skilled eye surgeon was able to operate on my eyes and shorten the muscles so that my eyes could function properly. Thanks to him, I could see properly and instantly was able to walk and run as any normal kid could. I was the youngest person he had ever operated on. Later, I developed a sty on my eye and after several kinds of medications were unsuccessful, I had to have another surgery to have it removed. The sty was so bad that the doctor told my mom that if we had waited another day, the sty would have broke and the poisons coming out would have made me permanently blind in the one eye and possibly the other. So, I feel lucky that I can see. When I was an infant, I almost died when for some reason my throat got blocked with a bunch mucus stuff. My mom called the doctor in a panic and the doctor came and put me under warm water and let the steam clear it out. Sometimes I wonder if that is why I do everything so deliberately and slowly, maybe that temporary lack of oxygen messed up my brain and its ability to cause me to think and do things quickly. I don’t know, but even today, my students can take off and put on their shoes faster than I can.
Our house was located next to church welfare farm. To the east of us was a peach orchard and further east of that was a dairy farm. The welfare farm was huge and even stretched around the back of us and then all the way down to Main Street. In the wintertime, the road from the dairy farm to Main St. would ice over and created an awesome, yet safe place for sleigh riding. Every kid in our neighborhood had a sleigh. About halfway down, there was curve in the road and the fathers would build a fire there and sit around and talk. If any kid got cold, they could warm up there under the watchful eyes of the neighborhood dads. We had so much fun there. It was great! Later, as new homes were built up around the farm, the new neighbors started complaining about the smell and the church eventually sold the property to a developer who turned our winter sleigh palace into a maze of subdivisions and roads. I was so sad when that happened.
To the west of our property was an old lady by the name of Mrs. Smith. She was always a talker and loved to tell her stories about her ancestors crossing the plains with Brigham Young. We had a party telephone line with her, which she monopolized frequently. We were all so happy when we got a single line. In Ida Smith’s story, she wrote about seeing some Smith’s in Centerville. I wonder if she saw my neighbor. Unfortunately, I never got to meet her to find out. Mrs. Smith owned a field next to our house. The neighborhood kids turned it into a kickball/softball field. Many games were played there. Near our property line, with Mrs. Smith was a sycamore tree, which was a perfect climbing tree for us and provided shade for us to play with our toy cars. Many days were filled playing there.
When I was three, I got the measles and lost all of my hearing in my right ear. The doctors were amazed it didn’t take the hearing out of both ears. Although it might seem like a negative thing, I view it as another lucky thing. If I turn over and sleep on my good ear, I can sleep through anything, as evidenced by my sleeping though a two horses fighting right over me once at a boy scout camp. This has also come in handy when I am trying to sleep in a sleeping room in a Korean spa with a room full of snoring men.
One of my earliest experiences I remember is the summer before I started kindergarten sitting on our front porch with my mom as she taught me the alphabet and how to write my name, my phone number, and the names of my parents. I remember my mom whispering things like “I love you” and “Can you hear me?” in my right ear, hoping by some miracle, my hearing would return. The miracle never came. Saturday mornings were spent watching “Scooby Doo”, The Flintstones, Tom and Jerry, Tweety and Sylvester, the Roadrunner and Casper the Friendly Ghost. I loved watching them.
My favorite memories from my early years: Watching cartoons, playing with the plastic dinosaurs at my grandmas, the neighborhood sleigh rides, playing with my toy cars, and eating grandma’s bread.
NEXT: *** My school years ***
*** My School Years ***
When I turned five years old, I was enrolled in kindergarten. Kindergarten was held in an old LDS church building located in the center of town. Our teacher had tried for years to get kindergarten started in my town. She first taught in her home, and then received permission from the church and the local elementary school to hold classes in the church. I remember the awesome animal cookies with the tastiest frosting on them that we got for snacks. Sadly, that company quit making them. I really miss those cookies with that particular kind of frosting. I remember getting yelled at by my teacher during recess because I ran off from the others and decided to run completely around the church building. Later, the elementary school found some room for us at the school. We had kindergarten on the school stage. The stage was separated by a thick burgundy curtain. I still refer to that time when talking about that time as the “days of the burgundy curtain.” Eventually, my teacher got what she wanted, regular classroom in the school. I remember sitting on a brightly colored rug and hearing our teacher ask us questions after she finished the story. I always knew the answer, but she never called on me. So, one day, I got fed up and after being ignored after several attempts to answer by raising my hand, I got up and headed for the door to get my coat. I was going home! My teacher noticed and asked me where I was going and why. I told her I was going home because she never allowed me to answer her questions. After she promised to let me answer her questions, I returned. She later told my mom that she realized that she was always calling on the same kids all the time and that I had taught her an important lesson.
Third grade was an interesting year. Because I was basically near-sighted from birth, I had difficulty seeing the board at school, but I was creative and managed. One night, I attended our stake’s road shows and told my mom that I couldn’t see things very well then. Soon I had glasses. I will never forget the moment I put on my glasses and saw things clearly for the very first time. I was astounded at the things I had missed out on. School work became much easier and more enjoyable. I became friends with a handicapped girl by the name of Charlotte at that time and would defend and protect her from the school bullies. To this very day, she is the only girl I ever felt like I wanted to be sealed to. Later she died and I thought about approaching her parents and the church for permission to marry her, but I never did.
My fourth grade teacher hated me because I was always talking and never shut up or paid attention. She even declared war on me, lol. But I learned about Utah history from her. My fifth grade my teacher’s name was Mr. Tanner. I found out somehow that he was a relative of N. Eldon Tanner. When President McKay died, we got to watch his funeral on TV during class. My how times have changed! You couldn’t do that now! Mr. Tanner had a bad habit of going over his time limit and would cut into our recess time. One day, we had a protest and refused to come back to class until our full recess time was fulfilled. He was pissed. I had to stay after school that day. Even then I was such a rebel. Lol. That year, I got third place in our school spelling bee. The word “chocolate” knocked me out of the championship round.
Because of the lack of space at my elementary school, I was bussed across town to another elementary school for sixth grade. I became very aware that my parents knew my teacher very well as he was the brother to one of my neighbors. Typical small world in a small town stuff. So, I had to be a really good boy. I remember there was a guy who would try to fight me, but I would always walk away. Here is where I first became friends with a guy who was not LDS. He was a cool guy who helped me see things from a different point of view.
Every year before school started, my mom would take me to the eye doctor to get my eyes tested. Each time, I had to get a stronger prescription. One day, a thought entered my mind that by the time I got to be an adult, I would be blind. So, I decided that if I was going to be blind, I wasn’t going to be stupid. From that day on I read every book I could get my hands on. I watched educational shows like the Wonderful World of Disney and Jacques Cousteau. Sometimes this was very frustrating to my parents because say, instead of mowing the lawn, I would be found reading a book.
During this time, my parents wanted me to experience sports. They enrolled me in a little league baseball team. Because of my eyes not working together, I struck out every time. I just couldn’t see the ball coming when it was going so fast. My coach put me out in right field, where I could do the least amount of damage. I never caught a fly ball. In short, I sucked and begged my parents not to ever enroll me in baseball again. I was so humiliated. They didn’t. My older brother was an all star, I wasn’t. I did, however enjoy playing softball (the ball is bigger and thrown slower.), volleyball and basketball.
My dad made his living by being a welder. He worked for an oil refinery in Woods Cross. He provided a comfortable living for his family. He worked there for years and years. He was also a certified diesel mechanic. I my dad had a reputation of being able to fix anything. He built a camper. Then our summer weekends were spent camping, fishing and hiking. I had so much fun spending time with my family. One time, I got lost in Yellowstone. But I was smart enough to sign a ledger on the trail that the Park Service had for visitors. This helped my dad and brothers know what direction I was headed. Somehow, I did things right and wound up back at the camper. I caught my first fish at Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone. My dad helped me reel it in after he outran a moose. That story is now legend in our family. Being in the campgrounds during my travels with my family allowed me to interact with kids from other places and furthered my curiosity about the world at large that I had only been reading about in school. This became important as I continued to mature.
My favorite memories of my school years: Little Debbie cookies, Yellowstone, Cub Scouts, fishing, and riding my bike with my friends.
NEXT: *** My teenage years and learning about sex ***