Jack & Lucky Chapter 4

Jack & Lucky Chapter 4

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Jack worked on construction during the summer after his Sophomore year at the BYU. He was staying with his brother, Jake, in Portland, Oregon, when he received his Call to be a missionary. He was to report to the mission home in Salt Lake City only one month after being notified.

I was working out of town and received the news second or third hand. My brother told me after he had heard by phone from my mother who had read the Call. I felt a strong sense of joy and happiness. I shortly became very anxious to be there. Much had to be done, but I was anxious to do it.

Why would a young man (or woman) leave family and friends, live on a pittance and sacrifice social as well as physical comfort to preach The Gospel? Why go on a Mission? Jack struggled with this question, trying to test his own internal resolve. It is considered an honor to be a missionary, a higher calling but he was looking for a stronger, more personal justification.

The sincerity with which missionaries approach their work will naturally vary from person to person but they generally share the goal of helping other people. Missionaries are envoys to the world and thus represent the community that sponsors them. Each has a core group of supporters who share the same vision.

Not wishing to disappoint a father, mother and other friends, is a strong motivating factor. This love of community and family is a compelling force both to propel prospective young missionaries forward and to help them persevere during the mission. This is where the community component of religion demonstrates its power. Jack shared his initial enthusiasm with his own community, including Julie, to bring The Gospel to starving souls.

The explanation for serving is more complex than these two elements of service and community support. Jack finally decided to be a missionary for a combination of reasons, inextricably woven among the easy to say are the hard to see reasons. Some of these are so subtle they may only be clear after the fact.   Social, peer and family pressure influenced Jack in the usual way but this was not a pressure of coercion as much as a pressure of shared expectation and self-esteem. Male Members born into The Church are taught from the cradle to aspire to go on a mission. Many young boys begin saving their pennies at an early age to prepare for “their mission.” The best and the brightest are encouraged, expected, nudged, taught, tugged and brainwashed into going on a mission.

The use of the term “brainwashed” may seem harsh to some but does apply in this case. Children are indoctrinated in the benefits of serving their Church and family with the reward coming in the after life if not before. Going on a mission carries with it the prestige of success. To the young it is a lofty goal, to the adult it is a badge of moral virtue. Not going represents a disappointment, a doubt of conviction or of commitment. Missionary work is integral to the survival and growth of this religious community, thus it becomes the priority of the community carrying the highest honor.

Jack had discussed all this with Julie during the summer and she agreed he should accept his Call. She had promised to wait for him, which has become one of the ethnic traditions among young Mormon women. For a young college woman, waiting for a missionary is the moral equivalent of living in a cloister. It is much more than just going steady because of the added dimension of doing so by long distance. There is not only the expectation of a celibate life but there is also implied a social asceticism and mutual sacrifice. However, the probability of this relationship leading to the intended conclusion of marriage is slight, about the same chance as other juvenile going-steady relationships.

Julie Goodfield would follow Jack to The BYU after she went to a junior college her freshman year. She intended to be a teacher and they saw each other as often as possible. During the summer they easily rekindled the fires of romance that had burned brightly when they were together in high school.

Two days before Jack officially became a missionary he brought Julie to his favorite lake, Wattum Lake, as a special part of their farewell visit. The lake is approached from the north by a 13 mile steep climb from the Columbia Gorge. Fortunately, because of their tight schedule, it is also approachable from the south by a 1/2 mile descent.

“This is it! This is my favorite lake, my favorite place to be in the whole world!” Jack couldn’t restrain his boyish enthusiasm as they approached a parking lot near a heavily wooded area with picnic tables around.

“This is nice alright but I don’t see any lake,” Julie retorted with a mock sense of disappointment as the car came to a stop.

“Trust me, it’s here somewhere, at least it was the last time I was here. Actually I haven’t been here for a while. Actually I’ve only been here three times. But, it’s so beautiful and romantic I had to bring you here.” Jack patted her lap gently as he moved out of the car door. He walked around to her side to join her.

“You’re an incurable romantic, Jack.” She reached for a small backpack containing their lunch. “I just hope we don’t get lost out here in the woods somewhere. This food will only last us one day. Maybe less the way you eat sometimes.”

“Ugh. You really know how to hurt a guy.” Jack grimaced as he loaded the pack over his shoulders. “Now which way is it? I think we can just start walking down the hill any way we want to, because the lake is down there and we can’t miss it as long as we keep going down hill.” He gave a vague gesture, half wave, half pointing down the hill to the north.

The dense growth of Douglas Fir trees made a suitable parasol against the heat of the August sun. They weaved their way between the huge close trunks. There were no limbs below 30 feet high and the tops of the trees were hundreds of feet out of sight.

“That doesn’t sound very specific. Are you sure you know where you’re going?”

They stepped over fallen trees, through the thin underbrush and dodged the trees that surrounded the day use area; quickly leaving the car behind. They wended their way through the vine maple and huckleberry as they descended toward what was promised to be the most beautiful lake in the world.

“This is the kind of freedom I love. No trails, no problems just a stream of consciousness toward a certain and known goal and you pick your path as you go along.”

They held hands as Julie moved gingerly down the ever steeper incline. Jack was jumping and confident, Julie was watching where she put each footstep. She was less accustomed to and ill prepared for the ruggedness of the terrain. The soft mat of needles made a treacherous cushion that could sprain an ankle or trip an unsuspecting victim. After walking for a moment in silence Jack stopped short, turned and took Julie in his arms for a prolonged embrace. He was standing in front of her with his left foot down and the right foot up the hill. She moved easily between his outstretched arms and legs. There’s no comparable experience to the kiss of infatuation. It carries all the excitement of foreplay, even more because in their case they had all the pent up energy of mature lovers who didn’t have a sexual release. They could of course but they shared their oath of chastity and agreed not to over indulge.

So the tension mounted very fast and each inch of their bodies where they touched seemed overheated with the exchange of amorous tension. Static electricity can make a girl’s dress hang around her legs or paper cling to a comb; their bodies obeyed this universal law of nature. The ephemeral energy made the roots of Jack’s hair tingle and stand on the back of his neck. Every inch of Julie’s bare arms were receptive to the shock from Jack’s fingernails. Her hands quivered and her fingers jerked compulsively as he raked his hand gently up and down her arm.

“I couldn’t resist,” Jack quipped after a short gasp of breath.

“I’m glad you didn’t,” she sighed. “Are you sure it’s just a quarter of a mile to the lake. It seems like we’ve gone further than that and I still can’t see the lake.” Julie was only half teasing but still demonstrating enough confidence to follow.

“Relax, you’re in good hands. In more ways than one.” Jack laughed at his own joke as he returned to the descent.

Just after a few more yards they happened onto a path. “What’s this, a path?” Jack acted surprised.

“So there is a path after all,” Julie scolded with a smile.

“I knew there was a path here somewhere but I thought you’d enjoy the open country so I took a shortcut.” Jack led the way to their left following the well-worn foot path downhill.

“Sure you knew! Some shortcut. I still don’t see the lake!” The trees were so thick it was nearly impossible to see anything above the canopy or beyond in any direction. Julie began to sound a little more serious in her complaint.

“Ya know? When I was a Boy Scout we camped out here on the lake for a weekend. One of our projects was to help build one of these paths. I don’t think it was this one though. It was on the other end of the lake, the west end, where the water runs out through a marshy area.”

Jack’s reverie was interrupted by another dose of reality from Julie. She punched him on the back sternly. “When I see the lake, then I’ll believe everything you’ve been saying. Until then I am going to reserve judgement.”

About that time the path leveled but there was still no sign of a lake. “This is the life for me,” Julie mimicked Jack’s earlier lofty tone. “Following a safe and clear path to an uncertain destination, with confidence in my companion.”

They both interrupted the silence of the forest with laughter that made two nearby camp-robbers jump out of the brush. The alert bluebirds squawked the apparent threat with alarm to the surrounding fauna. The trees were beginning to thin out a little and the pure blue of the sky was visible in a few spots.

“See the sun against the far side of the lake.” Jack pointed to the cutover hill to the north and argued in a style worthy of the debater he had trained to be. It was about 1:00 PM and the other side of the lake was exposed to direct sunlight. “That’s the other side, so there has to be a lake in between, since we’re obviously on this side. Right?”

They rounded a right turn taking a switchback downhill again and the trees opened wider. Shortly they came to a clearing where the blue of the lake was barely visible, and Jack stopped again. He reached to her shoulder in the hopes of having another embrace.

She took his hand gently but firmly under control. “Not till we get to the lake, Brother Lincoln. It’s not so far now, you can wait. At least now I finally believe you.” Julie grinned an irresistible smile.

She put her fingers over his belt against his back and inside the top of his pants to steady her steps. Jack felt the pressure from her fingers as she jerked and pushed more than required to maintain her balance. A chill ran through his nerves up his back making the hair respond as before. They both enjoyed and felt safe with that much intimacy.

The subject of Love gets a little confusing when you’re at the age of involvement, on the inside looking out, trying to decipher your own feelings and strength of commitment. Lucky had been confused by this perplexing issue in his relationship with Alice. He had seen her several times after their first sexual encounter, each time his feelings were different. He couldn’t recapture that initial infatuation.  He struggled with the question of whether or not he was actually in love. He felt very relaxed when he was with Alice, not excited like their first experience and wondered why. Before he felt like he wanted to be with Alice forever, more recently he was just as eager to see his friends and have a good time.

When the time drew near, he began to regret having to leave for the Army. His life had gotten comfortable, although he could see it wasn’t very durable the way he was going. The Army was like a big black door, he had almost no idea what lay behind that door but it must be better. He was moving away from a bad situation that didn’t seem quite so bad anymore. Maybe it could be even better behind that black door?

Alice had given him a spark of hope.

Lucky had heard conflicting stories about love. Some people said when you fall in love you’ll know it and there won’t be any question in your mind. Jack had explained love in rather pragmatic terms, more like trying to fit different round pegs into different sized round holes. If you found one that fit, take it. Jack suggested that if you found a woman with a compatible personality and you were attracted to each other, that was as much as you could expect. Beyond that, it was just commitment and desire to be in love that counted. Later, you had to work at love no matter how strong your feelings are in the beginning. That didn’t seem much to look forward to.

Jack had given an analogy that left Lucky more confused than when they had started the conversation. He had also recorded this thought in his journal.

Think of an abstract plateau which has its foundation when two people first come into contact. They might meet by word of mouth or formal introduction. However they meet their feelings at that point are, or rather begin to be stimulated by such things as personal appearance, personality traits, mood or attitude at the time of first contact. The first impression starts the ball, so to speak, rolling up the side of the plateau.

At any time during the first part of the relationship the ball may be caused to remain in one position by no further relationships or digress by obvious differences into even an extreme state of malevolent feelings. However, the feelings may be nurtured by agreements and feelings in common, romance, infatuation, then the ball moves up the plateau until it reaches the top of the plateau where it can get no higher. The emotionality of the relationship will remain at the top of the plateau where it can get no higher, but will remain throughout life if circumstances will allow.

Now to elaborate on this permanent position. At the beginning of this position there can be hidden stumbling blocks awaiting those who proceed in their friendships. These are hidden differences that are not evident at the beginning, these however can be overcome by intelligent discussion and mutual understanding. Actually, I am saying that at the apex of the plateau side a couple could be wed because if they strive mutually they can overcome difficulties. This is where commitment begins to build and take over. This gives the plateau it’s third dimension of width.

But this analogy should not be restricted to this union but can engulf the union which two friends of the same or different sexes enjoy. A parent and child or brother and sister begin their relationship at the apex of the plateau or that point which should be called the beginning of a constant relationship. This constant relationship can be disturbed by some uprising of a before hidden or neglected characteristic. These uprisings can be overcome, but you have to want to stay in the relationship. Some characteristics may never be exposed, others may crop up quickly, but again time is relative and infinite, and a short time for one relationship, may be a very long time for others. The magnitude of the plateau from the base to the top, the duration of time involved and the width of the commitment describes the love relationship in more or less quantitative terms.

This is where Lucky got confused. How could you count and measure such an emotional response? It wasn’t like how much money you had. Where is all the mystery if love can be reduced to a mathematical formula? How is it that you could feel like you were in love one moment, then an hour later you felt no particular feelings, in fact you might be attracted to someone else?

How could a relationship between a brother and sister be compared to the love between a man and a woman? Especially since he was always on the outs with his sisters and his parents either neglected him or simply didn’t like him? How could love be like a ball moving along a plateau anyway? Lucky didn’t have good role models to which he could compare his new relationship with Alice.

Later Jack explained his love for Julie in his journal in somewhat different terms.

The time I spend with Julie means something special to me because I love her. My love is based–well let me explain it a different way.

I have decided after much thought and from considering the advice of many people that the best way to choose a mate is to be guided primarily by personality characteristics–these as the determining factor. Other things are to be considered, such as spirituality, character, maturity, appearance, style–much of which is intertwined with personality; common attitudes generally.

The necessity for a personality judgement is based on the fact that after marriage gradually the libidinal attraction begins to wear off. No longer is there the bond of physical attraction which existed in courting and early marriage. The thing which then stimulates love the most is the appropriate personality. In saying this I am taking for granted the spiritual bond which can be used to overcome probably any handicaps, but if most of the handicaps are done away with during courting, it becomes easier to establish a living relationship years after marriage has continued. Another characteristic I have ignored is that of intelligence. Most of the things I take for granted are common among all the girls I have dated. The only distinguishing characteristic is the personality. Then there is an aesthetic element involved most of which can’t be explained. A desire to be for the other person what they need–to give love and especially to receive it, both of which are needs of humans generally. A strong feeling of emotion, of care. Strong physical attraction controlled to societies dictates by love. I feel satisfied to give affection to please her. She does the same. I have been very close to girls before, but never have I with free conscience been able to say I was in Love–until now–now when I say I love Julie.

I am very used to having physical affection. It will be a trying experience to spend two and a half years without this, but I can discipline myself. I have the attitude that is necessary…

The Mormon ethnic group which includes thousands of conscientious young people like Julie and Jack, crosses most racial boundaries. It is a vigorous, thriving group with distinct rituals and observable customs. The elders encourage marriage from within their group because this confers the rite to receive special temple ceremonies and endowments onto both spouses. Thus marriage with outsiders is discouraged except when they become part of the group by baptism. Those who are born into The Church carry a certain ole-timer prestige in the community. This subtle advantage can be neutralized by anyone after the sacrifice of accomplishing a missionary service. This is a uniquely open ended ethnic group.

Lucky had distanced himself from the power of this ethnic group. He didn’t accept the values of the Mormon society nor did he feel any desire to marry within that culture. He never had a good example of what love between adults should be like and hearing Jack’s ideas wasn’t very helpful. Lucky was confused about Love having listened to Jack’s theoretical approach that at its best sounds like an analysis from the outside looking in. In its worst characterization, it sounds like a bunch of baloney.

Lucky was at least stimulated to ask the question and to think about the subject which had already begun to change his life.

“I love you Alice,” he had said. Lucky had used these words during a moment of passion. He had a vision in his mind of this beautiful girl, soft and comforting. Alice had been almost indifferent in her love-making and that shocked Lucky into realizing something was missing between them. What did she mean when she said: “Sure you are, for about two minutes.” She must know something about love that he didn’t.

Before saying goodbye to Alice, Lucky asked: “Do you think you will know you’re in love sometime? How will you know?”

“You can really be a pest. Who gave you all these ideas about being in love?”

“I talked to Jack about it once.”

“I’m in love with everybody for now. I think you are great, especially since you’re willing to serve your country.” That comment cooled Lucky a little more.

“I’m just going because I don’t have anything else to do and nowhere else to go. That doesn’t make me any kind of hero now does it?”

“Well, it ain’t bad for a start. Anyway, here’s a picture of me.” She took a high school wallet photo from her purse. “See, I signed it for you and all with a love note on the back. Put it in your locker and look at it every time you get lonely.”

“That’ll be every night, I imagine. I expect to be very busy and probably won’t see anything except guys for a long time.” Lucky hoped that wouldn’t prove to be true.

“This lake doesn’t have any beach like you’re used to. It’s got trees clear up to the shore, there are tables and campsites and we can find one that’s not being used.” That didn’t seem to be a problem either since they hadn’t seen anyone else, there had only been one other car at the parking area.

The path turned left again and they passed by a tent at the edge of a campsite. No one was there.

“They must be out for a day hike,” Jack explained. “It’s too bad we didn’t get here a month earlier the huckleberries would still be around to eat. I camped here for a whole week once and picked a whole bunch of huckleberries; me and my friend Bill Logan. We sold some but mostly we just ate them. My mother made some pies and some jam. There’s nothing better than wild, sweet, plump huckleberries.”

“Keep talking about food and you’re gonna make me hungry.” Julie jerked on Jack’s belt more aggressively. They passed several empty campsites until the lake was in clear view.

“This is a good place. Looks like the same place where I used to camp.”

Jack took off his pack and laid it on a table. “Come over here to the lake and soak your feet. Maybe we can find some crawdads or minnows”

“What’s a crawdad?”

“It’s a crayfish, like a little miniature lobster. I caught some once and cleaned their tails and fried them. I spent about three hours all together because they’re small. Then I burnt them in the frying pan. I ate them anyway. They didn’t have much taste by then. Not like a lobster certainly.”

“You always told me you were a good cook. What was the problem?”

“I’ve improved since then. Besides that was over an open fire. I wasn’t able to control the heat,” Jack complained.

By this time they were sitting on a log reaching over the edge of the lake. Jack searched the nearby shore looking for any sign of animal life. The best he could do was catch one orange and brown salamander. It looked like a helpless, prehistoric creature with no visible means of self-defense. Jack felt for a moment a sense of empathy for the vulnerability of this simple creature.

Half the lake was in the sun the color of bright turquoise, the other half in the shade on their side was dark green and clear. The bottom was visible beyond the 20′ depth. The lake was formed in a crater with steep walls of trees or brush on all sides. It was difficult to determine exactly where the lake drained into the western shore because there were hills surrounding that area as well, or so it seemed.

They took off their shoes and exposed a blister on Julie’s right foot. The water was soothing. The weather was clear without a cloud in the narrow sky above the lake. It was never too hot at this lake which was about 3500 ft. elevation above sea level.

After a moment of silence Julie took Jack’s chin in both of her hands and turned his head easily. She kissed him softly. “I’m really gonna miss you. You’ve become my dearest friend.” Small tears began to form on her lower eyelids.

Jack reached his hands around her waist and returned her kiss. They sat together in silence for some time. “I know that I have a love for you. Although sometimes I’m not sure what love really is. I want you to wait for me, but I can understand if it doesn’t work out that way. Two and one half years is a long time. I won’t ask you to marry me yet, because when I ask that, I want to know it can really happen.”

The emotions Julie struggled with were a conflict between being abandoned by the one she loved and the sense of reasonable sacrifice, standing aside for The Church. She couldn’t express the sense of abandonment, if she had she might have convinced him to stay. The idea of putting oneself behind the needs of the religion had been so well indoctrinated into her that the concept of self-sacrifice carried her mind, winning over her emotional struggle.

“I think I understand. I love you too. I love you more than anything or anyone I’ve ever known. It’s like I’m all tied in knots whenever we’re together.”

Even though they had not had sex, she bonded naturally to his strong, masculine but gentle spirit. It was only reasonable for her to feel abandoned. This peculiar emotion was nearly debilitating, worse in some ways than experiencing a death. The element of volition made it somehow more hurtful in a subtle way at the sub-conscious level.

Jack nodded. “Me too. This is the hardest part about leaving even though I’m so eager and excited.”

The huge disappointment was real, more for Julie, and the hurt that went with that was only repressed to later manifest in the form of a rational denial of the love she felt. She would never quite overcome this love. She would never quite forgive Jack nor herself for feeling badly; then for him leaving her, even though in her mind she understood.

“I’ll miss you desperately. We can write and share our lives,” she whispered.

There was a confusing ambivalence of love, hurt, self-sacrifice and natural human instinct being denied. The deep wrenching emotion left a scar, she was loosing Jack to another life, a life in which she had no part. There would always be a hollow echo of that emptiness in her being no amount of time or success in other relationships could obscure.

“You’ll be in my dreams each night. But it’s not the same as being together.” He couldn’t sense the entire impact the separation was having on her, although he felt the sympathy one animal feels for another that is terribly wounded.

On to Part 2
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