Wednesday, September 30, 2009

General Issue Elder

Elder White and I just didn’t get along. We didn’t have strong differences in opinion on how the work should be done, nor was one a slob. Neither of us was green and homesick. In fact it was my last transfer, and Elder White was out about a year.

In fact in many ways Elder White and myself were ‘perfect’ elders. We obeyed all the mission rules. We always left our apartment in Princeton, West Virginia at 9:30 on the dot. Each Saturday we had our weekly planning meeting, followed by companionship inventory, a thoroughly unnatural experience for young men where they sit and talk about the good, the bad and the ugly in their companionship. I don’t even do that in my relationships with girls, but a mission has a way of getting you to do things you wouldn’t normally do.

I believe it was in one of these companionship inventories when my frustration finally came to a boiling point. “Elder White,” I said, “what’s wrong here? We’re both good elders. We work hard. We’re obedient; we’re doing everything we’re supposed to do. Why don’t we get along? Why don’t we like each other?”

I want to make it clear, we didn’t have any animosity, or enmity, or competition between us. There was no contest to see who was the best elder; there just was no friendship, no joking, and no love.

Elder White said something along the lines that he was frustrated too. But nothing really came of it. I finished my mission strong in that West Virginia humidity.

I didn’t get why Elder White and I weren’t friends, on my mission, in fact I didn’t make many friends on the mission. I figured it out over the course of several years, culminating when one of my younger brothers left on his mission to England. I was torn on what advice to give him. I felt that working hard was a key to having a successful mission, and I wanted to encourage him in that regard. But it felt like there was a missing piece to the puzzle. Then the equation finally came together.
I was so focused on being the perfect elder, that I had spent the latter portion of my mission suppressing myself. I didn’t see a place for fun. When my companions wanted to talk about non-mission stuff, I would ignore them. I remember one of my greenies trying so hard to connect with me, but I just sat silent as he spoke of his hobbies from home. I lost my ability to connect with people. I was blank.

I told my younger brother to make sure he worked hard, but to not suppress his self. To love his companions, the investigators, and everyone he ran into. It was hard to tell him that, because of how I had programmed myself into denying self.

I think my advice helped my younger bro, but it helped me more. I finally realized why I had struggled to connect on my mission, and the importance of relationships.

Friday, September 25, 2009


(This is fiction)

I always wanted cancer. Yearned for it actually. Cancer seems so logical. So predictable. The process for dealing with cancer is straight forward. You go to the doctor; he tells you you’ve got cancer, tells you the odds for survival, then he recommends a treatment. You do the treatment, and you live or you die, win or lose. So orderly, it just makes sense. That is how I like my trials, Cause-effect.
Its not just the cancer patients that know how deal with cancer. The friends and associates usually know what to do. Friends and family feel grief. The close family members will spend weeks, months, or years at your side. You’ll be in the hospital, and Mother will come, brightening up the room with her cheery attitude. Of course she’ll also cry. You’ll see the pain in her eyes and feel the acid in her tears. She’ll weep over all your lost possibilities. Because as a mother, everything she’s done has been for you. Father, will probably be withdrawn at first, after all emotions are never easy for men, but he will come. You’ll make small talk, about the football season, or some new project, maybe even the latest episode of “Lost” or “24.” Brothers will come, bringing the bond forged over years of stupidity together. Sister will come, and probably behave a lot like mother. Women are masters at feeling others pain. Friends will come. They’ll do something to show their support, shave their heads, when you lose their hair, wear buttons on their backpack, hold fund raising dances--something. The community will rally around your family. This horrible tragedy will spur them to action, because when a tragedy strikes, we like to do something—to fix it--and with cancer, we know what to do.
Being messed up in the head is an entirely different matter. How do you deal with it? How do you even know if you have a problem? Sure when you start yelling, calling yourself,”Stupid” or “idiot” you know something is wrong, but you can stop that, right. It’s your brain and you can tell it what to do. But you can’t. You can’t focus on anything; you start hurting yourself. Your mind swirls with poisonous thoughts, seeping into your soul with deadly potency.
You slowly lose your joy. Parents tell you to “buck up.” Friends will valiantly try to take you to your old haunts. When their efforts to cheer you up bear no fruit, they’re frustrated. They slowly creep out of the friendship. Even those who stay by you, don’t know you.
Fear comes to your parents face. They don’t understand this monster. You go to different shrinks, each one with a different diagnosis. You try to accept it, but when you’re alone, the voices howl.
There is no easy way to deal with being messed up in the head. No predetermined way to deal with this tragedy. Because it is so foreign, people will withdraw. It will try to destroy you. You won’t know if you’ve beaten it until the end. How do you know if you won?
If something else kills you.
And that’s why I feel at peace, laying on this butcher paper. The Doctor just said those liberating words, “You have pancreatic cancer, less then a month to live.”
I close my eyes, put my head down, and smile.

(Second Note: Please don't take offense over the insensitivity to cancer payments. This is just an attempt to get into the mind of a mentally ill person.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Farm Boy

At five in the morning the farm was silent. Sure the farm was usually quiet; at least it had been for the two weeks of summer vacation that Sam had wasted here. But in the early hours of the morning it seemed that the air had settled, almost like setting Jell-O. Sound seemed to be swallowed up in the stillness of it. And that was probably a good thing. It hid Sam’s cussing, the words he’d learned back home in Washington, and the new ones he’d learned here in Idaho.
Sam’s aunt and uncle, on his mom’s side, lived on and farmed about 100 acres in the middle of the Snake River plain, in East Idaho. It was only supposed to be a two week trip. So he could get to know his cousin Kyle, and see where Mom had grown up. Uncle Dave had barely said two words two him until last Sunday. He came into Kyle’s room where Sam was listening to his iPod. He just stood there for what seemed like forever. Then he finally said, “Well, looks like you’re going to be here a while longer.” Sam didn’t get it, but before he could ask Uncle Dave left. Uncle Dave spent the rest of the afternoon moving the haystack ten feet to the north. Aunt Kathy brought him a slice of warm bread, smothered in butter and homemade strawberry jam. The best part about being here is the food he thought. But even that turned awkward when she just stared at him while he ate it. He’d called Mom and Dad almost non-stop the rest of the day, no answer either on the home phone or their cells.
Then, at some early morning hour Sam had never experienced before, he was torn out of bed by Kyle, saying, “Hey, Dad says you gotta help with the chores.” Kyle was ok, Sam didn’t have a ton in common with him, but they were both 14, both liked basketball, but Kyle loved hunting; Sam hadn’t killed anything, yet. Chores consisted of moving pipe, fixing pipe previously moved, feeding cows, getting crap on your 120 dollar True Religion jeans, tearing your jeans on the barbed wire fence while avoiding a mad rooster, getting laughed at by your cousin, and spitting, a lot, whenever some foreign substance got into your mouth.
“I’m going back to go to bed,” Sam said, as they stumbled back to the farmhouse, the sun barely cresting over the mountains.
“If you thought my mom could cook, wait til you’ve had her breakfast after doing some real work. It’ll be the best meal you ever tasted,” Kyle said as we climbed the back stairs, and took off our cow pie laden clothes.
Only Aunt Kathy wasn’t there, neither was Uncle Dave.
When they finally came back about noon, they took Sam out to the garage. Uncle Dave spoke first, “Look son, I don’t know any other way to tell you this, but your mom’s hurt bad.” Uncle Dave went on to explain that Sam’s parents had divorced, this didn’t surprise Sam. He’d seen it coming. Half his friends had divorced parents. After the divorce had been finalized, Sam’s mom somehow got into a wreck and ended up in a coma. His Dad had split, no one even knew where he was.
Sam’s two week summer vacation ended up being a six month stay. But Sam learned to love the silence in the morning. The stillness before the day started and everything fell apart.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Swing

(Writers Note: Well i signed up for a creative writing class at BYU, so I should be posting a lot more stuff on here.)

Applying the cream hurt more than the actual sores. But it was better than dealing with cracked and bleeding skin. Allergies, that’s what mom called them. All Barrett knew was he had been to plenty of doctors, and all they could give him was this cream and told him to stay inside.
But being outside was just so fun. Preston, Barrett’s older brother was down by the river, hanging a rope swing. Just before he left, he taunted Barrett, “Hey why don’t you come? It’ll be fun. We’ll get the swing up; then we can show off for the Bailey twins.”
Mom glared at Preston, and he’d run outside before any words escaped her mouth.
So Barrett had the lecture about staying inside so the sores didn’t get any worse. But now, Mom was distracted. Hidden in the laundry room, the sounds of the house didn’t rise above the swirl and tumble of the washer and dryer. Barrett planed his escape.
The basement window lay hidden behind rose bushes. Barrett slowly opened the window, climbed out the window well, and crept into the garage to get his bike.
He froze! He heard Mom’s distant voice, traveling down the stairs and through the still open window. Ride like the devil, or scamper back to the basement? It wasn’t even a choice. The wind flew through Barrett’s hair, as he rode fast as his legs could carry him the quarter mile to the river. Excitement flowed through his veins. He didn’t even feel the cracking scabs that riddled his skin.
Preston’s eyes widened for a second as Barrett appeared at the crest of the bank. He’d be getting it tonight. “Barrett, I wondered when you’d make it.” Preston grabbed Jimmy, young neighborhood nuisance, who was making a beeline for the swing. “Let’s see how for you go.”
Barrett shimmied up the tree, and the blond Bailey twin squealed as he reached the swing. The flight through the air was freedom, for the normally housebound boy. The river, full or pollen, pesticides and other allergens, was cool bliss.
Barrett made three jumps before Mom came bellowing and drug the two miscreants back to the house. Preston didn’t even care that he lost his freedom for the rest of the week. He and Barrett spent the week drawing plans for a tree house and talking to the Bailey twins through the basement window.
Later that day, after an hour bath and plenty of salve for the wounds, Barrett saw mother, playing the piano. “Well, at least something makes her cry,” he thought as he saw a pair of tears on her face.
Late that night, after a fresh layer of cream, and a scolding from Father, Barrett and Preston lay in their beds. “You know what Barrett; you were awesome on the swing today.”
Barrett, mumbled half way to a contented sleep, “yeah, it was fun… it was fun.”

Monday, September 7, 2009