X. Our wedding night; in which I explain why I have never written a best-selling book.
Every now and then someone will suggest that I should write a book. This, I feel is an excellent suggestion. I’m sure I would be very good at it, having gotten an "A" in penmanship in Mrs. Rowe’s 3rd grade class. But there is a real snag. If I were to go all the trouble of writing a book, I would, of course, want it to be a bestseller. The problem is that the bestsellers are always about--well, to be perfectly blunt, after all, we are living in the up-to-date age--well they are about, well, to be perfectly candid, they are about the thing that almost rhymes with the 6th letter in the numbering system--you know, the one between 5 and 7. I have no doubt that I could write a very interesting, very informative and most helpful book on that subject, except for one small problem. I know almost nothing about it. The reason for this woeful lack of information is what I am about to relate--and it is a very sad story indeed.
I was sitting in Priesthood meeting--as I always did on Sunday morning since being ordained a Deacon, but at the time about which I write I was a Priest, i.e. considerably advanced in age and in outlook from the time I first began sitting in Priesthood meeting on Sunday morning. I was thinking about such uplifting topics as what my mother would likely be serving for lunch, when our Bishop, Bishop Chester Dorsey, (we Priests, because we felt we were close to him and could be more informal when we talked with him called him by his first name--"Bishop", except my friend Richard, of course, who called him "Dad"), after first dismissing the Deacons--and you will be able to figure out why he dismissed the Deacons when I tell you the topic, which I will do about 3 pages from now--announced that the Teachers and Priests would have a special guest speaker, Dr. Lloyd Call.
We all knew of Dr. Call, of course, and admired--or more correctly, envied him, the reason being that he was married to Beverly Call. Although, she seemed a bit too old for us personally to have married her (she was probably 9 or 10 years our senior but at Priest’s age that is like a couple of generations removed), we all hoped to marry someone like her. Beverly was the Pocatello equivalent of Jeannette MacDonald, that is, she was very attractive and could sing, although, unlike Jeanette, who went in more for Hammerstein and Herbert, Beverly was more into Verdi and Wagner. In Pocatello, at least it seemed to me, that most ladies who could sing Wagner, tended to look like, well, like Wagner.
At any rate, we all respected Dr. Call. We could visualize him coming home after a hard day’s work of separating innocent children from their tonsils and saying, "Honey, I’m really tired. I need something to pick me up." To which Mrs. Call would reply, "Sure thing, dear, I know just the thing. I’ll sing you an aria from Madame Butterfly."
"No, no." We could hear him protesting. "I’m not up to Madame Butterfly tonight." To which she would respond, "I have it!" She would then don a grass skirt and sing Annette Funicello’s latest hit, "Pineapple Princess" (in, of course, her best Wagnerian style--a sort of Class with Grass). (As an aside, I just wanted to point out that I thought of that, i.e. "Class with Grass" all by myself which proves that if I did write a book it would be loaded with all kinds of clever tid bits like that one).
But as I mentioned, we all admired Dr. Call and were, therefore, impressed that Bishop Dorsey could get him to speak, since he wasn’t in our ward, or for that matter, even in our Stake. (As another aside, this may come as a surprise, but back in those days Pocatello actually had more than one Stake--in fact, it had several--a condition that I doubt exits today, because we were constantly being admonished to leave the world behind us, which most people in Pocatello interpreted to mean that as soon as you possibly could somehow manage it, you should move north to Idaho Falls or Rexburg or south to Logan or Provo.)
Bishop Dorsey then announced that Dr. Call would be speaking to us on the subject of "the birds and the bees". The announcement of that subject brought both relief and excitement to me.
It brought relief because all too often medical doctors--even speaking in Church--tend to wax professional. Of course, if they confine this professional carrying on to the sniping of tonsils, it didn’t much bother me; since having been separated from mine at an early age, I didn’t take the talk personally. But all too often they would get carried away and start talking in a most unseemly manner about kidneys, livers, hearts, and worst of all, blood. As soon as any discussion began drifting in that direction I could prevent a most horrible attack of nausea by only two methods. The preferred method was to stick my fingers firmly in my ears and lay my head on my desk. If that was too embarrassing, I would concentrate with all my might on the most pleasant thing I could think of--usually our family’s most recent trip to Yellowstone Park. I would revisit every geyser and hot pool (I loved them) mentally and then count the bears we had seen. Usually, by the time I had done that, the danger was past.
I was excited about the topic, "the birds and the bees" because I felt I pretty much knew all about it, the topic having been covered very thoroughly by my 9th grade Seminary teacher, Richard Clark, in his lesson on Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. I can still remember how eloquent he was as he told about how wonderful Joseph had acted when Potiphar’s wife had grabbed his shirt (or whatever it was they wore in Egypt back then and no doubt still do today). His voice still rings when I remember his stirring "he got him OUT!" (He really hit the "out" hard). Of course, he used this story to make it clear about the whole "birds and bees" thing. First, if we were ever working for an attractive, rich lady and she started to pull on our shirts, we were to "get us out". Which, of course, we promised to do. But he went far beyond that. Realizing, I suspect, that the number of attractive, rich lady employers (especially attractive, rich lady employers with the shirt-pulling tendency) in Pocatello was severely limited, he made it quite clear that if we were alone with any girls and she started to pull on our shirts, or even if we started to feel like pulling on our own shirts, we were to "get us out" and quickly. Well, of course, I can’t tell everything he said, but I can say that I felt very well grounded in the whole "birds and bees" thing, as I mentioned above.
But the reason I was excited to hear Dr. Call talk about the subject, was the thought that maybe he would bring something up that Br. Clark had left out of his lecture. Although he was no longer my teacher, I saw him frequently hanging around the seminary building, and I thought that if I did get some new insights, I could pass them on to him. While his lecture was very powerfully convincing, these seminary lectures can always do with a bit of sprucing up. Well, for example, Br. Clark never did make it really clear whether it was Joseph or Mrs. Potiphar who was the bird or the bee, so I was never quite clear who was which, in fact, I’m still not too clear on that point.
So anyway, I was sitting back listening attentively to Dr. Call, when it suddenly became painfully apparent to me that Bishop Dorsey had not been sufficiently explicit when he was drawing up the contract about the subject. Dr. Call was not talking about the birds and the bees at all. He was talking about the red corpuscles and the white corpuscles. Desperately, I began trying to focus on our last Yellowstone trip, but it was too late. I was not even to the entrance gate at West Yellowstone, when I felt myself falling.
The next thing I remember was the feeling that all the fire engines and police sirens in Idaho were sounding in my ears. I felt that my head would split. Then the noise died away suddenly and I felt such a feeling of peace that I have never experienced before or since. Through the welcome quiet, I heard "Merrill, Merrill, are you OK?"
It turned out I had fainted. The Bishop took me into a classroom where Sister Comstock was preparing her Teacher Development lesson.
"Please keep an eye on Merrill. He just fainted", he requested of her, and handing me a glass of water, he returned to Dr. Call’s lecture, leaving Sister Comstock to eye me nervously.
At any rate, that is how I missed out on learning all about the birds and the bees and hence, how I came to lack the necessary information to write a really juicy bestseller.
However, I mention all this because the extreme importance of having heard that lecture struck me forcibly as Shauna and I finally arrived at the Little America motel where I had made reservations. Here I was going with a beautiful young girl into a motel room and one or the other, probably both, were bound to begin taking off his/her shirt. And yet, it suddenly dawned on me that Br. Clark’s advice to "get thee out" didn’t seem entirely adequate--or even appropriate and I found myself wishing desperately that I hadn’t fainted at that crucial moment in Dr. Call’s lecture. Of course, it was as much his fault as mine--maybe even more--for letting his professional habits ran away with him and getting sidetracked by corpuscles. But, naturally, at that time assessing blame was the least of my problems.
You, the patient reader are doubtlessly asking yourself, "Faced with this terrible crisis, what did you do?"
The answer is, fortunately, I married Shauna. She has her master’s degree in Child Development. Those people know all about that "birds-and-the-bees" stuff, so she knew just what to do; actually, she knows just what to do most of the time anyway. The proof of that is the fact that exactly 9 months and 1 day later we had our first child. Of course, I suspect that the 1 day is somehow significant, and I’m sure that Shauna, with her master’s degree in Child Development could explain it all to you if you ever asked. I never have.
But I will say this--and I say it with some conviction--if you happen, for whatever reason, (hopefully not due to fainting) to miss Dr. Call’s (or whoever the officially designated "birds-and-the-bees" lecture giver in your community happens to be), as I say, if you happen to miss that lecture, then by all means, take my advice, and marry someone with their master’s degree in Child Development.
Of course, I am sure you are asking yourself, "Why doesn’t Shauna write the book?" Well, actually, she has thought about it, and even mentioned that she might do it, but, what with having to take care of 7 children (8 counting you-know-who) and having frequently to manage on rather slender resources, she has been rather too busy. But what with the children leaving, she still may get around to it--and a very interesting and enlightening book it will be too, but, (and I don’t mean to boast) I can’t help but feel that it won’t be quite the outstanding book I could have written if only I had heard the rest of Dr. Call’s lecture.