My final living great-grandparent, Russell Jensen, aged ninety-four years and eleven months, died a week ago. Unfortunately the only thing I could think of as a tribute was to post an essay that I wrote about him for school way back I don't even know when. So I post it with a few disclaimers. 1) The flippant smart-aleck tone of the whole thing makes me cringe so much I can barely read it and want to punch my younger self, but what do I know, maybe it's cute. 2) I'm not sure, all these years later, how accurate it is - I now know, for example, that he fought the Japanese, not the Nazis. At that tender and stupid age I probably didn't even know there were bad guys in World War II besides the Nazis. So apparently I took an unknown number of creative liberties. 3) I apologize for the insensitive remark toward veterans with PTSD. I was very ignorant back then. 4) I apologize for the fallacy of presentism toward racist people in the 1940s. I was very ignorant back then. When I wrote this, I mean, not in the 1940s.
He did get one of his medals eventually, the Bronze Star, which he was buried with today, but he never got the Purple Heart that he also earned. But he had a certificate and there were military people there today to do their military funeral stuff. So it was never really in dispute that he had been in the army, and in fact he was still there when the paperwork went missing, but they just couldn't give him the other medal because bureaucracy, I guess. Oh, and the second time he injured his ankle was from being thrown down a hill by the impact of a mortar shell, after which he played dead as a group of Japanese soldiers walked over him, so that was a bit more exciting and should have made it into this essay but didn't. I didn't know much about his war experiences because he didn't talk much about them and even at this ignorant age I knew better than to pry.
Mackenzie et al
This little posse from the other ward is only the second little posse that I've ever felt like a cohesive, integrated part of. (Plenty of other people have made efforts to include me, of course, but for whatever reason I just never felt like I belonged among them.) The first group was also in another ward, and it covered the latter half of 2013. We were at a combined activity when I overheard them talking about going to see "Monsters University". I really wanted to see that in the theater for nostalgia purposes, because I remembered watching the original in the theater, but I wanted to go with somebody so I wouldn't feel like a total loser and thus far I had failed, so I asked them if I could tag along and they said yes and the rest was history. It was either that night or the next time when a couple of them gave me a ride home and asked, "Are you going to be hanging out with us a lot more often?" They really wanted me to. They thought I was funny. So I went to game nights and nature video viewings and a Halloween party and had an exquisite time.
Then half of them got married, and that was the end of that. This one will probably also dissolve to some extent when the semester ends in a couple weeks. I should have discovered them sooner. Ah, life. Here's a happier thought - the evolution of E.T. in a recent game of Telestrations.
The first one was drawn by me, the second one was drawn by someone I don't remember who put his light in the wrong spot, and the final one was drawn by Mackenzie who has never seen that movie. Mackenzie confuses the heck out of me.
Saturday, April 2, 2016: Mackenzie declines to look at me all day, except for a couple times that I notice in my peripheral vision. Even when she addresses the entire group and looks from one person to the next, she skips me. Every time I try to start a conversation, she responds curtly and turns away.
Saturday, April 9, 2016: Mackenzie says she feels like I don't like her very much because I act like I don't want to talk to her.
She said I always go sit by her but then act like I don't want to talk to her and always put her down and send out vibes that I don't like her very much. I felt like she had that backwards. She acted like she didn't want to talk to me and didn't like me very much so I started deliberately ignoring her so as not to be a total nuisance. As for putting her down, I never once tried or intended to do that, and she declined to elaborate on how I had, but after some pondering I concluded that most of my attempts at playful teasing have probably come across as mere passive-aggressiveness. I should have smiled more.
Brooke again took the initiative of organizing a visit to the old folks' home on Sunday evening. This time, perhaps more at ease, we split up into smaller groups of two or three. I went with Mackenzie and Roger to visit the hundred year old lady, whom I'm now just going to call Charlotte because that's her name, and her roommate Cathy. Roger talked to Cathy while Mackenzie talked to Charlotte and I just stood around awkwardly. Eventually I went over to talk to Charlotte as well. Mackenzie was crouched on the floor next to her, and I sat on the floor, but she directed me to clear the stuff off the solitary guest chair and use it. I offered it to Mackenzie, but she didn't want it because she's a feminist. So I sat down, and Charlotte turned to Mackenzie and said, "Now sit in his lap." While I was still processing this, she turned back to me and said, "You wouldn't mind that, would you?"
I didn't know how to respond.
"I would squish him," Mackenzie lied, gracefully defusing the tension. She added, "Is that what people did on dates back in your day?"
Charlotte looked confused. She shook her head. "Nooo, I don't think so."
Later on, Mackenzie suggested that she was probably just thinking of an innocent Santa Claus type thing, but at the time it shocked me coming out of the blue from an elderly Mormon woman.
Mackenzie did most of the talking and I chimed in occasionally. I liked that arrangement because I got to keep a lonely person company and not feel too awkward, but not have to do too much talking either. After a little bit Charlotte asked her, "How long have you been going together?"
"What?" Mackenzie said. "Oh, Chris and I aren't dating."
"Oh, you're just dating?"
"No, we're not dating. I'm not dating anyone."
"Why not? He's cute."
Charlotte then officially became one of my favorite people.
Like all good things, this one had to come to an end eventually, and we still had to go down to the cafeteria and sing. As we left, Charlotte took my hand for a moment and said, "Hold on to her. She's cute." And I've been thinking long and hard about that since then, because as even I know, mutual cuteness is a great foundation for a successful relationship.
The Mormon Section
During his long life Russell Jensen served in many church callings, but the "highest" one he ever held was "just" counselor in a bishopric. Yet he was just as important in his spheres of influence as anyone else and entitled to the same eternal blessings as anyone else. It's only human nature, reinforced by human society, to put leaders on a pedestal and think they're better or more important because of their authority. But that is not the Lord's way. Righteousness, worthiness, and capability are to be found at all "levels" of the Church. Elder Bruce R. McConkie quoted Elder Harold B. Lee as telling the Priesthood Missionary Committee, "Brethren, there are assembled in this room sufficient men of sufficient spiritual stature so that if all the General Authorities were taken and we had to totally reorganize the Church from this group, the Church would continue without missing a heartbeat."
Bill Conti - Main Title March from "Rookie of the Year"
Although I hardly ever got to see Great-Grandma and Grandpa Jensen, they sent me/us movies sometimes. One of them was a really old live action version of "The Jungle Book" and one about a family holiday that I don't remember the name of, or hardly anything about, except for one beloved little snippet of dialogue -
Woman: I guess I just haven't... found the right man yet.
Little Girl: Why? You're not ugly.
Woman: *laugh* Thank you.
Another of them, and my favorite after all this time, was "Rookie of the Year". For a while I erroneously believed this to be the first PG movie I had ever watched because I didn't realize "The Princess Bride" was PG. When I saw that it was PG, I whispered to my sister that we couldn't let mom and dad find out it was PG or they wouldn't let us watch it. But as is often the case with small children, my "whispers" were really just as loud as normal speech, and my dad heard it, and he said he was sure that if Grandma and Grandpa Jensen had sent us this movie then it would be fine. And it was, although I was so accustomed to thinking of PG as a "bad" rating that I perceived "bad" stuff in places where there wasn't any.
Commercial Director: Henry - I need you to act - more - "sexy".
Me: Gasp! That's a bad word!
Mom: Not really.
Anyway, I didn't fully appreciate it at that age, but now I recognize it as a really good movie. I mean, I couldn't care less about baseball in real life, but I still find this movie compelling and interesting. And it also has a really great soundtrack that tragically only underwent a very limited release and is difficult to come by, though last year I managed to acquire it and recently I put the entire thing on YouTube. You're welcome, world. So now, in tribute to Grandma and Grandpa Jensen, I share for this week's musical number the Main Title March from "Rookie of the Year".
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.