You may know that I love to write. To me composition allows me to share the unexpressed feelings of my heart, sort of like a great song helps us feel the intensity of an emotion or the allegiance to what is good and right and noble.
Today, I want to write about the most important decision of my life. I hope someday this will become the best piece of work that I ever produce, because this story by far has been the greatest influence and choice for me possible. I think I knew the impact of this decision, but I really didn't fully understand its ramifications.
I do now.
Linda was born in Washington DC, though she was raised in the beautiful city of Ventura in Southern California. She was not born a member of the Church, but as an adolescent, she came to love Donny Osmond—well, all the Osmonds really. She attended their concerts as often as she could convince her mother to take her and her friends to Las Vegas or down to LA. It happened frequently. But I am getting ahead of myself. Linda’s story started long ago after her father and mother met at Denver University and married shortly thereafter. Gay graduated with a law degree. Soon after, he took a job as a patent attorney at Point Mugu Naval Base in Camarillo California, and the couple relocated to Southern California.
Elaine explains the situation this way: “It was hard to leave Denver and to leave our mothers again, as Gay accepted the position at Point Mugu Naval Base in California. We went to Ventura, California and found an apartment at the Buenaventura Gardens Apartment complex. The two bedroom apartment was nice being close to the Ventura mall and to the Mound Grade School. Linda really enjoyed the swimming pool and met some nice friends there. We stayed in the apartment about a year or so and decided to buy a house in Ondolondo, Ventura as the management was going to make the apartments into Condos. We bought the house at 872 Colina Vista, which was a three bedroom home in the “well to do” residential area in the hills above Ventura. Since we had a house Linda wanted a dog, so on her 7th birthday we adopted Dixie a white Cockapoo (mixture between a cocker and a poodle). Gay’s secretary, Rosie had a dog with puppies, and one day Gay arranged with Rosie for us to come see the puppies. So we went to dinner and told Linda we were going to visit Rosie. She was a little unhappy, but when we got to Rosie’s house and asked her if we could see the puppies. Linda was very happy, and we picked out a white puppy and named her Dixie.”
Linda is an only child. At times, she and her dad would go to the malt shoppe while they waited for Elaine to get off work. Linda and her family were faithful Christians and attended the Church of the Foothills in Ventura. Elaine loved square dancing, and soon Gay joined in.
Life changed a lot after that, but Elaine was able to continue working, and the two bonded in a special way. A few years later, Elaine and Linda went to Hawaii. Among the many activities they enjoyed there was attending the Polynesian Cultural Center. While visiting that facility, they put their names on a list.
As Linda grew older, her love and admiration for the Osmonds did not diminish, if anything it only became stronger. Through them, she began to learn something about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Rhetorically speaking, when I was a little kid, Donny Osmond was really popular. I didn't really like him at the time—admittedly, it wasn't really the cool thing for a youngster of my gender to do—but the girls went nuts over him. I remember covertly watching the Donny and Marie show occasionally. I must have been 9-10 then. Little did I know at the time that my future wife was hanging on his every word and every song. He and Marie were ultimately responsible, I imagine, for Linda’s willingness to let the missionaries in when they knocked on her family's door way back in 1976. For that reason, my attitude of Donny and Marie has changed considerably. I will always be in their debt.
But I am getting ahead of myself. I learned her father had passed away when she was just 10-years-old, so I asked her to tell me what she remembered about him. She shared with me then the stories about how she and her dad attended high school football games together and watched professional baseball games on TV. Maybe that’s why Linda loves sports the way she does today. She told of their trips to the malt shoppe. Perhaps my favorite memory is when he took your mom and her friend to the county fair where he bought them fashionable purses and showed them a good time. I can’t wait to meet him.
This is only the beginning. Linda's story gets even better from here. One day she saw the missionaries on their street Colina Vista in Ventura. The missionaries knocked on their door and offered to share a special message. At first Elaine refused and said they already belonged to a church, but Linda wouldn’t have it. She wanted to hear the missionaries’ lesson and pled with her mother to let them in. So Elaine consented and the missionaries taught Linda the gospel discussions, and she joined the Church December 17, 1977. Many of her friends followed, as did Elaine the next year.
Fast forward nearly five years, and it was time for Linda to pursue her aspiration of attending Brigham Young University. Ever since joining the Church, she dreamed of going to this great university with other members and experiencing life in Happy Valley. She left California and the marvelous universities available there to come to Utah. There were those that couldn’t understand how she could choose BYU. “You are rejecting some of the premier universities in the nation to travel halfway across the United States to attend Brigham Young University. How could you do that?” They couldn’t understand why she didn’t attend UCLA or Stanford or USC, but Linda dreamed of going to school at BYU, and she loved every minute of it. She tells about the dorm rooms and her roommates. She reminisces about the friends she made, the major she pursued, and the trips home each summer to spend time with her mother. As my sweetheart relates these stories, it’s apparent this was a dream come true for her. Even now, she says life as a new student at BYU for her was like a fairytale.
Meanwhile, I was preparing for my mission. I was one of the few missionaries (in relative terms) that served during the time when the duration of a mission lasted only eighteen months. In fact I received my mission call the week after President Kimball made the announcement, so my call still said that I was called for a period of two years. But the missionaries already serving had the option to stay the full two years or go home at the point of eighteen month. New missionaries could not extend. At the time, I thought it unfortunate because I served in a mission where I spoke a foreign language. The last six months were to be my most productive. It was during that very six months when I met the woman who has become my wife. Linda is the answer to my prayers. Not long after I had returned home, the mission duration was changed back to two years. So I have asked myself many times, “Would the Lord make such a significant change just for us?” I have no doubt he did.
We actually met at a BYU dance. Since I was living off campus at the time with my sister in south Provo, my social life consisted of attending the weekly BYU dances. We often assembled in the ELWC ballroom or similar facility and a live band would perform. Since I came to love dancing, and I had a few elective credits available in my schedule, I had taken a ballroom dance class, which came in handy at the weekend discos. Frequently, these gigs were also held at the dorms, in off-campus student apartment buildings, or at the Star Palace (some of you old-timers remember that). Well, they were all fun and admittedly exciting. But the most memorable dance I ever attended was in the Garden Court at the Wilkinson Center. This was ages ago, and the band was setting up for the evening when I arrived. I got there early as had a few others, and we awkwardly tried to play it cool in this uncomfortable situation. Before too long, more people arrived, the band started playing, and the dancing started.
I tried to demonstrate my chivalry when asking a young lady to dance. We would exchange names, and I would accompany her to the dance floor, where we began tearing up the floorboards figuratively speaking of course—or so we thought. Frequently, I tried to show the proper etiquette by escorting the young lady off the dance floor at the end of the set and thanking her by name. But in all the excitement, I would often find that I didn’t pay attention very well and forgot the young lady’s name by the end of the turn. That probably never happened to others, but it did on occasion to me.
This time, however, I didn’t need a reminder. I danced with a delightful young lady. She told me her name, and I remembered it. A few minutes later, she was available again, so I called to Linda by name and asked if she would like to dance again. She answered in the affirmative, and we boogied the rest of the evening. This was uncommon for me—to dance with just one person the majority of the evening—but it felt right that evening. Following the dance, we walked to our cars and promised to see one another again. It has been more than 30 years since that night. She danced her way into my heart on that occasion and ever since. She swept me off my feet the night we met and continues to do so every day of my life. My love and admiration for her increases daily.
A few years ago, we arranged a little surprise getaway to a Donny & Marie Show in Las Vegas. Linda didn't know about it, and when she found out we were going, she was very excited to say the least. But a memory I still treasure today is when the usher escorted us down to a front row table right at the edge of the stage. She had no idea and her elation was obvious and tumbled out in surprise and disbelief. That for me was the best part. We had a great time. I will always treasure that experience.
The best decision I ever made was to marry my Sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given me and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is my panacea. As my family grows and to it we add more sons and daughters and grandchildren, my happiness is immeasurable, and my love for her grows stronger every day.
I love all these songs. They originated from my childhood and articulate the feelings of my heart left unexpressed. Somehow they convey the way I feel about your mother. But this piece by REO Speedwagon was our song. It became popular when we were dating, and today more than ever it articulates the emotion I have every day for the woman of my dreams.