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Friday, October 9, 2009
Utah Visit Recounted
I had the pleasure recently of visiting Utah. The purpose was two-fold: to visit my paternal grandparents, who live in Roy, and to attend the annual Affirmation national conference. I was successful on both counts.
I flew into Salt Lake City on September 19th, arriving at lunch time. I had invited my dad to fly up from southern California and join me in visiting his parents. He accepted, after also planning a fun weekend for himself. His flight arrived a few minutes after mine and we met at the Avis rental counter. After getting our stylish Hyundai Accent (my first new car my senior year of college – oh the joyful flashbacks!) with Colorado license plates, we stopped for lunch at Taco Time in Woods Cross.
Before I go on, we learned the secret ingredients of one of the spicy-yet-tangy sauces they offered in their salsa bar: barbeque sauce with ranch. I enjoyed dipping my tater tots in it (I will never be able to call them Mexi-fries). But I digress. We made it to Roy and found my grandparents’ home. I am sad to report that it had been years since I had seen my grandparents (possibly graduation day at BYU?).
My grandma, who has suffered a few strokes, was home, but my grandpa was not. Grandma was in her wheelchair, reading. She is as cute as ever, but the strokes have left their toll. She sits hunched over and is fairly non-communicative. When she did talk, it was nice to hear her sweet voice. Her smile, always wonderful, was constant. Even as her body suffers, her spirit is sweet and constant. It warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes.
Grandma and her sweet smile.
Grandpa came home and we all sat around, catching up. Soon, grandpa showed my dad and me that one of his knees was completely swollen, about doubled in size. It looked incredibly painful. It was also discolored and clearly infected. The infection was spreading down his leg, which was warm to the touch and very bruised. It was evident that he was in great pain. It was also apparent that this old Dutchman has an extremely high tolerance for pain.
My dad explained, very logically, that grandpa was at risk of losing his leg or even dying if his leg didn’t get immediate treatment. Grandpa wouldn’t hear anything of it, dismissing dad’s attempts to get him medical care. Grandpa said that he had received a blessing and was just going to wait it out. He hated emergency rooms, he said, and made it clear he wasn’t fond of doctors. A short time later, I brought up the idea of going to urgent care. I plugged “urgent care” into my trusty iPhone and saw that even in Roy, Utah, there were many. Grandpa warmed to this idea and soon we were on the way, after he had assigned my dad some tasks to perform around the house (this reminded me of my childhood summer days – now I know where my dad learned his delegation skills).
Urgent care needs to change it’s name to not-so-expeditious-care. We were gone several hours. Grandpa was feisty with all of the people in the medical office, all women. I could tell he wasn’t very confident. When it was all said and done, he had an exam, was X-rayed, got a shot in the rear end, and was sent to a local pharmacy for more anti-biotics. He and I were both pleased when the pharmacy employee told me that the pills prescribed by the doctor were on their $4 list. That was the best news of the day – and worth waiting for!
When all that was said and done, my dad drove me down to the University of Utah. The Affirmation conference hotel was the university guest house, with most of the speakers and seminars inside the hotel or at adjoining Fort Douglas. The facilities were pretty good, though the hotel rooms, built apparently for the winter Olympics, seemed hastily built and were barely three-star accommodations, in my humble opinion.
I got checked in, happy with trusting Utahans that simply accepted that I was sharing a room with my friend Jason. The student employee made me a room key, and I was set. Jason had gone to an opening-night conference and didn’t return for a few hours. I hung out with my friend Brett for a while, and then the three of us joined others and went to a few clubs. None of them were noteworthy, although I did like that the first one we found served bottled root beer. I liked that.
The hotel provided a continental breakfast, which was great. I didn’t see my dad today. He went golfing in the morning with a friend and then to a BYU football game in the evening. Since both are activities I don’t care a lick about, I was glad to have a neat conference to be part of.
The opening session was at 8:15am(!). The speaker was Marie Soderburg. I thought it was funny when she said she was grateful to have been invited to speak by her good friend, Brian. I knew the conference chair from past conferences and know him by his real name, David. The first presentation I went to was by Joan and Bill Atkinson, a wonderful couple. I like the personal narratives of parents of gay children.
I then attended former-BYU history professor D. Michael Quinn’s presentation entitled, “3,600 years of verified same-sex marriages.” He knows his history and presented a cross-cultural examination of same-sex relationships and marriages over time. It was pretty interested. I later bought his book, which I first read/skimmed in college, called “Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example.” He signed it for me.
The next presentation was semi-interesting. Connell O’Donovan presented on “Irony and Ecstasy: Communism, Mormonism, and the Origins of Modern Homophobia.” I learned more about Cleon Skousen, who I remembered was one of my dad’s college professors. I didn’t know Skousen had been an FBI agent or the police chief in Salt Lake City. That’s about all I remember from that session.
Saturday’s luncheon speaker was superb. I’m sure that has nothing to do with the fact that he was a police officer for many years. Robert Kirby is a columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune, picked up after being too blunt/honest/crude for the readers of Provo’s Daily Herald. His talk was one of the best of the conference. We were also shown an excerpt from a movie called “Voicings,” a film being made by Stephen Williams. Any struggling married person (and even those of us not married) would appreciate the delicate/sensitive situation depicted in this movie.
Many conference attendees went to hear Chad Hardy, creator of the Men on a Mission calendar series. A natural public speaker, he talked about the public’s/church’s reaction to his calendar and his eventual ex-communication from the Mormon church. It was very interesting.
After the afternoon sessions and before dinner, I got to talking to an awesome guy named Dustin. He is a professional sign language interpreter and was paid to come to the conference to interpret, but the person that needed interpretation had not actually come to the conference. Dustin and I were going to read together on the grass, but got to talking and hit it off. He is easily the neatest person I have met in a long, long time.
Dustin: simply one of the neatest people I've met in a LONG time.
We went to the awards banquet, where we got to hear Carol Lynn Pearson, one of the neatest people in the world, I think.
Carol Lynn Pearson: Author, playwright, generally awesome person
Dustin and I then went on a long walk. We had awesome weather during the conference and the night was cool and crisp. Sunday morning was the devotional, which is usually the highlight of these conferences for me. We heard from Linda and Steve Stay, who spoke and performed musically. There was lots of good music that brought in a wonderful spirit. The Danzigs spoke about their son, Tyler. When they talked about their son being married to Spencer Jones, a light bulb went on in my head. Spencer Jones, an attorney in San Francisco, is a cousin of mine. When they showed some pictures of the event, I even saw my cousin Warren and his wife. Small world! It was a great talk and a much-needed devotional.
My dad came to pick me up and we drove back to Roy, where we visited with his parents again. I shot some pictures of furniture that grandpa wants to sell. We had a nice visit and all ate some pizza together before dad again dropped me off at the university guest house. I stayed up late talking to my friends David and Robert, then took a shuttle early the next morning back to the airport. Apparently, I just missed my old friend Jeff Jensen in the airport.