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Three score and ten or more

Monday, October 30, 2006

Before the tale today begins, a report of more serious matters. When I walked into my sweet wifes room today (Oct 30) she was working a cross word puzzle. Not her usual New York times level puzzle, but a cross word puzzle. She also, using a wheeled walker walked almost sixty feet, twice. She spent much of the rest of the time using me as a secretary to outline her next book.
That WAS impressive. She still confuses her dreams with reality (stroke you know) but the doctor says we can go home Nov. 13 (we'll miss the elections but what the heck) and she will go as a wheelchair travelor rather than a stretcher patient (saving me about 9000 Euros that I don't have anyway. It even looks like my supplemental insurance company may decide to allow the hospital to bill it directly, saving me another 90 plus thousand euros output (that I don't have. The world is good.

Back to October 1, the next morning

Ah the next morning we arose early dressed ourselves appropriately for a church service and set off nonchalantly to find such a service in our faith. Short journey.! As I backed the car down the drive that had served so well using only gravity, I got a little too close to the edge of the drive and the car slid about a foot to the right.. The automobile ceased its movement down the drive. All the wheels would now do was “spin” I got out of the car walked around to the passenger side, and groaned.
A friend of mine who is a geologist once told me that Finland is one of the worlds largest granite slabs, covered over with two or three feet of dirt. Right under my passenger side door was a portion of that slab that had penetrated the three feet of dirt, and stuck up about fourteen inches under my right hand side frame. I was “high centered” to a fair thee well.
Trying to protect my best suit (in fact the only suit I brought to Finland), I knelt down on a piece of cardboard to survey the problem. I found a solution. In fact by the time the darn car was moving again, I had found about four different solutions: First I jacked up the front of the car and tried to get a pile a cardboard I found in a convenient shed (probably a recycling center) under the front tire when it was jacked up a bit. When the power was applied to the wheel over the cardboard, the wheel shot the cardboard some twenty feet forward. Deciding that the problem was one of direction, I replace the cardboard, re-applied the power and the cardboard curled up in an almost impenetrable pile between the wheel and the rotten darn miserable rock that was secretly snickering in some mysterious Scandinavian troll language. (You know that trolls turn to rock in the light of day, but that doesn’t rob them of their sense of humor. Somewhere inside, I suspect that said rock/troll had been planning this since he first saw me gravitationally backing down the drive way). Then, with a flash of insight I determined to dig down and remove the rock. Using a coal scuttle and a convenient snow shovel, I dug down the side of the rock for about four feet (in spite of the plastic snow shovel’s tendency to bend double when any serious pressure was applied. It was at that moment that I remembered my geographer friend’s description of Finland as a vast slab of granite, and realized that my troll/rock friend when the sunlight hit him had fused to the core of the earth. Finally, I jacked up the entire right side of the car, and, using every piece of rock bigger than two inches and less that fourteen inches in sight (at least every one that I was man enough to carry) I built a solid track from a point about a foot in front of the front time to a point about two feet behind the rear tire (I was planning on going backward again.) This was done so skillfully that it was hard to differentiate between my rocks and the monster troll. I then jumped in the car and backed slowly down the hill, stopping only to get out, walk up to the stone, and, tempting fate, put my thumb to my nose and said NYAAA, NYAAA, NYYAAAA.
I then put my sweaty overweight seventy plus year old body, still encased in a suit that had looked quite reputable in the beginning, back in the car, and we drove away. It was about an hour and forty minutes later than I had planned to drive away, but away.
This was a conference Sunday. To those unfamiliar with Mormon customs, twice a year, once in April and again in October the church holds a General Conference. This means that on Saturday and Sunday the church holds two meeting a day that are broadcast live to virtually every Mormon center in the world. If the meeting were at 8:00 AM, the broadcast would be at 10: AM in New York City, or in Georgia, my home base. It is broadcast by short wave radio, by commercial radio, on Cable televison, on satellite television (the way most Mormons watch it) and even on the web, so that if you have access to the web, (We didn’t, good computer, no hook up) you can stay home put up your feet and watch your computer. We hadn’t carefully worked out the conference broadcast time table, but we figured we could find a ward(congregation) meeting house, and the schedule would be posted.
First task, zap into Helsinki where we know there are two or three or more ward buildings. When the zap was completed we stopped at a Shell station/ Minute Mart and collected all the local phone books, white pages and yellow, and looked for a church and an address. I couldn’t find a listing, neither could the two young men working in the place, for whom we became an informal project. We checked Yellow Pages under Churches (in Finnish of course) Congregations, Faiths, Sects, Religions, Social Services, and found none. The two young men were a little non-plussed to discover that they couldn’t even find phone numbers for the Lutheran Church, which is the State Church of Finland.
Okay, I remembered three addresses from my time as a missionary; one was on Pihlajatie, one was on Ullankatu, the other on Neitsytpolku.
After investing eleven euros in a Helsinki map with a good directory we quickly found Pihlajatie. It was only a few blocks from the Shell station, so we went there, drove up and down the street several times and found nothing that could be a Mormon chapel, not even a little one. We did find a nice Lutheran Church with facilities for Finnish Speaker and facilities for Swedish Speakers (Finland is an official bi-lingual country, and most Finns speak both languages, at least to some degree.) People were leaving the building so we stopped an elderly couple and asked if they knew of a Mormon church on Pihlajatie (I actually used the official name, but typing Myohempien Aikojen Pyhien Jeesuksen Kristuksen Kirkko over and over again is beyond my patience and skills, especially when the first “o” in the name is supposed to have two little dots over it, and I never can remember the formula for typing that, either). The lady replied in somewhat halting Finnish that there was none, but that they had built a new temple in Espoo which was beautiful, she had been out to see it. We actually knew that, since seeing the Temple was one of our purposes in coming here, so we looked up Espoo on the map, and we were off to Espoo (after having successful shifted into reverse to leave the parking place.).
When we found Espoo, we drove up and down all the streets we could find, and, no Temple. Since the lady from Helsinki knew where the place was, we assumed that some citizens of Espoo would also know. We asked several, and they all gave us the same directions which led to a smallish meeting house with the right name in front, but no one around. (It was the Espoo ward chapel, and it DIDN’T have an announcement on the door relating to the time and place of conference meetings.
We then decided to try for Neitsypolku or Ullankatu. For what it’s worth it has always been entertaining to Americans speaking Finnish that one of the principal Mormon meeting houses, and the headquarter of the Finnish Mission are on Neitsypolku, which means , in English, Virgin’s Path. (Actually it could be translated Virgin Path which could be a path that has never been traveled on, etc., but that’s not as much fun to talk about.)
I actually had some clue as to the placement of Neitsytpolku, since it was the building where my family attended church in 1966-67, but I had underestimated the difference between traveling on streetcars (then) and by auto (now), although we finally found the place only to find that the stairs leading inside had a locked gate in front. Muttering, to say the least, I walked around the building looking for back doors and found a basement room occupied by a custodian (not of the church, the meeting house and office occupy three floors of a multistory building. ) He shrugged and indicate that he didn’t know how to get in, so I walked back to the front of the building (where we were parked, illegally, I think) and was sorting out a few six pence, one penny and other coins left over from Great Britain, to throw up against the second floor window where I could see lights on, and occasional movement.). I had just cocked my arm to throw (which is an exaggeration since I am not really sure that my seventy plus old arm would actually succeed in throwing coins against a second story window), when the custodian came dashing out the front door to unlock the gate and show me how to open it by putting my hand through a slot and turning a handle. (I had known that something like this had to be possible, you don’t really lock the door to a church on Sunday very often.) After wandering through the building, I found the stair to the second floor (there was no notice of conference meetings on that chapel door either, what is the world coming to?) wandered up and found an American couple just a few years younger than I (isn’t everybody) sitting in an office taking telephone calls (I wonder how the callers found the number) Brother and Sister Johnson (great name, huh?) from America greeted me effusively, gave me a map to the temple site, and informed me that the only site receiving the conference down link was one in Haaga. (I had never been there and was about out of the urge to seek it out, but said “Thank you” and left.). We determined that, as the day was waning, we would follow the map out to the Temple site, drive around it, so that we would be sure to find it the next morning when the open-house was held, and then go back to our lodge in Isnas.This we did, finding the temple exterior rather remarkable and beautiful, then driving home where I hung up my now ratty suit, we made a meal of wonderful Finnish cheese and bread, indulged in a sauna, and went to bed, ready for the morrow


At 3:25 PM, Blogger Kathleen said...

Richard, such good news about Janet and the insurance! I am smiling as I type! Hooray!

I am very impressed that you were able of maneuver the car out of the perdicament. Bully for you! I don't think I would have been that persistent. I would have had to call for help.

I am looking forward to the next installment!

Again, take care of yourself, too.

At 8:48 PM, Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

10 30 06

Richard! What interesting adventures! You always make me feel as though I was there, smelling the scents and visualizing all of the colors etc. Finland seems like a very neat place, but the language barrier there would certainly throw me for a doozy!

I didn't realize the topology of Finland had so much granite! I wonder about the texture of the roads as you drove, and boy you sure were creative to get the car out of that fix!

Anyway, I am so excited that you and Janet have returned and that she is active. It is so difficult to recover from strokes both physically and cognitively and it is so promising that she is already thinking of her latest book! You always said how clever she was:)

Thanks so much for keeping us aprised of you and Janet's progress. Oh, and you are so blessed to save on the Euros for Janet's healthcare! Imagine if that would've happened in the US and you didn't have any coverage? You would likely go bankrupt. God is good!

Take Care and have a great rest of week:)

At 1:15 PM, Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

These memories of yours bring back fond memories of my own (I went to college in Sweden). I'm very glad to hear that Jan's doing better, and that she can go in a wheelchair instead of on a gurney. As Kathleen says, make sure you take care of yourself.

At 7:32 AM, Blogger Ed Abbey said...

Glad to hear about Janet. Don't worry about the elections, they are nasty as usual and the last I heard, Georgia really isn't in play anyway.

At 7:09 PM, Blogger Gayle said...

Yay! Janet is on the mend. That's good news indeed. I am truly happy for you, Richard.

Not a problem that you don't want to type "Myohempien Aikojen Pyhien Jeesuksen Kristuksen Kirkko" over and over again. We can't read it anyway. :)
I didn't know trolls turned into rocks during the light of day. That explains why most of them come into my blog at night. Now I understand! I learn the neatest things while blogging.

Seriously, you turned a very annoying situation into a wonderfully humerous read.


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