02 July 2011


Why did I think I wanted to marry Edna?

That may mean two things:

  • Why Edna as opposed to someone else?
  • Why did I want to get married at all?
As to the first - I do not really have an answer, but the fact was definite.  When I first sat down to write this, I had thought I would say that Edna was there, was attractive, and that was all there was to it.

But there were any number of girls around who met those criteria.  One might thing that Edna was available - only she wasn't.  She had a boyfriend, an engineering student named Bill, as I recall.  I had to win her away from him.

I do not know why, therefore, it was Edna and no one else.  These things are a mystery, and I can well believe that in these matters, as, indeed, in every detail of our lives, a Providence is at work.

I do not know why Edna, but I do know why marriage.

What else was there?

It is strange to me to be asking that (rhetorical) question in 2011 - it is strange that it is not strange.  I fear that to anyone under, say, the age of 40, the question must not seem rhetorical at all.  What else is there?  Well, you could just live together, couldn't you?

I am sure that in 1962 there were plenty of couples "just living together," but it was not a thought that could possibly have come to me.  Anyone with anything like a conventional upbringing, born, as I was - and as Edna was - in 1942, simply would not have thought of any other way for a couple to live together except married.  Indeed, I do not think it would have been easy to find a place to accept such a living arrangement.  That young men and women were together - in every sense of the word - in 1962 is undeniable.  I was not, I am afraid, ignorant of such things.  But living together was not something that could have occurred to me.

It is a question - the question of why I wanted to get married - of some interest.  This is not the place to go into the question, which must be examined later, of my marriage to Edna in relation to my and Susan's entering the Catholic Church.  Nevertheless, as will appear, I did meet at least one obstacle to the idea of marriage, when details of our wedding were discussed.

But anyway, I was determined that I wanted Edna and me to be married - and I exerted considerable pressure on her to agree.

So I set a good start to our wedding plans by nearly - albeit unintentionally and as a result of thoughtlessness - by nearly killing her.

The University year ended at the end of May or beginning of June, 1962.  I went home to my parents' farm in Oroville, and arranged for Edna to come up to spend a week with us, meet the family, and so forth.  She arrived, one normally hot day - perhaps 40 Celsius degrees (104F) - on the Greyhound coach from San Francisco.  I met her, dressed, as was my normal summer clothing, in nothing but cut-off jeans.  I saw her walk along the aisle of the air-conditioned coach and when she came to the door, she seemed to hit a barrier for a moment - then came out.  "Is it always so hot??"  "Oh, is it hot?  I guess so."

Edna had lived her early childhood in Northern Ireland - where, I am assured, the temperature quite often rises above freezing, in summer, that is - and had then lived all her life in San Francisco - where a really hot day might be 30 (86F).  This ought, perhaps, have been a warning.

"Let's go swimming!!"  Good thing to do on a hot day.  Peter and I and Edna went to Bidwell's Bar - which is under Lake Oroville now and there, under the bridge, would have been a fine place to swim.

Fine, but boring.  Peter and I liked to walk up the railway tracks - as I think of it now, I wonder what we would have done had a train come along - scramble down the cliff face to the river (which there is no climbing up), jump in above what we called the Black Rock Rapids, shoot the Rock a few times, and finally swim across to the other side and walk - or swim - back down to the Bridge.

Edna showed some signs of nervousness, I think, but I was not very sensitive to such things in those days - and perhaps enjoyed showing off.

Peter jumped in.  Edna jumped in.  The water was, indeed, a bit cool - but at least a few degrees above freezing.  Edna immediately began to climb out - by walking on top of Peter.

We made it to the other side.  No one died.  We walked back down to the Bridge.  Perhaps you would think I had learned my lesson.  I fear I am a slow learner.

The summer passed.  Plans were made.  On 2 September, 1962 - Edna 20, me 20 days short of my 20th birthday - we were married.

1 comment:

John Thayer Jensen said...

Edna sent me the following - with my response attached at the end:

The boyfriend, Bill Ellis, finished his electrical engineering degree and subsequently went to medical school at Stanford. He became - and is still - a prominent ophthalmologist with many locations in the Bay Area specializing in corrective laser surgery. But, in 1962, I was bored with the relationship - he epitomized the stereotype of an engineer - but I probably would have continued in it indefinitely as I was much more passive in those days. But, then Johnny entered my life via Harry Frank and Roberta Francoz - I truly was swept off my feet and completely taken by what I perceived to be this unconventional, very handsome, confident, brilliant young man! And, so flattered that he would be interested in me! He was, in every way, that opposite of what I had known up to that point in my life.

Let me clarify the near-drowning episode! I did not know how to swim - and I was terrified of deep water. So, I tried to dive as far into the river as possible thinking I would be closer to the other side, but I ended up doing a belly-flop. I subsequently had a full-blown panic attack - thank God for Peter! Johnny had left us both behind and landed on the other side - completely oblivious to the drama that was unfolding in the Feather River! Did this portend of things to come? It is a miracle that Peter survived as I did my level best to save my own life by pushing him under - I have told Peter I am eternally grateful to him!

My memory of that trip to Oroville includes the intense heat, riding on the tractor, and meeting a family, the likes of which I had never experienced! I came from a very modest, traditional, conventional family. In Oroville, the kids sometimes walked around in their underwear. The mother wore jeans, manly plaid shirts, and work boots. I hardly saw the father who was very quiet. And, I met Jeremiah who I loved instantly! The mother seemed to always be making sandwiches to take to stock the vending machines they owned. And, I remember going to the south side with her to service the vending machines. My general impression when I went home to San Francisco was that I had just experienced a normal American family! My frame of reference to this point had been the Protestant (Calvinistic) Scotch-Irish family. "Fun" was sinful. Hard work was highly valued. It has taken me many years to learn how to have fun and to put "work" in its proper place. I was a bit quicker to learn that the Jensen clan was not necessarily representative of the "normal" American family!

Edna, this is the first time I have learnt that you actually didn’t know how to swim! I had just assumed it was the icy, fast-flowing water of the Feather River – which would have been enough.

It’s a wonder that any of us survive to procreate, I sometimes think.

What could be more normal than the Jensen family? 

Edna, since you have sent this to the group, I will trust that it’s all right to post it on the blog as a comment. There are some who read the blog who are not in the group.