In our last episode, we intrepid converts were transitioning from Germany back to the states for Larry’s back surgery. Little did we know as we packed to leave that the next eighteen months would find us in four different states (geographical, not emotional).
Getting back to the states was a real joy â€“ the Air Force, in its infinite stupidity â€“ required Larry to travel solo on a “medivac” flight even though he was still fully ambulatory. Miki and our two youngsters flew ahead to San Antonio and Larry followed a couple of days later. With the help of Morg in both Germany and Texas, we settled into a short-term rental and even had a car loaned to us while ours was being shipped. The support we received on both sides of the Atlantic during a couple of critical weeks was terrific and worth every dime of the club dues.
We then began the arduous “hurry up and wait” of yet another round of medical evaluations before the specific surgery type was decided upon and scheduled, to include a health blessing for Larry (big surprise â€“ it really didn’t work) and the news that the anesthesiologist was LDS. Somehow, this latter item seemed more important at the time than it really was.
The weeks that followed were a period of medical recovery with relatively little time spent in church jobs. Since it was common knowledge we were just passing through, we weren’t assigned any callings. We did, however, volunteer for one or two fund-raising inventories of local retail outlets. With all the support we had received, it was the least we could do.
Dealings with the military weren’t so pleasant and Larry ended up being ordered to Luke AFB, west of Phoenix. He would be grounded for at least a year and might not be able to fly again, but to quote the personnel officer, “You’re a fighter asset and you’re going to a fighter base.”
Getting to Phoenix five months after returning stateside was much more like a conventional work-related move. We quickly found our new ward, and settled into getting to know people and take on our assigned callings as part of what was supposed to be a three-year tour. Looking back thirty-plus years, neither of us can remember what any of our callings were.
After our daughter reached her fourth birthday, there came our way questions about when the next little Pratt spirit would be making his or her appearance. As both our children were born Caesarean, a tubal ligation (required by the military doctors) was performed after Erica’s birth.
While we had long preferred one or two more children, not having them wasn’t a major issue, particularly given Erica’s continuing medical issues. However, we felt that our church membership was providing us with the impetus to seek a tubal re-anastomosis in order to bring more spirits to earth.
Just writing this brings about a gag reflex.
Moving along, what was supposed to be three years at Luke turned out to be a very tumultuous nine months personally, professionally, and spiritually. Looking back at things through this essay, this may have been the most trying time in our marriage.
Personally, our daughter endured a major crisis that would leave her mildly disabled and impact her for the next five years. At the same time, our attempts to get back into the reproduction game entailed an extensive amount of tests and evaluations. Any couple experiencing fertility issues needs to be told no more. Health blessings again fell far short of expectations for all concerned.
Professionally, when the one-year anniversary of Larry’s surgery arrived, he was cleared to return to flying, by now becoming aware that the military was looking to fill a shortage of warm bodies in his specialty, risks be damned. He asked the flight surgeon who signed off on his physical, what would happen to him if, with a triple-vertebrae fusion, he had to eject from his aircraft. The response was something Larry has never forgotten.
“We don’t know,” he was told. “You’ll be the first.”
Not a prayer.
Larry managed to find a loophole in the system which essentially made him something of a pariah at the base who found himself with no room at the inn. After several weeks of personal contacts and phone calls to a few key people, he finally found a new specialty that would be an ideal match to include a post-training assignment that would actually be the zenith of our time in the church.
The personal and professional demands on us resulted in our turning to the church more than ever. Ain’t that the way? It was during this time we bought our first wheat grinder and began food storage in earnest. We also managed a visit to the Mesa temple as part of a “group night” with our ward. We “double dated” with our bishop and his wife.
As irony might have it, the day that this portion of our saga was to be submitted for review and approval, I happened across a spot-on bit of commentary in the “Pearls Before Swine” comic strip. Check it out â€“ the July 10 strip that proves a picture is worth a thousand words.
This was also the time of the church being challenged by Sonia Johnson and we were initially disappointed in the treatment that Johnson received at the hands of the LDS hierarchy. Larry questioned our bishop regarding her excommunication for speaking her mind on the matter of the ERA. While his explanation isn’t fully remembered in detail, he made a case for the church supporting “traditional” roles for men and women within a family that was living under the umbrella of the church hierarchy. His unspoken but thinly veiled (there’s that veil thing again) message was that the church did not accept nor tolerate a loyal opposition and people did have the choice to leave the church if they were in strong disagreement with its policies. The message was clear â€“ those â€“ like Johnson â€“ who were in active opposition to current doctrine and policies, looking to achieve change from within, would be excommunicated for their rebellion. At that point in our time of demands and turmoil, our roots in the church were deepening and the bishop’s message had in it a sense of legitimacy.
What were we thinking? Answer â€“ we, like most LDS members, weren’t thinking. We just went along with the system and were kept too busy to have any time to question, not to mention that, despite our perceiving increased shortcomings, the church was the best emotional support system we had.
Nine months after arriving in Phoenix, it was off to the Denver area for four months of cross training for Larry’s next assignment. This short period was actually something of a respite from our most recent experiences. We weren’t in the local ward long enough to be assigned any callings (although we did work one inventory fundraiser), Larry’s transitional training went very well, Erica avoided any medical crisis, and Miki underwent a tubal re-anastomosis without incident.
Spoiler alert â€“ her surgery yielded zero results which, looking back, was not an entirely bad thing. But that’s another story.
August 1981 found us in Mountain Home, Idaho and the start of the two best years we were to spend in the LDS church.
Copyright 2013 Lawrence and Mikayla Pratt