I keep forgetting to tell you.

I saw my old missionary companion a few weeks ago- Oh, right, he was never my companion. Over the years, the companion distinction fades and it’s just missionaries you remember.

Elder Oak as he’s called. My zone leader. A stout 5’9 or 10.” Built like General Ulysses S. Grant, whom I’m reading about! By happenstance, the first area of my mission was in the pop. 5000 town of Ulysses, in the heart of Grant County.

Anyhow, Oak was just tall enough to not be short and he had that tree-trunk thickness. Elder Marshall said Oak’d get a waiver from the army when Oak observed that he was to “fat” according to the height weight metric. Marshall’s dad was a Colonal in the army reserves and a director at a Frito-Lay.

Marhall and I were quite the duo, but I noticed he pushed the army stuff more on Oak. Late one night, when I expressed some insecurity and doubt about my future, Marshall just laughed, crying out my name- “Litchfield! …Litchfield- you’re killing me!”

Oak called Marshall Aaron and he called me Litchfield. Marshall and I were Aarons. I only know Oak as Oak, or Elder Oak- not Adam, like I weirdly called him when I saw him and his family a few weeks ago. Adam is my brother’s name…

Interesting how we obeyed certain rules. We rarely sweared, “Damn and hell are fine” Oak would profess. Nothing worse.

We went haywire with the fake swears. We said shiz of course, all the effing time. Fricken and freaken, naturally. I’m pretty certain members of the faith coined the term “F-Bomb.”

Once when (Marshall and I) were with (Oak and Monday) for dinner at a member’s house, we were escorted through a dark cavernous entry way as Sister Smith apologized repeatedly for all the “S.H.” Initially I was confused. The other guys had to inform me she was just spelling half of the word shit. “Sorry about all the S.H. boys. HONEY, you need to get rid of this S.H.!” In the following weeks we got weird and shouted “S.H.I.S!” My guess as to why we ended with the S. and not a T. or a Z. is as good as yours.

Oak was our leader. Sure he wasn’t an Assistant to the President (Not yet- he’d later he would defy the “aspirers” and nerds and head to the office.) But when I knew and loved Oak, he was my Zone Leader in Pueblo.

Author: Aaron

Aaron lives in Texas right now.

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