My name is Alan Zorn Evardson and after my parents died in a car crash when I was six, I was raised by my maternal grandparents in east central Minnesota. I once was told that my middle name was given to me out of deference to the great Swedish painter of nudes, Anders Zorn, who I was somehow related to but more than that was never explained to me. Considering I almost failed second grade for an inability to color between the lines, this genetic link must be rather tenuous at best and considering the old painter died without having children, I now doubt the story. Somehow the thought that my great grandmother possibly had a secret affair and or did nude modeling for the artist is both exhilarating and disturbing at the same time. I guess some family secrets are best said to remain mysterious and, uh…secret.
My grandfather was the handiest man I ever knew, and was a carpenter by trade. He decided that when I was twelve it would the time to give me some wood as to see what I could make of it. It was sort of an Evardson aptitude test. After inspecting my creation, when I had finally finished, he told me that I needed to study hard at school because the only hope for me and I suppose of being able to support myself would be thru a college education. A tradesman I would never be. To say I had little aptitude for woodworking would be a gross overstatement.
After many years of studying, I am now an Emergency Room doctor but I neither enjoy medicine nor think I’m really good at it. To be honest, I don’t think I’m really good at doing much of anything with the noted exception of maybe mowing the lawn and even in that, I need to go back over and mow where I’ve already mown so that all the grass is at the same height. Maybe I just have a soft spot for grass since it seems to be the only plant that in my presence doesn’t just wither and die.
If my life had a motto behind it, it would easily be Murphy’s Law, except that in my case, nothing went wrong because nothing ever actually happened. Of late I have been thinking that the old philosophical argument about a tree falling in the woods making no ‘sound’ could be better applied to me and my life. I beg the rhetorical question: “If a life is lived and no one noticed, have you lived at all?”
I have never been much good with the ladies. I had a couple of dates in college and I took a girl to my senior prom. I had dated a girl for a couple of months in high school who was from a far more conservative church that the Swedish Lutheran church my family ‘attended.’ This girl, one day while we were parked under a grove of trees near the end of her half mile long driveway, announced to me that she didn’t believe in kissing. Not deterred since we had never kissed anyways, I asked her, “We were still going to prom, right?” I was the first person home for prom and I have never really understood what all the fuss of ‘prom’ is all about. I never talked to that girl after that. Not that I have any bad feelings about that night or our ‘relationship,’ our paths just never crossed, she being from a different religious circle. My grandmother was always suspicious of Baptists and used to mutter something her mother had told her in Swedish. I’m not even sure if she knew what it meant.
I am married and have three children and how that actually happened is something, I think, of an oddity. You see my wife is also a doctor and we shared cadavers in Medical School. One day after studying neuroanatomy and cranial nerve pathways we decided to go to the mall and rent a movie. The video rental place was next to a jewelry store. I got distracted by the diamond rings and in sort of a jest I asked her which one she liked. Ten minutes later, I was seven hundred dollars poorer and we were engaged.
My Grandfather was so shocked I think, and didn’t want my opportunity to be missed, that he volunteered to pay for the wedding despite the social convention of the day. This created something of a row between my family and that of my fiancé’s, although they never had that much in common anyhow. The wedding became embroiled in arguments: what food, alcohol or non-alcoholic, should there be a reception, and where. The problems grew by the day. My wife to be was of the same conservative Baptist background as to my prom date, and in the end, my wife, Elsa and I got married at the court house in Duluth, Minnesota. Our witnesses were the couple standing behind us in line. I think their names were John and Suzy, I am not sure but they were from Two Harbors, Minnesota. This was much easier since to be honest, I was having a hard time finding anybody to be my best man other than my grandfather, and since my wife had wanted five attendants, I was at a loss to find people to be paired with them.
We spent our wedding night in different beds and in different apartments as I had just had my apartment painted and my wife couldn’t tolerate the paint smell. She slept on a single bed and there wasn’t any room for me and we didn’t have enough money to waste on a hotel room. To be honest, I am not sure either of us thought that anything was wrong with that back then. Her church upbringing was so conservative that after hearing the evils of premarital sex on countless Sundays and Wednesday nights, members of her church had never prepared her for what happened after marriage. Not that I knew any better. My normal was always different than what I had seen on the television and heard about from the few people that ever talked to me.
Eventually, though, having heard of our marriage a couple of days later, I think my wife’s mom had a talk with her. I came home from the grocery store surprise one afternoon to find her naked under my covers, the window and her body open for my personal pleasure. Nothing of our wedding night was ever said or EVER mentioned during or since. I don’t think her family thought our marriage would ever last as we had a family reception a few weeks later which all of her relatives attended. I soon learned that a pool was being formed at fifty bucks a head as to when our divorce papers would be filed. I had sixty dollars in my pocket and so I even got in on the action as I think my wife Elsa also did. I signed up for fifty years, one month, and six days, thinking I would die exactly at the age of seventy five.
My grandfather taught me the value of persistence. He’d always say, “If you aren’t very good at something, about all you have is persistence.” Eventually even the slow person will complete the job. I took this to heart and took to tasks like a beaver to a dam building project. It got me through school and I never lost a weight loss contest or anything like that. I also decided I wouldn’t be the reason I’d lose my marriage pool. There was real money at stake and I could outlast anyone. About two months after our third child was born, ten years later, I received a box in the mail. The unmarked package contained nearly two thousand dollars. Apparently nobody, including Elsa had picked a date longer than ten years. I never asked Elsa what her prediction was. I have never spent a cent of that money and every so often I open the box and handle the money with a perverse sense of satisfaction. I consider it my crowning achievement in my pursuit of persistence.
My Grandfather died a few years after we were married and he never saw any of my children being born. My grandmother died a few months later. I had wanted to name a child after my grandfather but my wife never really included my input in any of our children’s naming and since my wife never changed her last name, and my children carry her last name, the Swedish American lineage of mine from Rush City Minnesota, ends with me. There are no more, Evardsons, Alans, Sigurds, or thankfully Zorns, that have my genetics in them. I have an Alma, a David, and a Stephany. It is somehow fitting that even my wife doesn’t value me enough to have given my children to allow them my last name. I guess I’m lucky to have a wife at all.
I visit my grandparents on my Grandfather’s birthday, May 17th every year. I do this alone as my wife doesn’t understand the whole process of mourning and of memorials. She has no sentimentality at all and at times, I think, in a past life, she had been a Spartan maiden: practicality having somehow purged any and all emotions out of her.
Nobody remembers me in my home town since I am not even sure they ever knew that I lived there in the first place. I did graduate second in my class of sixty one but since I had no athletic ability, musical talent, nor other distinguishing attributes, my tenure wasn’t noticed nor missed. I ran into an old math teacher of mine during one of my visits to the graves of my family. He looked at me quizzically. I introduced myself. Smiling he said to me, “yea, you moved to Pine City after your freshman year, right?” Pine City was the next town north of us. I think I got an A in his class, but probably now thinking about it, the grade was probably meant for someone else.
I nodded and replied. “…Something like that.” Not making the energy to correct him and vowing quietly to myself at that moment to never show up at any class reunions not that I’ve ever been invited to one. I’m sure they have lost my address and I doubt anyone talk to me even if I did show up. Nobody talked to me when I was in school so I was probably correct to assume that nothing would change now twenty seven years later.
I think I love Elsa and that she loves me, but to be honest, unlike Forrest Gump, I am not sure I know what ‘love is.’ We have been married twenty one years and I have been faithful as I think faithfulness and love are somehow related at least that is what the talk shows on TV say. It hasn’t been hard to be faithful, though, as in my forty five years of life, to my knowledge, I have never so much as caught the notice of a woman except as in the case of me walking in a cross walk. Women drivers usually notice me enough to slow down…but even that isn’t absolute and I did break my leg once when I got hit by a car. The driver was a woman, she never stopped. I’m lucky, I guess, I haven’t been killed. They say that women are attracted to money, but I’ve never seen any evidence of that and I have some money. This must be something that is not absolute.
I am not sure why my wife married me except that I asked her… or at least I sort of did. In retrospect, I don’t know what got into me. She might have been thinking like Forrest Gump in that too: “It is one less thing to worry about.” Forrest was talking of money and Elsa, I sure was thinking of marriage. I was there and it was expected of her to marry someone. I asked. Oddly, she wasn’t a virgin before our marriage, and like her participation in our marriage pool, those details have never been discussed.
To be honest, we’ve only had one rough spot in our twenty one years together. I came home late from work one night to find the locks on the door changed. A note was on the door instructing a shipping company that the packages were in the garage and that the door was open. I went to the garage and the first large box I opened was my favorite chair.
Devastated and sure our marriage was at its end, and having no place to go, I slept that night on the porch. Around six-thirty in the morning, the door opened when the dog needed to be let out and Elsa found me in a terrible state. It turned out, that she had just decided to get a new door and forgot about me needing a key and while she was having the door redone, she also decided to get new furniture. It was all a misunderstanding. While being invited to warm up under the covers, my wife showed me the only emotions I have ever seen in her. Although ‘pity’ was not the emotion I was looking for, the hour of ecstasy that followed led me to experience my wife’s only orgasm in our years of matrimony and for that matter it was a multiple climatic event. It was the only time of sex that I was invited for more. I couldn’t complete my duty somewhere between the third and fourth round. It was one of the highlights of my life. I’m reminded every day of the event as our youngest child was born nine months later. I don’t think Elsa ever acknowledged the significance of the event, and likewise despite, maybe having sex over six thousand times, before and after, the word orgasm or any slang term depicting it has never been mentioned. I have made it my life’s work and have made numerous attempts to repeat the ‘feat,’ but whatever passions I stirred in my wife that morning has never been found again by me nor unfortunately by her.
Our sex life is very scripted. Some people reading this will think I am living a male fantasy, but I am not sure that is necessarily the case. Our typical sexual encounters start with my wife usually reading. I come to the bedroom, she puts down her book, takes off her shirt, satisfies my carnal needs and goes back to reading when I’m completed despite my efforts at stimulating her. It is
always the same and I’m not sure what to make of her intimacy. I have been afraid to talk about it as her efforts satisfy my needs and I don’t want it to stop over a fight.
Love is definitely different than lust and maybe passion only involves reading of a book? I had never read fiction as a child, and one night somewhat confused as to her constant reading I made that fact known. Still naked, she arose from the bed walked to a shelf and pulled out a novel. Something from Ursula La Guin, I don’t remember which title, it doesn’t matter. I read it next to her and at five in the morning exhausted, I finished the story but still to this day, don’t understand her love of fiction. I am probably better off. She doesn’t understand me either, or so I believe…or maybe she understands me better than I think?
If I have a hobby, it is travel which is my own version of escapism. Elsa has always been happy to accompany me no matter where we go as long as she is allowed her backpack full of books. For her it doesn’t matter what she sees, what she does, or what she wears, even if it is nothing at all as long as she has a book to read and a place to read it. If that is satisfied, she seems content. I do have to say my wife, Elsa is more than tolerant as I’m not sure I’d put up with me.
Unfortunately, however, no matter where we go or what I find, I keep finding myself back at my staid home, in my vanilla existence, and smack dab in my boring life. But to be honest, it is the only life I have known, so to say it is boring would imply some level of self-awareness that until recently I didn’t have.
Life can change both dramatically and subtly and often when we can least expect it. Sometimes it can even change without any of the participants even knowing it, and that is what happened to me. What had been a steady headwind in my life soon became a tailwind and the change was so unexpected and subtle, I didn’t even realized it had happened, well until I had already found myself on a new course. It was a course I would never have dreamed I could have been on. Mostly as I didn’t know what dreaming was, dreaming was something for people with goals or for those who could see their future. I had a hard enough time understanding the events of today.
I am Doctor Alan Zorn Evardson and this is my story.