Roger M. Goetz Chapter 08

Looking Back

by Roger M. Goetz



There was a prelude to the episode involving Jamie Jameson and his girl friend.  Mom recorded it in her diary, Book 9, entry dated Jan. 12, 1954 - Tuesday:

New Year’s Eve Chuck had supper at Cheryl’s house and they went to a movie and got to our house at 11:05.  So I made hamburgers and Jamie dropped in and joined us and so we were awake when the clock struck 12:00.  Chuck took Cheryl home and we all got to bed a little after 1:00.  Got up tired and were in church by 10:00.  New Year’s Eve is a "pain in the neck" as far as I am concerned.  Old age speaking.  Went to [the Reinhard] Friedrich’s New Year’s Day for a 1:30 feast - had our dessert about 5 and came home at 10:30.  Chuck made I don’t know how many phone calls to Cheryl’s house.  Jamie kept dropping in [at the Friedrich’s], uninvited and it seems there was a sailor in town who was paying attention to Cheryl and Chuck was madly jealous.

My reaction to reading this is: how the young suffer so!

How I wish Chuck were still alive so I could rib him about this.  More important, however,  I wish I still had the opportunity to ask questions about things I scarcely remember and about some items in my mother’s diaries.  In fact, I’m the only one left in our family, for Dad died in 1985, Chuck in 1987, and Mom in 1996.

A week later Jamie set his family on its ear in connection with his girl friend Pat.  Rather than continuing the above diary entry, we do well to read an explanatory sentence Mom wrote in the top margin: "Pat moved to C. Rapids last October and the 2 have been going ‘steady’ for a long time."

Returning to the main entry reveals later developments.

On Friday a.m. the 8th Jamie (Jameson) left for Cedar Rapids [I believe in a jeep] instead of going to school, picked up Pat Hannay at the H. S. and drove off to somewhere, presumably to get married.  Haven’t heard from them since and his folks are just crushed.  The little snot-noses.  They will be 18 and 16 this month.

This was written four days after Jamie had left and his whereabouts were still unknown

When I talked to Mrs. Jameson day after Jamie left, she was both angry and scared.  She told me they had contacted the authorities.  As a result, the highway patrols of four states were now looking for Jamie.

We find the conclusion of this escapade in the next diary entry dated Jan. 20, 1954 - Wednesday:

To complete the record–Jamie is back.  They finally found him in Minneapolis at her father’s place.  Pat’s parents are divorced and remarried.  Pat’s mother–so we hear–has been unbearably mean to Pat and her father is taking legal action to get custody.  Pat and Jamie did get a marriage license, but finances stumped them–so they just want to be "engaged."  The knight in shining armor rescued the damsel in distress.

One important piece of this story is not recorded.  After Jamie had disappeared, his parents asked Chuck if he knew where they were going.  Chuck said he didn’t.  Since Chuck and Jamie were such close friends, the Jamesons had a hard time believing their son hadn’t confided in my brother.  As a result, they asked my parents to question him about this.  He remained firm that he didn’t know anything about it.

When it was all said and done, however, Chuck admitted that Jamie had indeed confided in him and that he knew where they were going, but that he had promised Jamie to keep it a secret and he felt compelled to keep his promise.

In his own mind, Chuck had thought he’d done the honorable thing, but both sets of parents were less than pleased with him.

But as a result of this episode, Chuck had taught me the precept that there are times when secrets should not be kept if doing so would result in harm or injury to others.  This was useful for me some fifteen years ago in Topeka, Kansas.

One day at church I received a phone call from a member of my parish who was a registered nurse and who had a history of periodic bouts of serious emotional problems.  She told me that she had decided to commit suicide.  My counseling training as a Lutheran pastor kicked in, and I talked with her for as long as I could keep her on the line, hoping that our conversation might change things.  At the end of a quarter-hour discussion, she remained adamant about her plan, thanked me for listening, and ended the call.

I knew what to do and the lesson I’d learned from Chuck gave me the resolve to do it.  I dialed 911.  After identifying myself, I reported her plan to commit suicide and gave them her name and address.  I knew I had done all I could to save her life.

No sooner had I hung up, when the phone rang.  I answered it.  It was the R.N.

"Please don’t call the police," she said.

"I already have," I responded.  "You know from your own training that I had no choice."

"That’s right," she said.  "Well, they’re here already, knocking at my door.  Thanks for listening."

On some level inside her, I think she wanted intervention rather than death.

And I was glad for the lesson I learned from Chuck forty years earlier.