Today we are fondly remembering our friend Jean Flynn who passed away this morning.Wife of JoSara author Robert Flynn, Jean was a noted children’s book author (a list of her works and letters can be found here). Her influence can be found in all of Bob’s books as editor and advisor. She was an amazing woman, and a family friend to my wife and I.
I first met Bob in 1981 at Trinity University, and met Jean shortly thereafter. My wife met Bob first, and did not meet Jean for a while. As an introduction, I had her read this story. It suits them both well, showing their love of travel, their wit and their boundless love for life and each other.
From Growing Up A Sullen Baptist and Other Lies by Robert Flynn (I wish it was published by JoSara, but published by University of North Texas Press).
Enduring Love by Jean and Robert Flynn
We have been told numerous times that our marriage should have failed. We are opposites. We view things differently. Robert is a romantic. I am a realist. When two people are so different one always has to compromise. I compromised on a wedding anniversary trip.
We gave ourselves a five week trip to Alaska for our fortieth wedding anniversary. Our first adventure was to backpack the Chilkoot Trail, the site of the Klondike Gold Rush. I had envisioned wine by a campfire, the smells of food cooking, and sleeping bags zipped together under the stars
By the time I had finished packing my thirty-five pound backpack, I had drunk all the wine and we had settled on freeze-dried food. Our fire was a pork ‘n beans can over a Sterno. It was June, there was still snow and ice everywhere.
We were both layered with clothes, the outer garment was waterproof – Bob’s was Goretext, mine was Wal-Mart. The only things I took off at night were my wet socks and rain suit. There were no stars because it never got dark and every time I went to sleep, I was startled awake by Bob blowing the bear whistle in my ear.
The third day of our hike, we climbed the Chilkoot Pass, seven miles at a 45 degree angle from the base to the summit. I don’t remember how long it took us because it is an outdoor museum. I stopped several times to explore areas scattered with old pans, cans, parts of cooking stoves and graves.
It was late when we arrived at Happy Camp, an oxymoron if I have ever heard one. It was also snowing. We set up our tent. I took of my wet socks and suit and said, “I’m going to her. Don’t blow the whistle. If a bear comes, let him have me.”
As I curled up in the sleeping bag, I silently prayed, “Lord, if you will just let me get dry and warm again, I promise to divorce Robert Flynn before our next anniversary.
For our fortieth anniversary, I wanted to do something romantic. Alaska! Lying beside a bubbling stream under a clear starry sky with wine in our hands, a campfire at our feet and miles of nothing in every direction. However, when we got to Alaska, Jean wanted to go to Canada. I was willing to compromise; that’s what enduring love means. The cheapest way was to climb the Chilkoot Trail. We made that trip to Canada in three days, but perhaps could have beaten the record for married couples who are not pursued by bears if Jean had not stopped so often. She said she wanted to see what the Klondikers had left. Like dead horses.
Jean carried a backpack with a package of M&Ms. I carried the food, the water, the tent, the sleeping bags, Jean’s reading material and a bottle of chilled wine. For food, I carried freeze dried MREs – a four day supply of tuna fish casserole. Following military tradition, the army replaced inedible ham and lima beans with freeze dried tuna fish casserole.
When we crossed into Canada we found seven feet of snow covering a narrow trail along the side of a mountain. About a hundred feet below the slippery trail was a lake, still frozen over but showing patches of blue where the ice was getting thin. I told Jean not to worry because if she fell I would get out of my clothes and plunge down the mountainside to rescue her from the lake. Jean told me not to bother about coming to get her out. She would freeze to death before I could get out of that backpack.
We celebrated our anniversary at Happy Camp. There were no stars because it was snowing, no campfire because there was no wood, and no wine because Jean drank it the first night. I set up the tent, unrolled the sleeping bags on the snow and Jean crawled into one. I heated chocolate on the Sterno and brought hot chocolate and M&Ms to bed.
I think we both agreed it was the best anniversary ever. We were both quiet for a while but I knew what Jean was thinking – where will we celebrate our forty-first anniversary? Botswana, I thought. Or maybe, Bangladesh.