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Love Never Fails

Mount Corcovado in Brazil


Courtesy of Brazilian
Government Trade Bureau

From the top of Mount Corcovado in Brazil, Jane could look out upon an earthly paradise, worlds away from small-town Michigan.


By ROY PETER CLARK
Special To The Times

Imagine that you are a young woman from a small town in Michigan. It is January of 1975, frigidly cold in the Midwest. But you are not in Union City anymore. It is not winter, but summer. You are on another continent, in another hemisphere. Constellations you've never seen before shine in the heavens.

You are driving for the first time through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. You have arrived in Brazil, with husband and 3-year-old son, to start a new life. And everything looks new and wonderfully different. You behold an amazing place where the jungle meets the mountains meets the city meets the sea.

You look up in awe at one of the most famous landmarks in the world, the statue of Christ the Redeemer, standing majestically atop Mount Corcovado, his arms stretched out to embrace the city. You have never seen anything like it. It is like putting the Statue of Liberty on top of Mount Rushmore.

Jane Morse remembers her first walk on the beach at Ipanema, her toes gripping the soft white sand, the warm breezes off the Atlantic blowing back her dark hair to reveal dark eyes and tanned face. To strangers she must have looked Brazilian. With bossa nova rhythms in the air, she would have struck more than one man as tall and tan and young and lovely. She never felt so alive.

She had needed a change from Union City. She loved the people there, but felt suffocated by its blandness. Her husband, Mick, did too. In 1974, Mick, a middle school principal, noticed an ad for a job at the American School in Rio. He applied for it, "just for fun."

One day an item appeared in the Union City Register-Tribune that had the town buzzing:

The headline read:

Morse family to begin 2 1/2 years in Rio de Janeiro in January

The story describes how Mick had answered a Western Michigan University placement bulletin and gained a position at Escola Americana, a private American School in Rio, guided by a 16-member board of directors. More than half of the students are American. The other students, whose parents work for businesses in Rio, come from 35 different countries.

What a change from Union City Middle School.

Mick and Jane


Morse family photo

Michigan, 1974: Mick and Jane are ecstatic at their going away party.


A snapshot at their going away party shows Mick looking ecstatic. Though 10 years older than Jane, he appears almost as young, with a sporty mustache and hair covering his ears. He wears a flashy checkered sport coat. One hand holds a plateful of food. The other grips Jane's shoulder. It is one of the few photos that shows him touching her.

Mick could not wait to get out of Union City, and neither could Jane. She was worn out, as any mother would be, from the rambunctious behavior of their young son, David. Time and again in her journals, she describes David as "all boy." He loves sports, wrestling with his dad and building things with his grandpa. On his third birthday, he wears full cowboy gear and points two six-shooters at a family photographer.

Her son filled up Jane's life. But her marriage left something to be desired. Since their honeymoon, almost seven years ago now, Jane felt the absence of Mick. Could you do that? Feel in your body the absence of your husband? Their lovemaking was infrequent and conventional. Mick showed no tenderness, ingenuity, passion, or - most painful of all - interest. Jane was always the initiator, always. Wasn't it supposed to be the other way around?

She had once sneaked a peek at that bible of the sexual revolution, The Joy of Sex. Her manual, if she had written it, would have to be called Joyless Sex.

She loved Mick, nonetheless, and could write in 1978: "We are truly blessed with three lovely, healthy children. And I with a husband who loves me. How I love him!"

When frustrated in her body, Jane would take refuge in the spirit. She would write inspirational proverbs in her journal, or quotes from the Bible. Just before embarking for Brazil, she wrote: "Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous; it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. Love does nothing rude, it is not self seeking, it is not prone to anger; it does not brood over injuries, but rejoices along with the truth. Love covers over everything, believes everything, hopes for everything, puts up with everything. Love never fails."

As she stood on the beach in Rio, ready to start a new life in another world, she needed to believe that - desperately. If love never fails, she and Mick would never fail.

The SERIES: This is the seventh installment of a 29-part story.
Next: Chapter 8, Once is Enough


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