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Hello, and welcome! You’re listening to Song Stories, Quiet Stories, episode 18, Silver Curls. I’m your host, Carolyn Murset.
Every night for years, Tom, my father in law sat at the head of the dinner table. And every night after eating the last bite, he scraped the plate with a fork. And scraped. And scraped, until his wife Mary, who wore the pants in the family exclaimed, “Thomas! That’s enough!”
Even though one doctor had told him he was diabetic, he managed to eat a quart of vanilla ice cream every night at bedtime. He scraped and scraped that bowl clean, too. It was one of the few little things he did to.. delight her.
We often wondered how this diabetic could eat all of that without affecting his blood sugar. It never occurred to me that he never checked his blood sugar like my diabetic mom had to a couple of times a day. When I’d visit her, she’d insist on checking mine, too, just for fun. But was it fun, for me? No. I digress.
Then one day, his doctor retired or died, and Tom went to another physician, who after examining him declared, “You don’t have diabetes!” Miracles happen. And so does malpractice? And Tom continued with his nightly quart of vanilla. He needed those extra calories because he worked so hard during the day maintaining his Sherman Oaks, California apartment complexes on Woodman and Moorpark.
He had a tan on his face and his arms and if you didn’t know that his parents were Swiss and Irish, you’d think he was from somewhere more mysterious and exotic, like the middle east.
His wavy hair was completely silver by the time he was twenty six. My husband inherited the waves and the gray tresses and started graying the day after we got married. He was twenty two. Hmmm.
At the beach at Santa Monica, or boating with the old Glaspar at the lake near our house, Tom wore a buttoned white terry cloth short jacket over his full set of clothing. Bath towels are made of terry cloth. He didn’t mind the heat.
In the late 1990’s his brain function began to decline. The Alzheimer’s disease frustrated him when the mental clarity came through on occasion. He’d often say, “I just don’t know what to do! I don’t know!”
Mary did all she could to take care of him herself. In 2002, she was determined to get away to Denver for five days to attend her granddaughter’s wedding, so my husband went to California and took care of his dad.
Mary was already so run down from the 24 hour a day caretaking, that while in Denver, she came down with pneumonia and was in the hospital in very serious condition for three weeks. She missed the wedding, but the granddaughter, Dana and her new husband, Ryan came to the hospital afterwards in their wedding gown and tuxedo so that Mary wouldn’t miss out on everything.
Once Rich and I saw that his mom wasn’t going to be coming home soon, he brought his dad home to live with us in southern Utah until he died nine months later.
It took all five of us who were at home to watch Tom 24 hours a day. I don’t know how Mary did it on her own and can easily see how she ended up so close to dying for so long.
After three months of being in our home, Tom’s insurance transferred and we took him to daycare at the rest home a few blocks away from us. He’d eat a couple of meals there, make friends with the residents and staff and then we’d come and bring him home for the night.
Our youngest child, Megan was eight years old, and very bashful. She’d memorized the entire musical soundtrack of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and entertained her grandpa by singing it and acting it out for him.
We were so happy to watch her make her grandpa happy that we encouraged her by buying an Egyptian Pharaoh hat, a Carmen Miranda fruit hat and a camel mask. She gathered other costumes from our stash in the basement.
Once Mary recovered from the pneumonia and returned home to California, she’d come and visit Tom every few weeks. She was always pleased that he recognized her and remembered her name.
A few days after Christmas vacation our kids who were at home returned to school, and Rich and I entered Tom into the rest home full time. It’s at once hard to admit that you aren’t able to give a parent in need the required full attention and have to place that parent in better hands, AND not feel guilty that you aren’t equipped to handle it yourselves.
Hurricane Rehabilitation Center was Tom’s home for the next three months, until the capable and loving nurses recognized he would no longer hold on. They called Rich and I to be at his side as he quietly and hopefully, painlessly slipped away to the other side.
Tom was the first of our four parents to leave. It’s been 16 years and we miss him still.
Twenty five years ago, my husband, taking inspiration from his father, wrote the lyrics to this song, Silver Curls. Recording it yesterday was my Father’s Day gift to my husband:
Until recently, I didn’t know much about Father’s Day other than that in the United States, we observe it on the third Sunday of June. It didn’t surprise me to learn that Mother’s Day became an official holiday before Father’s Day became official.
Don’t ask me why, but five kids times nine months of pregnancy plus fifty hours of labor and delivery and weeks of recovery and at least fifteen years of interrupted by my children’s sleep might have something to do with my needing that bag of Dove chocolate and vase of flowers and sentimental greeting card, ….
before he gets his umpteenth necktie and beef stroganoff and carrot cake dinner for all of his property and financial management and weed killing and lawn mowing and trampoline bouncing and bedtime story reading with the young kids and back rubbing and guitar and amplifier wrangling for the musician wife.
The nation’s first Father’s Day was celebrated in the state of Washington. According to history.com, a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, who was one of 14 children raised by her father, William Jackson Smart, who was a twice married, twice widowed Civil War veteran, who oddly, had fought for both sides in the war. Sonora tried to establish an official equivalent to Mother’s Day for male parents and to honor her devoted and selfless dad.
She went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to gather support for her idea, and she succeeded: Washington State celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on June 19, 1910.
It didn’t become a nationwide holiday until 1972, 58 years after Mother’s Day became official. 58 years!
Mother’s Day as we know it in the United States originated soon after the Civil War in the 1860’s when activist Ann Reeves Jarvis, organized a “Mother’s Work Days” celebration in one divided West Virginia town that brought together the mothers of Confederate and Union soldiers.
Decades later in 1908, Jarvis’ daughter wanted to honor her own mother by making Mother’s Day a national holiday. After a department store in Philadelphia sponsored a service dedicated to mothers in it’s auditorium, other retailers saw the profit potential in the holiday, and Mother’s Day caught on right away.
History.com mentions that in 1909 45 states observed the day. Well, New Mexico and Arizona became the 47th and 48th states in 1912, if I remember my 8th grade class in New Mexico history, so that means 45 out of the 46 United States observed Mother’s Day that year, but I digress.
In 1924 President Woodrow Wilson approved a resolution that made the second Sunday in May a holiday in honor of “that tender, gentle army, the mothers of America”.
Now, back to Father’s Day. After that initial celebration in Washington State back in 1910, the holiday slowly and less enthusiastically spread. One florist then explained, “fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.”
In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson honored the day by using telegraph signals to unfurl a flag in Spokane, Washington when he pressed a button in Washington DC. a distance of 2,485 miles away! In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day.
Now, you fathers: how do you feel about this holiday? Does the commercialism disappoint you, especially when the money for your proverbial necktie or pair of dress socks oftentimes comes out of your own pocket? Do the kids in your church congregation sing a Father’s Day anthem for you on the third Sunday in June? Do the women distribute at least a token gift of mini loaves of banana bread when you’re trying to eat a ketogenic diet? If you don’t typically attend church, try going on Father’s Day and see what happens.
The perfect father or mother may not even exist. If your life experience with either parent has been less than stellar, try anyway to acknowledge one positive thing about them, and recognize that their own parents may not have been a shining star in their constellation, either. Write your thoughts down, either in a letter or a card. Let them know of your appreciation anyway, whether or not you think they deserve it, whether they’re alive, or not. They’ll hear you.
Come back next time and we’ll talk about patriotism. Until then, subscribe to this podcast here, at mycarolynmurset.com, or on your smartphone podcast app or at iTunes or Google play.
Check out my online digital music store, also at my website, and on my events page, read about my upcoming performances of my original one woman biographical musical, Tales of Tila. I’ll be performing it at Brigham’s Playhouse in Washington, Utah on Mondays and Tuesday, September 9, 10, 16, and 17th, and at the Family Roots Conference at the Dixie Convention Center in St. George, Utah, Saturday September 28th.
If you can’t attend either of those events, come watch me in Man of La Mancha, also at Brigham’s Playhouse, Thursdays, Fridays and twice on Saturdays, August 22nd- September 28th.
If you didn’t catch it, I’m going to be super busy on that last Saturday of September, with one Tales of Tila in the morning and two Men of La Mancha’s later that day. Pray for me and my guitar on the 29th. And the 28th. You can buy play tickets online at brighamsplayhouse.com or by calling 435-251-8000.
Thanks for listening, thanks for writing. I’m your host, Carolyn Murset.
(Your writing prompts are in bold lettering.)
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