Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Tribute to My Parents

Yesterday, it was my honor to pay tribute to my parents.

Through 60 years of marriage they built a family that I often thought of as typically American for folks of our generation. As a result, I have always thought of myself as an "average American." Born in the middle of America, in the middle of the last century, in the middle of the political landscape - this middle child is grateful for the great "good fortune" of being born into a loving family and to still enjoy the love and guidance of my parents.

So with the indulgence of KSN&C readers, I proffer this very personal observation:

Tribute to My Parents:
On the 60th Anniversary of
John L. and Eileen C. Day

Fort Mitchell County Club
21 June 2008

Good afternoon.

On behalf of my big brother Jack and my little sister Kim Carter; along with our spouses, Sidney, Dennis and Rita - it’s my pleasure to welcome you - and thank you for joining our little celebration of the 60th anniversary of the elopement of John & Eileen Day. Of course, it might also be a celebration of common law marriage and the statute of limitations in Kentucky.

As it turns out, thirty years ago we were in this same room celebrating their 30th anniversary.

I’d also like to especially recognize Sidney for putting her considerable organizational skills to work – to pull together this luncheon. Thanks Sid.

Also we’d like to recognize our kids, who we stuck in the back corner of the room. Hi guys.

Before we begin, I’d like to recall some important people to whom we owe a great debt. First, there are our largely unknown ancestors. From photographs, I surmise that Mom’s ancestors were merchant-class English immigrants: Mom’s parents, Joel and LulaMae Clore held professional positions in Cincinnati. “Papal” as we called him was Safety Director for Cincinnati Gas & Electric; and NaNa worked for Thomas Emory & Sons, and in 1954, was the first woman named President of the Cincinnati Chapter of the National Insurance Buyers Association.

Now, don’t take this wrong - but to begin visualizing the Day’s of Tazwell TN, it’s helpful to recall the Clampets before Beverly Hills. ‘Cept more of ‘em. I’m pretty sure Dad’s Great Grandmother was a full-blood Cherokee. Somewhere around 1914, Dad’s father – “Pop” - hopped a train heading north, and found a railroad job in Ludlow. His wife Reba – “Mom” - was a homemaker who raised five children

Their spirits are alive in us today.

I’d also like to invoke the spirit of Uncle Joe - and say that if you’ll laugh at my stupid jokes, we’ll all have a better time.

Now, Mom & Dad’s actual anniversary was in February - but as is sometimes the case in this branch of the Day family – we get around to celebrations when we get around to them.

That reminds me. Last week was officially Father’s Day and Rita and I were in Atlanta (visiting the families of my son Travis and daughter Ashley, including 3 Great Grand children) and were not around to celebrate with Dad. I did call him - and he chided me for not singing “Happy Father’s Day” to him.

So, if you’ll permit me….I’d like to make up for that right now….

Today, Father is Father’s Day
And we’re giving you - a tie

It’s not much we know
It is just our way of showing you
We think you’re a regular guy

You say that it was nice of us to bother
But it really was a pleasure to fuss

For according to our mother
You’re our father
And that’s good enough for us
Yes, that’s good enough for us
(Harry Ruby)

Now, on with the services.

When the siblings and I were discussing the nature of today’s proceedings we decided to keep things rather simple: No big video productions. No totally embarrassing photos of unguarded moments - Just a few remembrances of the parents who raised us; who loved us; who exalted us; and defended us –

Then they threw us out of the house and started booking cruises.

So this will be something between a toast and a roast.

If at any point you are tempted to take a sip of champagne…we strongly suggest that you do so.

We owe our parents everything. They taught that if we’d value education and hard work, and treat people right, this country would provide us with opportunity, and we could live a happier life. They were right.

In fact, I can’t think of a single parenting mistake they made. Or - if they did - I’m sure we’ve forgotten them.

After a shaky start, Mom and Dad turned out to be terrific parents - who never really meant us any harm.

Now, I know that may sound like a strange thing to say. So let me explain.

My earliest memory in life involves Mom, Jack, and an old Nash Rambler. As most of you know, we lived in Ludlow in those days (the mid 50s) – on the Highway - and at the top of a steep hill.

One day Mom was driving Jack to kindergarten. As usual, we were both in the back seat of the Rambler. Mom backed out of the garage - and then got out of the car to close the garage door. For some reason, I remember the steering wheel turning very slowly - then I could feel the car moving backward over the hill and Jack pulling me down in the seat. Before we knew it, our Rambler was sitting down at the old barrel factory. It never really hit anything bigger than a bush, and Mom was the only one hurt, running down the hill after us and cutting her leg.

I told my therapist about it. He says I should let it go. “Probably an accident,” he says. So, I’m over it. All better.

Besides, neither Jack nor I can think of a time they ever tried to knock off Kim.

Well according to Dad’s stories he had a difficult childhood. It was the depression and he was forced to pull his little red wagon through the streets of Bromley selling vegetables. And like others of his generation, he had to crawl to school on his hands and knees over broken glass just to get an education. And he was glad to do it.

He lost a brother, Kyle, at the age of 9. But big brother Frank edited the Dixie Heights school newspaper while younger brother Clyde became a sports star. Big sister Vira must have just hung around looking good, because she was featured in the newspapers a few times, riding her bike, playing softball...being all leggy. Dad went for public speaking.

He apparently fussed with his brothers over who would get the boat during the ’37 flood. He worked with a Chaplin in Hawaii after Pearl Harbor. And at some point was a Police Judge in Bromley – where he once had a close call with disgruntled gun-toting union official.

Mom must have had it easier. She wintered in Ludlow; but summered in Fort Mitchell. There aren’t a lot of stories. But knowing Mom - she probably just kept them to herself. Most of the stories in the Clore family involved her little brother Joe.

As a child Mom was selected to be a Goldenrod Page and got her picture in the paper. I don’t know what it meant to be a Goldenrod Page, but any time I would mention it she’d roll her eyes…so I thought it might be fun to mention it again today.

You know, maybe I CAN think of one parenting mistake. Jack, you know the one I’m talking about. Kim got a TV in her room. We were never allowed a TV in our room.

No big deal. I’m just sayin.’ I told my therapist about it. He says I should let it go.

The long-term success of this “mixed marriage” - He from an independently-minded Democratic family - She from Goldwater Republican stock – was based on departmentalization. There were things Mom was in charge of and things Dad was in charge of. By that means they directed us - and gave each other breathing room.

We were a very religious family. Y’all probably didn’t know that. Our parents operated on the principle that a strong family needed a good foundation and Dad turned to the good book for guidance. His most frequently recited Bible verse – in fact, it may have been the only Bible verse we ever heard from him – was Exodus 20:12. Not the whole verse. Just the first part that said, "Honor thy father and thy mother.” We heard that a lot. Dad seemed to think that if we’d do that - everything would be fine.

In the early days, Mom & Dad went through the normal kinds of upwardly mobile affiliations. Dad was in the Jaycees back in the days when they did more serious projects. He did a year at UC.

Mom was in the Jaycee Wives; wearing big hats and raising money for local charities. Jack and I grew up like Wally and the Beaver – and saw our mother change from dresses to Capri slacks with Mary Tyler Moore. We remember Mom & Grace Bullock, antiquing & decoupaging; bridge parties and family gatherings with the cousins; we remember the river boats paddling past our home with the calliope playing; exploring the river bank and hiking to Pigeon Point; the birth of our baby sister ten years behind me; LoDaBul & Derby parties.

Our parents built a great home for us to grow up in.

At some point, Mom picked up the nickname “Queenie.” There is some dispute over how she got this lofty title. Some have suggested that Mom carried herself in a manner that was almost regal – and perhaps she tended to direct others – so the title seemed to fit. We’re pretty sure she did not marry a prince …who then became King.

I naturally assumed that, like all divine rights rulers, she was ordained by God.

Her nickname was only reinforced during a long stint with the Ludlow Schools. With her gold slippers and hair bun, she was a force to be reckoned with at Ludlow. Moving from secretary to Principal Arthur Tipton, to board treasurer under Superintendent Tebay Rose and later Jon Draud – Mom was a player among the men who ran the school district – in the days before women were commonly found in powerful positions.

I recently invited Draud to speak to one of my classes at Eastern. A former superintendent found out I was from Ludlow and came over to reminisce. He went on about Draud’s good fortune in Ludlow and said, “That lucky SOB could do anything he wanted because he had - that woman who ran the district for him.” I told him, “We just call her, ‘Mom’.”

While Mom worked in the schools – Dad went on the stump. He served two terms in the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1954 & 1956. Speedy Kentuckians can thank his House Joint Resolution 14 for the “points” they get on their driver’s licenses.

Dad’s career included some youthful union activism. He helped lead a successful strike that aided his fellow workers – and got himself fired in the process.

So he switched to a career in real estate – first in sales – but later in appraisal. He served as President of the Kenton-Boone Board of Realtors and did appraisals for public agencies (like the Kentucky Highway Department, Greater Cincinnati Airport and East Kentucky Power) as well as individual home owners. He was named Realtor of the Year in 1968 and again in 1972 - and has been slacking off ever since. But he wrote and taught appraisal – and a few years ago, was awarded Emeritus status by the Kentucky Board of Realtors for more than 50 years of service to the industry.

As a high schooler, I found myself on “the dumb end” of a tape measure more than once as Dad taught me the exciting grunt work of real estate appraisal. Thrilling. But the truth is - it was in the court room where Dad came alive. There was nothing he enjoyed so much as going head-to-head with an opposing attorney in some condemnation case.

In fact, among my favorite memories were our family’s dinner table debates. They would usually start by Dad saying something outrageous. Then, Jack and I would take the opposing view and see if we could hold our positions against him. It was a great mental exercise, and Mom only left the room angry a few times.

I suspect Dad was really a frustrated attorney - and I doubt it is a total coincidence that my brother turned to the law for his profession. Interestingly, the three of us reflect our parents in some combination of ways. Jack’s choice of law is all “Dad.” I’m a teacher who writes political commentary – a little of each. Kim’s choice of fashion for a career is all “Mom.” It’s just how we were raised.

Speaking of Jack, I’d like to thank my big brother for making straight A’s in high school. With Mom & Dad figuring they had one successful child, it apparently took a lot of pressure off of me and I got through just fine on Bs and Cs. It apparently took pressure off of Kim too - but it didn’t seem to matter. She went off to the Big Apple to make more money than either of us.

Not to be indelicate – but as we all have grown older, the topic of inheritance has come up. Now, you all should know that our parents have always made a particular effort to treat each of us equally.

Except for Kim's TV: but I’m so over that!
At any rate, if one of us got a “big gift” at Christmas, Mom would explain that the others got two smaller gifts – but it all came out even in the end.

But that’s NOT the case with the family inheritance. Apparently, the plan is that the two “more-favored children” will receive an equal share of whatever Mom & Dad haven’t spent. The third - and less-favored child - will receive Mom and Dad’s Cruise Albums.

This lovely collection of photos, from places we’ve never been, has become the family “hot potato.” Get on the wrong side of an issue with Mom – and presto – you could get the cruise albums. Over the years, the cruise albums have gone back and forth and I’m not sure where they’re headed at this moment.

But this is a little game that even our spouses can play. The least favored daughter-in-law or son-in-law could get this prize bestowed by proxy. Take today for example. Sid scored major points for Jack. So Kim and I are relatively screwed. And God forbid one of us misses Christmas Eve with the family.

As each of us has grown and brought our own children to “Granny and Papa’s” – the grandkids have each experienced the love – and “the Granny Grip.” That’s just what it sounds like.

They too learned life’s important lessons. Take care of your business. Take care of each other.
And always remember:

“It’s easier to stay on the good list, than it is to get off the bad list.”

Again we’d like to thank you for joining us today to honor our father and our mother.

We know it means so much to Mom & Dad to be surrounded today by family and friends - to mark this special occasion.

So please raise a glass…and join Jack, Kim and I in saying congratulations to John and Eileen Day on achieving their 60th anniversary - and we look forward to being right here once again for their 90th.

By Richard Day

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