A Tahoe Tribute to Mom

by Bob Sparrow

two glasses

Cheers to Mom & Dad in their final resting place

     This past week was an occasion for another family gathering; our ‘mostly annual’ trip to Lake Tahoe in October. We go in October to miss the tourists, even though we are technically tourists, we really don’t think of ourselves as such, since we’ve been going up to ‘The Lake’ since 1951. That was the year that dear friend of the family and lifelong bachelor, Dick Schieck, or ‘Uncle Dick’ as he was known around our house, bought a cabin about two blocks from the lake in Pineland, 4 miles south of Tahoe City. In those days it was a pretty sleepy resort area, the Winter Olympics had not yet come to Squaw Valley and the Silicon Valley dot com-ers had not yet arrived in droves to drive up prices.

     From 1951 on, every summer vacation and nearly every long weekend was spent at Tahoe, except maybe a few in the winter when Donner Pass, then a two-lane road, was closed due to snow. A few years after I graduated from college, my college roommate and I bought the cabin right next to Uncle Dick’s and in 1979, brother Jack bought a restaurant in Tahoe City and lived there for the next 15 years. Needless to say, ‘The Lake’ holds a very special place in our family history, which is why our parent’s wishes were to have their ashes spread there when they passed.

Tahoe Tavern

Tahoe Tavern – built in 1901

      Our dad passed away 13 years ago and Jack found the perfect spot for his ashes, in the rocks in front of a place we rent, high on a ridge overlooking the entire lake – it’s the most spectacular view of the lake I’ve seen. Our mom passed away last year, but because of various travel conflicts, we did not get to Tahoe last October, so we took her ashes up with us this year and placed them with our dad’s. Dad would have turned 100 this year, so he is celebrating his centennial by being joined once again by his wife of what would have been 77 years.

Mom 1939

Mom’s high school graduation picture

      As you may have picked up from our blogs over the years, our father was one terrific human being, kind and gentle as could be, always having something good to say about everyone and possessing a great sense of humor. He could make people laugh in virtually any situation. He also knew his way around a good martini. Mom was always the ‘straight man’, more serious, lots of attention to detail, a great businesswoman and the disciplinarian in the family. So of course her personality paled compared to Dad’s – everyone’s did. Her role was always having to be the ‘bad cop’, who could never threaten us with, ‘Wait ‘til your father gets home!” We knew he wouldn’t harm a fly. But she knew how to have a good time as well – she loved music, gin rickeys, and could party and dance with the best of them, and our dad adored her. They had such great times at ‘The Lake’, hitting old haunts like the classic Tahoe Tavern, sitting on the deck at Sunnyside Resort, before it was chic, and going over to ‘The Line’ (California-Nevada border) to dine and gamble at CalNeva, in its heyday, when Frank Sinatra was an owner and the ‘Rat Pack’ made guest appearances. Mom always dressed to the nines on those occasions, especially if they were dining at the very-posh-at-the-time, North Shore Club. But most of the time was spent just sitting on the deck at Dick’s cabin with the BBQ going and a gin and grapefruit juice in hand, enjoying the tranquility of this extraordinary place.


Together forever

     I always felt that I got my dad’s sense of humor (thank God!), but my fondness for music, writing and the arts came from mom. They made a great team and they made three pretty good kids – if I do say so myself! The three of us can look back and be thankful that we grew up in a wonderful time and place and in a wonderful home, thanks to both Mom and Dad.

It took too long, but their ashes are finally together in a place with an incredible view of one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and a place filled with great family memories. They indeed are now resting in peace together.




By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Me - on a slope that looks nothing like the Downhill.

Me – on a slope that looks nothing like the Downhill.

Today is a sad day for me – the Olympics are over.  Champions were crowned, losers were consoled, and the women’s hockey team grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory.  I am a huge fan of the Olympics – Winter more than Summer.  I think that’s because I relate more to winter sports.  Oh sure, I was on the swim team in high school and did some gymnastics well into college, but let’s just say I wasn’t too graceful at either sport.  In fact, someone rather close to me commented that I moved like a hippopotamus in three feet of mud.  But the winter sports! Just strap something on my feet and put me on a slippery surface and I’m golden.  So for the past two weeks I have watched the skiers and the skaters with envy and unbridled enthusiasm.  I have to admit that the slopestyle skiing and snowboarding of any ilk is way beyond me and my knees hurt just watching  the aerial skiers.  But I actually commented to my husband during the downhill ski race, “I could do that!”.  He ignored me, sure that I was just making another of my Walter Mitty-type  comments.  But in my heart, I really do think that I could ski an Olympic downhill course.  Because even though I’m 63, I think I’m 45.

I'm a Gold Medal winner in Doughnuts

I’m a Gold Medal winner in Doughnuts

I mentioned this to a friend the other day and she told me she had suffered from the same delusions until she took the Real Age Test.  She suggested that I go online to Dr. Oz’s website and see just how old my body is.  Simple enough.  I began by answering some obvious questions – Do I Have Aches and Pains?  Do I Suffer from Digestive Tract issues?  Am I Often Anxious?  I was sailing through these questions – any moron could answer this stuff.  But then wise Dr. Oz started throwing in some trickier subjects like “How Much Do You Drink?”.  Hmmmm….this was a stumper.  Our doctor told us that he automatically DOUBLES the answer his patients tell him when asked this question.  So my first quandary was to determine if Dr. Oz is as wily as our doctor.  Not that I drink that much anymore but still…I was trying to determine my Real Age here and I didn’t want to have the alcohol algorithm adding any extra time.  Secondly, there’s the whole seasonal factor.  I drink more in winter because we go out more in winter.  So do I average the number over the whole year or answer for right now?  This was not going to be easy.  I moved on to food.  Fruits and vegetables have never been my strong suit.  We bought a VitaMix a couple of years ago thinking that we would make green smoothies every day but so far I’ve found that it whips up a pretty mean ice cream gin fizz.  Actually, we’re fairly healthy eaters but when faced with a piece of cake or a fresh piece of sourdough bread I have all the willpower of a six-year-old at a birthday party.  Finally, the smartypants people who devised this test ask about your “feelings”.  But not just depression or how often you laugh inappropriately.  They ask you to rate your belief in statements like “Most People Would Lie To Get Ahead”.  Jeez!!  OF COURSE most people do that.  I worked in Human Resources for 32 years and I could tell you stories about made up crap on resumes that would make your hair stand on end.  But…I could see the sneaky Dr. Oz baiting me on this one – if I answer truthfully he will “age” me because I am a negative, cynical, old bitty who always sees the glass half empty.  So I lied.

Proof that Attitude is Everything!

Proof that Attitude is Everything!

When I completed their barrage of questions I felt like I’d been grilled by a prison guard at Gitmo.  I was sweating bullets, just waiting for them to calculate my Real Age.  Turns out I’m not 45, I’m 57.   They gave me all sort of pats on the back for some healthful living and congratulated me on being younger than my actual age.  Still…even at 57 I guess I’m too old to ski the downhill course.  So instead I’ve decided I’m going to focus on Figure Skating.  A few years ago I laced up some skates in Sun Valley and made it around the WHOLE rink once before falling.  Oh sure, it wasn’t exactly a double Axel but it’s a start.  And my new hero is Yvonne Dowlen, pictured here, who is still figure skating at 87 years old.  She says that if she can walk, she can skate.  I like her attitude; I’d venture a guess that she’s never even come close to taking a Real Age test.  And I suspect that when the doctor asks her how many drinks she has per week she gives him a steely-eyed look and tells him to mind his own damn business.