|On their wedding day (middle)|
It wasn't a job I sought. My mom got me the job. Actually, she got me two jobs that summer. The first was a part-time groundskeeper gig at a golf course. When it became clear that the golf course was a poor fit, she found me a second job at the Rathskeller. "Bartending isn't a bad skill to have in this economy," she told me. Still holds true, I think.
Let me back up. I did not grow up in Coeur d'Alene. I grew up 100 or so miles away in Clarkston, Wash. My parents divorced when I was in fourth grade and my mom moved to North Idaho. I visited Coeur d'Alene off and on as a kid, mostly during summers and other school breaks.
Possibly because it wasn't where I lived, my times in Coeur d'Alene were often a hoot. My mom had married, Lyle, a jovial gent who enjoyed good times in the great outdoors. In those early days, he took me on countless fishing trips and related adventures around the area.
One such adventure came at Fernan Lake, east of downtown Coeur d'Alene and rumored to be full of largemouth bass. We got not a single bite for an afternoon of fishing. As we were taking our little boat out of the water, Lyle handed me the small outboard motor. The rubber sleeve on the handle slipped off and the motor plunged into the lake. "Shit!" we yelled in unison. Momentarily, Lyle dove in and managed to retrieve the motor. Which had been borrowed. Fortunately, it apparently worked fine when the owner next used it.
Lyle and I became avid spear fishermen. We learned Scuba diving the summer after I graduated from high school. Later, on a trip to Kauai, we entered a dive shop and inquired about renting spearfishing gear. No dice. After Lyle became a triathlete, we sometimes cycled together. No ride was more exciting than the time we rounded a corner in a semi-remote area and witnessed some locals sighting in a tripod-mounted machine gun. It was nearly deer season in North Idaho, I guessed.
Somewhere along the way, the folks purchased Dry Rot, a World War II-era cabin cruiser (think SS Minnow) with a top speed of about 7 mph and whose main amenity appeared to be an on-board toilet. But never mind. We putted around the lake on summer evenings, drinking adult pops (I may have fudged the 19-year-old drinking age), listening to 8-Track tapes and enjoying the scenery. We once rescued some poor souls whose motor had conked out long after dark.
For many years, the folks operated Lyle's Salon and School of Hair Design in Coeur d'Alene. The place was a beehive. They worked long hours six days a week. While Lyle taught students in the school and worked in the salon, mom ran the business and managed the financials. Later, they opened several branch operations. I have no idea how they did it while also making time for their own two kids and countless other activities.
While Lyle stayed in the hair business and continues to work a light schedule to this day, mom moved to healthcare some 35 years ago. She had been working on a degree at Northwestern when she met my dad back in the day, and a good many of those credits transferred. After completing her training and certifications, she worked in Coeur d'Alene and Spokane hospitals until she retired a few years ago. Nothing she couldn't do.
The folks lived in a bunch of cool abodes. For a number of years, they occupied a spectacular home with a pool and numerous amenities near Fernan Lake. As things slowed down and they needed less space and upkeep, they downsized to a gated community condo a minute or two from Lyle's shop in Coeur d'Alene. More recently, they moved to a similar situation in nearby Liberty Lake, Wash., which is where they remain today.
Needless to say, there's been a lot of water under the bridge since my mom got me that first and only bar job back in 1975. My wife and I shared a number of vacations with the folks...Kauai, Whistler, Seattle, Sunriver, come instantly to mind. A lot of beer, wine and adult beverages were consumed on those junkets, trust me. Things have slowed down in recent years, mostly because we and they aren't quite as spry or mobile as we once were. But the memories live on.
This probably isn't the best place to mention any of this. But these folks who have meant so much to me for so many years celebrate 50 years of marriage this weekend. I'll be traveling to the 509 to honor that stupendous number and the adventures sandwiched within it.
Cheers to 50 fine years, folks! Amazing.