An Encouraging Word

My father, Norman Busk, gets far too little attention in these musings. He was a man who took his responsibilities as a father seriously. He supported our family at any number of jobs, from farming to running a construction company to selling insurance. He was even tempered, level-headed, and steady. And once only did I ever hear him swear.

I was in my late twenties when my grandfather died. I didn’t attend his funeral nor did any of my sisters. When my dad came to visit and asked me why none of his daughters were there, I decided it was finally time to tell him the truth–that his father had molested me when I was seven. As it turns out I was not alone. None of us had told for all the usual reasons—we thought it was our fault; we thought no one would believe us. Long before #MeToo, it was one of those he said/she said cases. Of course if we had ALL told, things might have been different.

But I told him that afternoon. When I finished, he got up off the sofa, strode across my living room, and stood in front of the window for a long time, staring silently at Kitt Peak. Finally he spun around and said, “If I’d known about that, I would have taken my shotgun and killed that son of a bitch!” And I believe he would have, too. But that moment of instant belief and validation was and is an incredible gift to me. And this isn’t the story I intended to tell when I first opened my computer this morning, but I needed to because it speaks volumes about his character.

What I really wanted to tell you this morning, is that Norman Busk (My mother never called him Norm!) was a very funny and courageous man.

In his early eighties, he woke up one morning with a severe pain in his right side and allowed as how perhaps he and my mother should take a drive out to Sierra Vista to visit the family doctor, Doc Dregseth. Unfortunately, it was Wednesday morning and my mother had a standing appointment at Cut and Curl to have her hair done on Wednesday mornings. After the hair appointment, they drove the 25 miles to Sierra Vista where Dr. Dregseth determined my dad needed an appendectomy post haste!

So they went to the hospital where a sweet young clerk was tasked with assembling his patient-intake information. When she asked if he’d ever been hospitalized before he said, “Yes, nineteen eighteen for the flu.” That made her eyes bug out. When she asked if he’d ever had AIDs, he said, “Of course, I have AIDS. I have hearing aids, seeing aids, and chewing aids,” pointing to his hearing aids, his glasses, and his false teeth each in turn. He was admitted to the hospital and sent to surgery where his inflamed appendix was removed within bare minutes of rupturing. The next time he came through the hospital lobby, the young woman pointed at him and said, “Hey, there’s that guy with aids!”

So even at death’s door, he was there with a ready joke. By the way, he was hospitalized for several days. When he complained of having a terrible headache, the indomitable Evie figured out that the hospital was giving him decaf instead of “real” coffee. She made it her business to get him the good stuff, and the headache magically disappeared.

So why am I writing and thinking about both my parents today? You’re probably not going to like my answer: Coronavirus. The tradition in journalism has long been, “If it bleeds it leads,” and coronavirus coverage has been non-stop. And now, because of the partisan divide, it is turning into a political football with people standing around yelling at one another rather than putting their backs together and doing what needs to be done to face this looming crisis. Because it is a crisis. Coronavirus may be something new under the sun, but pandemics are not. I want our leaders on both sides of the aisle to roll up their shirtsleeves and deal with it.

My father was little more than a baby when he survived the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. He lasted well into his nineties. Yes we have some niggling worries about our upcoming cruise. There has been wall-to-wall media coverage of passengers stranded on quarantined cruise ships. And I’m sure every would-be traveler who has forked over money for cruises this year is having the same kind of thoughts. But we’re still going. And I fully expect that we’ll have fun.

Going on a cruise doesn’t count for nearly the amount of courage my dad showed when he sold off everything, packed his worldly goods into a trailer, stuffed his pregnant wife and three daughters into a 1949 Ford, and moved from South Dakota to Arizona. He gave up everything that was familiar—being a farmer—for becoming a miner. With patience and good humor, he and my mother made it all work. Like the Big Lebowski, they abided.

And in the face of coronavirus, so will we.