The Septuagenarian Speaks – published April 10, 2019, Siskiyou Daily News
Being a septuagenarian isn’t so bad, but it does have its downside. We are at the mercy of the Health Gods and more susceptible to illness and disease than in our younger days. Our likelihood of encountering a life-ending disease is increased, but even if we can avoid that, or at least postpone it, there are still health-related irritations. Small things, relatively speaking, like colonoscopies, hernias, prostate surgeries, hemorrhoidectomies, and cataract surgeries come to mind; but they’re not so bad, really.
For me personally, the downside of septuagenarianism is the emotional pain of losing people I love, people who have been important to my life. The older you get, the more it happens. It is a fact of life, and death. When you lose someone you love, you lose a part of yourself as well.
Ann and I have lived in Yreka forty-seven years. Both of us have enjoyed the friendships of people here who have become very close, a number of whom have since passed away, taking a part of us with them. A personal example for me was Larry Bacon who hired me in 1972 to come work in his and Joe Correia’s law office. Over the years Larry was my mentor and friend, more like a brother. I have never been quite the same since his death, about fourteen years ago, at too young an age.
There have been others since then. Tom Sieber is the most recent.
For years Ann and our growing-up kids coped with a group of some crazy guys who would show up after work and convene at the round oak table in our kitchen. I’m pretty sure there was some alcohol involved. The group often included Larry Bacon, Howard Cameron, Tom Sieber, and others. Those of you survivors know who you are.
Tom’s contribution to our group was the humor, craziness, and creativeness that kept us on track as we set about solving all of Yreka’s problems.
Tom died on February 23. We all know how important and influential he was in enhancing the music, drama, and comedy culture of our town, and of our county. His role in making the Siskiyou Performing Arts Center what it is today was enormous. The “Wild” shows began as a fund-raiser for SPAC decades ago and continue to this day to give joy to all fortunate enough to live here. The entire “Wild” ensemble has always been excellent, but when Tom and Connie Croad teamed-up, the result was incomparable. The two of them together could have you tearful with sadness followed in a heartbeat by falling-out-of-your-chair laughter. Nothing on Saturday Night Live comes close. Jim Carrey’s rubber face doesn’t compare to Tom’s.
With all of Tom’s comic genius, we tend to forget his serious side, and how much he contributed to our world. He served in the military during Vietnam. He served on the Yreka City Council and as Mayor. Yreka is a much better community because of Tom Sieber. Tom had the talent to become a national celebrity, but Yreka was where he chose to live, and it was where he chose to stay.
“Bye, bye Mr. Yreka guy … Something touched me deep inside, the day the music died.” Don McLean’s iconic lyrics are fitting.
Like other comic geniuses, Tom’s emotional being was complicated, and he had an especially rough time after losing his wife Sue to an extended and difficult illness. He never recovered from that, even with the efforts of a strong support group, many of whom visited him at his home on a daily basis. I went up there a few times to see him, but not enough. He wasn’t the same Tom Sieber that was part of our kitchen round table group years before. I wasn’t strong enough to go see him more often, and I have a lot of remorse about that.
Just as I was writing that last sentence, a strange thing happened. I heard a voice from out of nowhere! I looked around, and could see no one, but the voice persisted with increasing volume and intensity. “Holy Moly!” said the familiar voice. “Jeezo Beezo! What is this ‘remorse’ sh*t? You’ll never learn! Didn’t I teach you anything?”