Montie Taylor will tell you every day is Father’s Day. And to his son, Jim Taylor, every day is Son’s Day.
Which means today really is no different than any other for the Taylors. Each is special. Montie is 93, twice a widower, blind and a resident at the Bethel Retirement Community in Modesto since 2012. Son Jim, 65 and the owner of mortgage and real estate firms in town, lives a mile away.
Every morning, Jim helps his dad downstairs to join other residents for coffee or breakfast at the retirement center. Then, most days, he checks in on dad on his way back home from work. Likewise, Jim’s four brothers and three sisters, who no longer live in the area, call Montie frequently. Two weeks ago, more than 50 family members – including Montie’s 91-year-old brother from Washington – came to Bethel for a family reunion.
“I just do what I do because I can do it,” Jim Taylor said. “My brothers and sister all would if they could.”
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Each day, it seems, Jim learns a new little nugget about his dad’s life: a story here, a fact there. Depictions of places and events his dad might have just remembered or that Jim once knew about but had forgotten.
No matter. It’s the time they spend together that counts.
“We reminisce,” Montie Taylor said.
Jim also enjoys the stories of the others who join them at the breakfast table. They are living history, he said. A place he once drove past nearly every day without a second thought, Jim Taylor now views Bethel and other retirement homes differently.
“Treasure troves of memories,” Jim said. “When you can go talk to people who worked behind a horse and plow or flew a B-17 over Germany during World War II ... it is amazing to hear.”
Dad’s stories, though, are the best. Montie tells of how he lost two fingers on his right hand in a workplace accident when he was 18 years old in 1941. Another employee thought he was playing a practical joke on Montie by moving saws. Montie reached under to move whatever blocked one of the saws and lost his fourth finger and pinky.
“I was just about to go down and register for the draft when it happened,” Montie said. “They wouldn’t let me in because I was handicapped. And I wanted to get into the Army.”
Montie tells how his mother traveled in a covered wagon from the Midwest to Wyoming as a girl. They talk about his six decades as a Foursquare minister starting churches in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and how he and his mom went through LIFE Bible College in Los Angeles together.
“My mother and I graduated in the same class,” he said.
They talk about their 40-plus years living in Twain Harte, where Montie’s mother and stepfather became custodians at Summerville High School, which all of Montie and Lorraine Taylor’s kids attended. They talk about his many jobs and careers, including his time as a construction inspector, a log truck driver, a school custodian and a school bus driver.
And they talk about their family tree and their descendance from Mayflower Compact penner William Henry Brewster, which they now know also makes them kin to Robert Henry Brewster – aka Robert McHenry, he of Modesto’s mansion, museum and avenue fame.
Because they get to spend time together so regularly, they feel for those in Bethel and other homes who rarely have family members visit, or have pasts they’d rather not relive.
“I know some people who do not want to remember anything about their childhood,” Montie Taylor said. “We had a lady who lived here – her daughter was a teacher and lived in her house – and I never saw her daughter come and visit her.”
They are missing out on those little nuggets of lore and background, Jim Taylor said. Some can be pretty surprising.
“There are things I know about him that he doesn’t know I know,” Montie Taylor said. “When he was going to college down here (at MJC), I’d get up at midnight, drive down here (from Tuolumne County) and watch them come and go.”
Did he catch them doing things preacher’s sons weren’t supposed to be doing?
“I sure did,” Montie said, smiling wryly but refusing to dish the dirt.
Son Jim clearly treasures his treasure trove of a father. They’ll visit again today, just as they did Saturday and will again come Monday.
It’s Father’s Day. It’s Son’s Day. It’s a holiday, every day.