Caregiver, Executive Director of the Silver Foundation
Clickety-clack of the ticker tape, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and AP stories over the wire. The greenhouse, the grapefruit tree, the smell of citrus blossoms in February under glass frosted with snow. Morris and Helen Silver, who were like grandparents to me, filled my early childhood with these and other sights, sounds, and smells not often found in Western Montana in the 70’s.
My mother worked for Morris, and before “family friendly” was a term, she brought me to work at his plumbing and heating supply store where I was given a desk, rang up customers, and answered the phone when I was old enough to count change and work the switchboard. I didn’t know my life was unusual. Morris and Helen and my mother and the plumbing store were my world and, even today, the sound of ticker tape, or the scent of citrus in bloom reminds me how blessed I was and how rich my life is because of the kindness and care I received.
Helen and Morris believed in education and were committed to making sure my curiosity about the world was nurtured. They taught me how to tell the difference between male and female cucumber plants, to prune roses to the 5th leaf, and to shake the grapefruit tree to pollinate it. When the grapefruit tree broke through the ceiling of the greenhouse, Morris fixed the glass and pruned the branches and taught me about resilience.
When I was in junior high, I noticed something was different about Morris, something besides the ticker tape and grapefruits and his eccentricities, and that’s when I learned he had Parkinson’s. He’d been diagnosed years before, but I didn’t see—or notice—the symptoms, I only saw him as Morris when I was younger. He simply lived with the disease and didn’t let it stop him.
When Morris died, his generosity and commitment to his community lived on. Morris and Helen created the Silver Foundation, which supports the arts, education, and community projects. I have acted as the executive director since the foundation was formed, and I have tried to perpetuate Morris and Helen’s commitment to the things they loved and their love for me in the projects the Silver Foundation funds.
Just as Helen and Morris Silver believed in me and supported me, their love and commitment grew to encompass my own daughters. Their spirit of adventure and belief in education inspired me to encourage my girls to set challenging goals, pursue excellence, and to dream big. Though they are no longer with us, Helen and Morris’ enduring presence continues to guide me in exploring places and ideas outside the confines of the small western town where I grew up. This sense of wonder has found its way into Forging Resilience as we have reached out beyond our borders to connect with individuals touched by Parkinson’s around the world.
In addition to reaching beyond borders, my position at the Silver Foundation has also helped me connect with people in my community and brought Hadley Ferguson into my life. We formed an immediate bond and soon found ourselves working together on numerous projects. Like my relationship with Morris, my friendship with Hadley has enriched my life beyond measure. Our work has taken us far from Montana and opened doors to new opportunities. And so Morris lives on.
Carolyn Maier, Age 46, USA
Photo credit: Darcy Baker