TRURO — When Michael Holt was growing up in New York City, his summer weeks in Truro were “like a trip to the Garden of Eden.” It was here that his father, Robert, now age 102, taught him to forage. “One thing my dad turned me on to was daisy leaves,” says Michael. “And we live on Daisy Lane, so those became my favorite flower.”
Michael’s father still takes him foraging, in a sense. One of the things the two have been doing together lately is reading Euell Gibbons’s books, Stalking the Wild Asparagus (1962) and Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop (1964). Reading out loud, Robert’s voice is fluid, and expressive. “My father is good at that and enjoys taking on the voices of the characters in the text,” Michael says. “This is something he does for me.”
Michael is here to do things for his dad, and for his mother, Joan Holt. After spending 18 years in Toronto, Michael moved to Truro about three years ago to help them stay in their own home for their old age years.
When he was a younger man, Robert was a serious intellectual, a professor of psychology at New York University. “And he had a judgmental streak,” says Michael. “I wondered if I was smart enough for him to love me. My dad and I had our problems when I was younger.”
Being with his father now has been transformational. “It’s as if there’s a lot that has dropped away, superficial things, to reveal the core of who he really is, which is a loving, gentle soul,” Michael says.
Robert was interested in classical music, and Joan loved folk. Michael listened to both, but lost touch with classical music as a young adult, when, pursuing a musical career, he veered toward rock. “I wanted to play the electric guitar,” he says. “But I played the piano, so I knew that I could never really be cool.” Now his music brings together classical and pop.
“Dad was a little less open-minded about my music back then than my mom was,” Michael says. But both Robert and Joan will be upstairs this Fathers Day, Sunday, June 21, at 3 p.m., listening in via Zoom when Michael will play Bach, Sibelius, Ravel, and some of his own works as part of the “Open Mic Classical” series hosted by the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Brewster.
“Dad used to ask, ‘What’s Zoom?’ ” says Michael, “and ‘What virus?’ but now, both have sunk in.”
Listening to music and reading together are two of the big pleasures of life at the Holts’ these days. There are others, too. Michael makes meals and helps his father with some everyday things. “He’s just so happy to get his coffee every morning,” Michael says.
The role he plays at home is easy, Michael says, “because I’m in love with Truro.”
But also because of the gratitude his father is so generous with. “We embrace and we hold hands, and he tells me I am the comfort of his old age,” Michael says. “Every day he looks me in the eye and tells me he loves me.”