Today is my father-in-law’s 84th birthday. Sadly, it’s also probably his last.
I’ve known Dad for 15 years but he’s the only father I’ve ever had. He treated my daughters and I as family from the beginning. There are a book’s worth of family stories which feature Dad’s exploits. Like the time he faced down a local gangster who was stalking my mother-in-law (the guy actually threatened to stab her if she didn’t stop seeing Dad!). Or the time he loaned Mom his car, shocking everyone who knew him. No. One. Ever. Drove. His. Car. EVER.
This is one of my favorite stories:
Once upon a time Dad was engaged to the ideal woman, according to his parents. She had class, was attractive and her family money didn’t hurt any. Wedding plans were underway – the date chosen, a venue selected and invitations ordered. Dad’s fiancée addressed and stamped all the invitations and gave them to Dad to mail. I don’t recall ever hearing how long he carried them around, but eventually they were deposited appropriately – in the trash. Making Dad available when he met Mom!
One more – this one involved me personally. Hubs and I married in June 1998, after which we flew to North Carolina where the in-laws lived at the time and where we would catch a flight the next day to the Bahamas for our honeymoon. Tragically, Hubs had been fighting a gout attack throughout the wedding and we were unable to continue on to the Bahamas. We spent the week of our honeymoon with my in-laws.
I know, right? But it was okay. Really. Actually, it was better than okay. It was healing.
One day Dad and I went out on our own running errands. Riding in the car alone with him my old terrors came bubbling to the surface. I’d only met this man twice counting the wedding and here I was trapped in a car with him. He may have been around the age my grandfather was when he abused me, but I believe it was being alone with him in the car that had my anxiety building. I’m good at hiding what I’m feeling (except from Hubs) so Dad never knew how close I was to panicking, which is for the best. His behavior never changed. He continued to be the loving if sarcastic father figure he’d been at both our earlier meetings. We chatted about Chapel Hill and his and Mom’s move there from Nevada. Gradually I felt myself relax and never again have I felt any sort of anxiety with him. The experience helped me recognize that not every older man is inclined to get touchy feely. See? Healing!
I’m looking forward to sharing this last birthday with him. But damn, I’m going to miss him.