Sunday, March 16, 2008


We've just marked the one year mark since my father-in-law's death. We didn't really acknowledge the occasion with a Manhattan toast or anything, though we stopped in our own ways to remember him. I miss his Sunday phone calls for a sports recap and weather update. I miss his funny voicemail messages because leaving a message on a machine is something he never got used to. I miss him.

In many ways, I was closer to him than I am to my own father. Perhaps because we came to know each other with no baggage, tangled relationship issues, or guilt attached. We simply met as two people who made each other laugh and shared an affinity for endless teasing. In that regard we had met our match. The man I knew is far different than the man Mac Daddy knew growing up.

We would all say that about our fathers, right? They are different men to others than they are to us. Sometimes better. Sometimes worse. Few of us really get to know our own fathers of a generation ago. Coming home at 5:30 to a scotch, a smoke, and Dan Rather was the norm. Changing into play wear and sliding around the house in sock feet to chase bad guys at 5:30 is a new fatherly phenomenon.

Nonetheless, the father-in-law I knew would play super heroes and spies with Bird and Deal. He must have realized that the universe gave him a second chance. And he relished it. He was quick to give a wheelchair ride and convince the kids that his wheelchair lift was as fun as any whirly ride at a carnival. He taught Bird and Deal that a wheelchair is nothing more than a seat on wheels. Cliche as it sounds, they learned at an early age to see the person, not the device, be it a wheelchair, scooter, crutches, or walker.

He teased me for being a wimp in temps below 50 degrees, and he laughed at my complete inability to identify tools or other such manly gear. We enjoyed Friday fish fry and were often the only ones getting second helpings. He laughed at how much food I could stuff into my five foot tall, slight frame. He made sure there were plenty of sweets for me when I visited, sometimes saving some of his special stash of chocolate bars for me. When I couldn't stomach the Sanka he so graciously bought for my visit, he wasn't offended. He just teased me for being a coffee snob and puckered up his face in mock disbelief at the price I paid for a cup of joe at the local coffee shop. Truth be told, he smacked his lips and enjoyed that coffee too.

He readily welcomed me into his family, even though I came from places that he had only read about. Born in India. Raised in Virginia. He didn't care what made me different. Keep in mind that he was raised in what I affectionately call Podunk, Wisconsin in a town of 500 people. Though we never identified with each other in terms of our past or shared experiences, we knew one thing: we both fiercely loved Mac Daddy.

I see traces of my father-in-law in Mac Daddy, in demeanor and bewitching good looks. A charming, toothy smile. Full body laugh that just makes you want to laugh right along, even if you don't get the joke. Gentle hands. Quick to laugh. Affectionate. Sarcastic, yet witty. An instigator. Passionate about the Badgers and Packers. And yes, that Wisconsin accent that sneaks out time to time despite Mac Daddy's best efforts to sound like a Midwestern news anchor.

Bird asks about Grandpa once in a while. I never know what will trigger it but I'm glad he's still thinking about him. Deal doesn't remember him, but recognizes him in photos. I am most saddened that my boys won't grow up knowing their grandpa, the fun one who'd be on the floor wrestling with them if he were able. Mac Daddy and I try to keep his memory alive so they will at least know about the chapters of his life that they played a part in. The other day out of the blue, Bird told me that he thinks Grandpa is in heaven petting Capote on his lap (our cat who died 2 years ago). I think Bird is exactly right.
RemembranceSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That was a wonderful synopsis about Grandpa, thanks for thinking of him and writing it in your blog. This week has been emotional and this too brought tears to my eyes.