Four years ago a great man left this world to wait for us in Heaven. When we get there, he will have undoubtedly helped cook the meal prepared before us.
My father in law died five years ago today. We had found out he had cancer that July after they thought he may have a case of pneumonia, it was lung cancer that spread rapidly and he was gone on a rainy miserable fall day. The day he was buried, it was beautiful, sunny and hot – unusual for Michigan November's.
I will never forget the first day I met my unknown-to-me-one-day-would-be-future-father-in-law. He came in to visit my husband and and I hadn't ever met someone before who seemed so gruff, he was skinny as a rail and as strong as an ox, paid attention to the slightest details, and won me completely over on the spot.
My father in law never told us he loved us. My husband will always remember the day his dad told him he loved him. Nope, he didn't say it but he showed it in a million little details.
My father in law cooked for us. On Sunday's he laid before us a feast. There was never anything fancy, but it there isn't one person in our family who would say it was anything BUT the very best, top quality food. It usually involved stuffing. He made the best most moist stuffing. He made col-slaw, salad with the dressing on it because Western dressing is the only dressing worth eating, I suppose. He made ham or chicken. He made fried potatoes; fried zucchini with tomatoes and squash and mushrooms. He made pickles. He made huge mountains of mashed potatoes. When I would walk in the house in the winter, he would have apple sauce simmering on the stove. When he found out I have a fondness for good bread, he would bring home some loaves from the Hungarian woman at the market and set a bunch of fresh honey in front of me too, I don't think honey had been used in their house much before I showed up to the family.
He knew I loved flowers and would save discarded sunflower bundles from the market, bring them to life again miraculously for me and they would last a week in a vase on the table. He knew I loved peonies and would have big bouquets of them picked and wrapped for me when I would come over. He dug me up some peonie plants, I can't get them to bloom for anything. I feel like that would let him down. He was known in this area for his geraniums, he had a knack for growing top quality, heavy duty geraniums in the greenhouse out back of their house. I still have one. I feel like I have done something to keep his memory alive with that potted geranium.
He had a knack for finding beauty in junk. I'm not sure how he found the stuff he did, but our front porch is decorated with the metal wagon wheels he had found somewhere. The rock garden has the plow he found. I have a garden area with a huge picket fence square he found and saved from the burn pile. Junk turned to beauty, and he cared enough to save it for me and deliver it.
He died when I was pregnant for S4, we had told him his name before he was born. But there is hardly a week where he isn't mentioned, as in, “If Dad could see these boys eat.” “If Dad could see these boys play.” “If Dad could hear these boys talk like this.”
We miss him.
To everyone in the family, my father in law meant something different. I can only write to you from my perspective. It was a true honor to be his daughter in law and I am grateful for every year I was able to know him so I can pass a bit of him down to our four boys.
I've really wrestled with how to write this post. There are so many things I want you to know about him. His humor, his laugh, the way he snapped beans with a knife....
But what I miss the most is the way he paid attention to details. Oh, it could drive you insane don't get me wrong, but it was in the details that I felt loved. Sometimes I don't feel like making a batch of cookies for the boys, oreo's will fill them just the same, but it's the smell, the thought, the experience of the cookies that they love. S1 once wrote a note for me, it was a class project. It said “Love is...” and he had filled in “...Moma's chocolate chip cookies.”.
Don't underestimate the little things.
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