My father-in-law passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack Friday morning. He was 76 years old and in good health. It is such a shock and just so damn sad.
I first met my father-in-law the month I turned eighteen. Boo and I had been dating for several months and I flew up to spend winter break with him and his family. It was my first trip to New Jersey. The second day I was there, Boo had to work for a few hours. Dad, trying to help entertain me, asked if I would like to go to the library. I said, "Sure!" He then said, "Great, I'll drop you off and then later I'll give you a ride half way home." Half way home? I started to get nervous. Wow, he must really not like me. Does he want me to get lost and wander back to Florida? Is he hoping I'll get hit by a car. Is this a test of my mental prowess? Hoping I must have misunderstood, I let him take me to the library. I concentrated on the route with every fiber of my being, and after the third turn, I knew I was screwed. There was no way in hell I could find my way back to the house. This was back before cell phones so I had no way to call Boo and say, "Help!" When I watched him pull away from the library I thought for sure I was in trouble. I sat and read, for what felt like days. I couldn't concentrate because I was so worried about never leaving the Metuchen library. Dad showed up later and ask if I was ready to go home. I said yes. As we walked toward his car, my stomach in knots, I worried he might be planning to toss me out of the car somewhere along the road. It turned out that he did only give me a ride half way home. You see, Dad, he liked to walk. So he had parked in front of some random person's house, midway between the library and his house. We had to walk, half way home, to reach the car. As we approached the car, he smiled at me and winked. My father-in-law was truly a lot of fun to be around.
Just last year he and my mother-in-law came up to help us re-wire a bathroom. He had a lot of electrical knowledge from his work and was more than willing to help his youngest son out. While mom napped and Boo finished some work on the computer, Dad and I plotted our project. I was thanking him for coming to help us with the wiring when he stopped me to tell me how proud he was of Boo and to explain that Boo's talents and in his career were just important and impressive. That was typical.
My father-in-law had that unique ability to value any skill, whether it common or complex, and never disparage someone because they were different than he was. That sounds so awkward when I type it, but it wasn't awkward in real life. He was a genuine person. He lacked artifice and pretense.
"They" say that it is natural for a parent to pre-decease a child. I (still) say it fucking sucks. It never gets easier to loose someone you love. I'll miss you dad, have a piece of celery for me.