This weekend there was a funeral. The man who had been my father in law for well over half my life died.
It was with mixed emotions that I received the news of his death from my kids. He had been dealt an unfair hand, a cruel disease he did not deserve, after a lifetime of good health. He had been a fit and vigorous man with a spirit that matched. The fact he did not suffer anymore and was — at last — reunited with his beloved Eleanor is a comfort to everyone who loved them. But his passing leaves a void in this world.
Floyd had been in the Navy as a young man and carried that grit with him for as long as I knew him. He was tough love personified to his sons, expecting the best, accepting no quarter. Yet, he would simply twinkle when he looked at his wife. He cared for her with devotion and a strength few possess, through decades of her chronic illness.
He was a good grandfather to my children, although still very much in the tough love camp. And that brings me to my most favorite Floyd story of all time.
I have two children. The older one is a gentle soul. She is not of a competitive nature and detested playing cards with her grandfather who nearly gloated every time he won — ever the warrior. My younger child, however, took up the gauntlet of her grandfather’s challenge. And one day, to everyone’s delight — she beat him at rummy. The entire house cheered as this ten-year-old child kicked his butt soundly at his own game. No one was happier though than Floyd himself. He had found a worthy opponent and she had completed some sort of rite of passage in his eyes.
After that, it seemed to me — Floyd began to mellow a bit. It might have been my imagination.
Time takes its toll and my family was not immune. Eventually, Floyd became my former father in law.
The last time I saw Floyd was a couple of years ago at my daughter’s wedding. We hugged and I remembered then what a first-class hugger this man was. I called him Dad because old habits die hard and after over thirty years of being married to his son, that’s who he still was to me.
Grief is a complex animal. I thought I had grieved the loss of this family at the time of the divorce. Because that is what happens — everyone gets their own family back, no matter how long or how integrated you were.
But even though my personal day to day world is not affected by Floyd’s death, my children and grandchildren’s lives are less rich because they have lost a link to their history. And knowing that, along with the love I had for the man leads me to mourn his passing.
It makes me happy to think of Floyd and Eleanor together, where ever they might be. I can’t imagine either of them would construct a here-after without the other. So that’s what I’m going with.
And they were together, happily ever after.