Sunday, October 15, 2006

My Father-in-Law turned 70

Yesterday, my father-in-law turned 70, and we went up to Seattle to celebrate his birthday with the rest of my wife's family--her brother, her sister, their combined four kids, Grandma--and came back this afternoon to deal with the eight or nine load pile of wash taking over the basement.
It would have been nice to stay longer (is that me saying that?), but it was necessary to deal with life before life dealt with us.
But it was good to be there. I've had this father-in-law (the one and only one I've had) for almost twenty years now. I realized recently that not only are we almost the age that Grandma was when we (me and the wife) first met, but that I've known my wife's father almost as long as I knew my own. This Dad has been around since I was 22, the other one split when I was 12 and drank himself to death when I was 25.
My wife's father is an interesting man. He loves to shop. He loves gadgets (something he's passed along to my spouse in triplicate). He loves America; for whom he served in the Coast Guard for twenty years. And he doesn't talk about himself.
He tells stories about his boyhood pals, tells Norweigen jokes, and can tell us what his grandkids are up to in detail--especially the oldest, who he's helped raise--but he doesn't talk about the missions he flew as a search and rescue pilot, or the places he's flown, or the crash that nearly took his life.
He is covered from head to literally toes in old, faded scars, and is in a wheelchair these days, having had his foot rebuilt as a result of injuries sustained in that Alaskan crash; but he barely acknowledges the pain he's suffered, the toll it took on his body, or discusses the kind of guts it took to recover from being so injured he was almost left for dead--his fluttering eyelid saved his life when the rescue plane came to look for survivors--then to go on and fly rescue helicopters, even more dangerous to operate than planes in the waters off Kodiak.
He's used his retirement to help raise and watch his grandkids, as his grandparents did for him while his mother worked during the week as a teacher; he is close to them, closer than he got the chance to be with his kids while he flew for the Coast Guard, never knowing when he would be home, and closer than he thought he should be as a father in the sixties and seventies, when men were stern, remote and left parenting to the women folk. And his kids love him for it.
He is a good man. A good neighbor. A good husband (so I hear), to his wife of forty-four years. A good friend to the boys he used to know in Ballard six decades ago. And a good father-in-law, who never questioned our right to love each other and be happy, who kept any doubts to himself about this alarming liberal feminist his daughter brought home, and who is proud to be Grandpa to our kids.
Happy Birthday Jon.
Get well soon.

On the easel: Blue
On the desk: eHow
On the art table: My enormous dictionary
On the night stand: Angels & Demons (borrowed from my father-in-law)
On tape: Look to the Lady by Margery Allingham
On my mind: To Nanowrimo or not to Nanowrimo, that is the question

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