My Father-In-Law

My father-in-law passed away in 1980.  This was six years before my hubby and I were married.  Even though I’ve known my hubby since we were in high school, I don’t remember ever meeting his daddy (that is always how he is referred to on the backs of pictures and by my mother-in-law when she talks about him.)  And I think that’s sad.

I also think it’s sad that our children will never get to know this man.  In fact, my children will never know the love from a grandfather.  My father was not involved in their lives in any traditional sense, and we could not allow them to be around him, unsupervised, due to his inappropriate behaviors.

My hubby and his sister were with their daddy when he passed away.  They were 23 and 13, respectively.  My mother-in-law was a young widow with young children left to raise.

My father-in-law was born on Christmas Eve and lived in Mississippi.  His parents died young, and he was raised by his older sisters.  He joined the Marines and fought in World War II.  When he returned from the service, he started working as a lineman for The Phone Company.  This was hard, manual labor, but it took him to northeast Missouri where he met my mother-in-law who also worked for The Phone Company.

It must have been hard on my mother-in-law’s parents when she fell in love with a man, a Southerner no less, who was a Catholic, as she was raised Lutheran.  Back in those days, these were much bigger deals than they are today.  But, my sense is that she prevailed not only because she is somewhat headstrong and stubborn, but also because she really loved this man.  She never dated or, to my knowledge, considered dating any other man after he died.  And, to this day, when we talk about him, some 31 years later, tears well up in her eyes.  She visits his gravesite in the local Veteran’s Cemetery often and evidence of his presence continues to exist in their home to this day.

After they married, they moved to The Big City and eventually bought a tiny home on 40 acres of land in a rural area.  They were the products of the Depression Era and were very frugal.  They scrimped and saved and invested until they were able to build their “big house” next door to the “little house.”   They had three sons and, a few years later, a daughter.

My father-in-law with his two oldest sons.  My hubby was 3 1/2 months old in this picture and look at his smile!  In this picture, the resemblance between my father-in-law and my older brother-in-law is uncanny.

My mother-in-law talks about how hands on daddy was with “the boys.”  They were involved in sports particularly baseball.  My father-in-law helped coach the boys and cut the fields and took them to practices and cheered at their games.  From the beginning, it seems, he was very involved with them.  I picture him holding babies and changing diapers without a complaint because my mother-in-law always talks about how lucky she was that she was able to go out with her girlfriends at church because he was there to babysit the boys.  Today, we would never consider a father a babysitter, but nearly 60 years ago, this was a big deal, and she was a lucky woman.

They raised their children in the Catholic church.  Usually, the wife’s religion prevails, but not in this case.  They were highly involved in their church.  In fact, my sister-in-law was baptized in the same church where she got married, and the same priest performed both sacraments.  Amazing.

So, I am eternally grateful to my father-in-law.  Not only because a curious sequence of events led him to meet and marry my mother-in-law and bring her to the same area in which I was raised, but also because the strength of his convictions and faith led them to send their children to the same high school that I attended which is where I met my future husband.

My father-in-law on Christmas Eve, which would have been his birthday, sometime in the late 1970s.  The uncanny resemblance in this picture is between him and my hubby.

But it doesn’t end there.  While I didn’t know the man, I believe he lives on in my hubby.  They are both men of great faith.  They are both tough, hard workers with a tender side.  They both love to have a good time, and have great smiles.  They are both hands on daddies who have allowed their wives to be independent, but who have also worked hard to provide for them financially as well as emotionally.

When I ask my hubby if he ever thinks about his daddy, his answer always is, “I think about him almost every day.”

And, while my children may never get to know a grandfather, I know that my dear, sweet hubby will be a great grandfather someday, and the legacy of a young man from Mississippi who met a strong woman from The North will live on for future generations.

Thank you, Tony.  I love you even though I never met you.  But I feel that I know you through your son – a man who is a wonderful human being, a great husband, and an awesome daddy, too.

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