Life is a strange game. Gloriously happy beginnings and mixed bag endings. Alpha and Omega. The inevitable.
A man I have known now for about 25 years hit his expiration date this past week. My father in law, my friend. Argumentative, cantankerous, unmotivated, critical, intolerant, authoritarian, are all adjectives that could be used to describe him. Constant, supportive, available on request, confidante, good sport, humorous, talkative, loyal are also all adjectives that exemplify him to me as well. There are many qualities this man did not possess. There are many things which kept him from playing a strong patriarchal role in our mish mosh family, yet, we are all only who we are, my love for him was genuine.
Early dinners in the beginning stages of my relationship with the man who became my husband, many times included my father in law. We built great camaraderie from the first time we met. My enjoyment of an after dinner Frangelico came from toasting with these two in those early days. I feel very fortunate to have had the blessing of a positive relationship with this man. Complete confidence in our marriage and my mothering of his grandchildren was always apparent.
Being newlyweds with a young blended family can stagnate the “dating” that represents more traditional starts to a marriage. This was not the case for my husband and I. We had 4 young children and yet we went out on the town more than most. The entire extended family supported us and this man never said no to coming to the house to stay with the kids if he was not working (at the time he was a cabbie in Vegas). Throughout the years, he participated in birthdays, Christmas, and other family events as divorces, remarriages, distance and work allowed.
When we moved to Boise from Vegas, he followed a few years later. Pity is a heavy word but I have always had a little of this sentiment where he was concerned. Not having a significant other, being alone, retiring as soon as he hit the early eligibility and having no real desires or dreams are what spurred this feeling in me. I never vocalized it to him but I felt it marked the growing antagonist side of his personality as the years passed. I don’t pretend to understand where his angst really stemmed from especially now over these last couple months of being enlightened more about his role as a father to my husband and brother in law during both their childhood and adult years. Discussions of his diagnosis of lung, kidney, then brain, then bone cancers led our family conversations to delve deeper into years of emotion.
The original diagnosis came before the New Year. Actually, as we were recently informed by the VA with their new policy of admitting their errors, this cancer started as a small spot on the lung in 2015 which was somehow lost in the shuffle of paperwork for 3 years running and therefore left untreated and allowed to grow. 🙁 Follow up confirmed the malignancy and Senior (my husband is Jr.) was advised of a new immunotherapy treatment the docs felt would not kill the cancer but stagnate it to give him a decent quality of life for up to another year. If you have been following my blog, you know we made the trip to Oklahoma in January to spend time with him before our international adventures would begin for our Snowbird Escape 2018. We had scheduled travel and rooms for this nomadic travel starting back in early December. I guess I just provided that information that we booked prior to diagnosis as validation that we were committed to leaving, yet thought it best to visit before we left “just in case.” I am so glad we made that decision but it is a bit of a struggle now that this transpired so rapidly to accept we didn’t just throw our commitment (non refundable bookings) out the window and be present, more for my brother in law, nephew and wives, daughters, grandsons, my poor father in law (who got hit hard with pain), really all the family, instead of going forward as planned. Hindsight is always 20/20. We really thought we would see him again. My husband even had a plan for going there as soon as our 2018 Spring Fling is complete. There was “discussion” in case anything happened but none of us really thought he would be gone this fast. In these short few weeks since leaving Oklahoma, we saw the “writing on the wall” come clearer and clearer. He was hospitalized the weekend we left from seeing him and went from there to nursing home care where they initially thought they would continue treatment and add blood infusions to insure his strength but then the doctors started to back pedal. He continued to get weaker, treatment was ended and he was put in hospice care. The final straw was pneumonia setting in and then the tough decisions my brother in law made and we all supported regarding hospice and all that is entailed there with increased morphine and no supplemental oxygen. My heart goes out to him and his wife, my nephew and his fiancé who live in Oklahoma as well, they all insured there was someone with my father in law through to the end. My emotions have been wrought with the hospice memories and the passing of my own parents. Regardless of how prepared we may think we are, grief is a battle that demands to be dealt with in stages. They may vary slightly between us all as personality traits dictate but grief requires attention no matter who you are. I recommend strongly to everyone to find a good book on this subject of hospice and dying and absorb it so you can prepare yourself for the inevitable death with these circumstances of someone you love. Familiarity with the subject has to create some strength I think.
Back to my tribute. Living in Boise, my hubby worked nights as the Maitre’ d at the Gamekeeper. Oft times my father in law and I were given the opportunity to attend wine dinners hosted there. These nights we were dining companions and thoroughly enjoyed dressing for dinner and the conversations that would ensue between each other and the guests we were seated with. My father in law lived in a small home we purchased as an investment with the intention of it being his home. He was nothing more than a disgusting housekeeper so we weren’t often in this house while he lived in it but outside he took great pride in his bird houses and feeders. One of his visits to our mountain home, he and I rose early one morning and made our way to the hummingbird banding at the nearby home of a friend. A gift he appreciated and time together that I cherish the memory of. On this last bit of time with him we chatted about the bird feeders he had hanging outside his apartment. He and I had many conversations about his love of plants and his feathered friends. Often times in our chats on the subject the last couple years he would say to me “if I had to do it over again” he would have studied these two areas and maybe work for the forest service. If there is multiple times around I hope he gets to have that!
Fireside, Dutch Goose and Gil’s K-Nine were regular stops for my father in law and I back in the “Gamekeeper Days” on our way to meet the crew when my honey would get off work on the weekends around 11p- midnight. Some nights we would end up at the Nerolux, Mulligans or even the Spearmint Rhino…such a good sport my father in law and during this time such a fun sense of humor! Dinner at the Melting Pot was his treat a couple of times, fondue is not my honey’s cup of tea so my father in law would indulge me. During this time, we also had great dinners at our home, threw parties he attended and had some great nights of my man betting online while we hung out at The Crescent or Lock, Stock and Barrel. I remember when he got a wild hair and decided he would wonder. He bought himself a motor home and headed south. I was sincerely sorry to lose my companion but excited for him. He spent some time stopping thr