Or maybe I should say my ex-father-in-law? It does not matter, a man I love dearly and hold many treasured times with is laying in a bed in Wisconsin dying. His son, my ex-husband, is a cruel and destructive man (did I mention unfaithful and lying?), but not his father. Not his father.
My earliest memories of my father-in-law are from long before I started dating his son. Since my husband and I grew up in the same church, all of the way back to 2nd grade, I knew of my father-in-law through many church youth activities. He was very involved, a kind and gentle and honest man, never needing the limelight or recognition for him many supportive and caring actions. He never said one thing to the youth of the church (be faithful and true, follow God's commandments) and then did another. He was always thoughtful and respectful of his wife, my mother-in-law. Their work at church was intertwined, one with the other. The hours that he spent at church were spent there with his wife (again so unlike the son he raised who left his wife months and years before a divorce to do “things” with his girlfriend). My fondest memories of him and my mother-in-law were as volunteer drivers to the youth retreats to a church camp in the beautiful, serene, and pure woods and lakes and rolling hills of central Wisconsin. As a youth, I felt it was worlds away from the daily life, a place to soul search and seek connections with other church youth who were developing their Christian beliefs. It was my father-in-law who took me there.
Then, it was happy meals together as a family as I started dating his son. My mother-in -law did not enjoy cooking or hosting family meals, so I knew it was very special when I was invited over and she prepared a delicious meal—the menu of her son’s choice even—and was treated like a true guest. A beautifully set table, lovely real cloth napkins that often colored coded with the tablecloth AND dishes (she had multiple sets of dishes too). My father-in-law loved to eat her cooking, so these date dinners over with their family meant he was a very happy eater that evening.
Next, it was he who kept the calm and sanity during the two year engagement and wedding planning that followed. The mothers of course were busy with their plans and preferences, he was, as always, a calm presence and genuinely happy with all developments, any developments that came and passed during that joyous wedding planning period. There were no limits from my father-in-law, no opposition, always just supportive, interested, authentic support. This I loved about him, welcoming me into the family that would be, not forever as the marriage vows stated, but only until his son decided he didn’t want to be married to me anymore. Just like that.
I am a lucky wife indeed to have so many treasured memories of my ex-father-in-law. I still consider him my father-in-law, as I take my marriage vows seriously and was not the one to break them.
And my father-in-law is dying.