We had gotten along okay, my father-in-law and me. He liked that it didn’t bother me that he called me Babe and sometimes Doll. I never mind it when older guys use terms like that, it offends my feminist soul not at all; to me they’re terms of endearment.
So I was honored to ride to Chicago with my father-in-law’s ashes in a box on my lap. It was a small job in his life but one I was happy to do. He had enlisted in the Army at age 17, fought at Anzio Beach, Sicily, North Africa, and Southern France. He was a brave guy who went on to be my husband’s father. He was also kind and charming, a bon vivant at times. I loved him in my own way and he died on August 26th, 2005.
At the graveside service, my son’s girlfriend who would later become the mother of one of our four grandchildren leaned forward, motioned to others who were doing the ritual shovel of dirt and whispered to me, “Is it ok if I do that?” And we nodded yes. My father-in-law’s ashes were being buried next to his former wife, my mother-in-law, Cindy.
Cindy was a force of nature, loved her son, later my husband, more than anyone could love any other human being. She was generous, insistent, barely contained at all times, and always trying to find ways to love us – my husband, me, his non-Jewish wife, my daughter who was 11 when we married, and the three children we adopted from Nicaragua. One of her last phone conversations, as her ability to speak and form thoughts disappeared into the process of dying, was with my daughter, then 22 and living in London. That she made my girl her granddaughter is all I need to say. She died August 26, 1995.
Cindy was an entrepreneur who had earned the respect of my father, a guy who had spent his life in retail. Chain Store Age was the magazine on our coffee table at home. So he found a lot to talk to her about since she owned a string of candle stores. Retail talk. Fun to listen to, I know from years and years of experience.
My father died alone in his favorite chair, the TV tuned to C-Span. The day before he had played golf with his best friend, one of the ways he filled the vast stretches of time created by my mother’s death a year and a half before. I don’t know for sure because I wasn’t the person who found him but I am betting he had a big fat novel open on his lap. He read so many books that he often ran into books in the library that he had checked out once or twice before. He was a smart guy who never quit. That’s all. He just never quit. Until he died on August 26 or maybe 27, 2003, we don’t know the exact time because he died alone and was discovered after not answering his phone.
That’s right. My husband’s two parents and my father all died within 24 hours of the same day. My mother, always a non-conformist, died on March 24th, apparently never getting the memo.
I loved them all in very different ways. And I sure will remember them tomorrow – August 26th.
What are the chances?