I lost one of my best friends this week. My first father-in-law died at 89. We got off to a rough start. He called me ‘Meathead’ and I quietly referred to him as ‘Archie’. Almost from the beginning we were diametrical opposites when it came to politics, religion, parenting; all the big stuff it seemed then. We mostly agreed about the other things like sports, family, sales first, and of course, his daughter.
I’ll miss his passion for life, his love of fart jokes, his harsh opinions on opinionated people and the fact that he made no excuses for what he did, when he did it or to whom. I never went with him anywhere where he didn’t have a friend, make a friend or treat people like a friend. Yet, he knew he was flawed. Some of those flaws he relished. I learned that although he relished and even nourished some flaws, he was conspicuous in never wanting to accidently offend anyone. To the contrary, he could get hurt so easily when he couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t agree that he was right about a matter, just about any matter in fact.
He taught me a lot. One-liners were always in his presence. When I once double-clutched at taking a risky job, he bristled over the phone and said,
“You can do anything for 6 weeks. You don’t have to love it for kiap’s sake! After 6 weeks you should have come to other decisions.”
When we talked about the good and the less good times, he was most proud of supporting his family, living his faith and yet almost ashamedly apologetic for the 2 ½ days he didn’t have a job in 65+ years of working during tough times, depressions and discourse.
Ya, we had our own ups and downs. Some things we didn’t have to talk about so we didn’t. Luckily he didn’t like silence any more than I. Other subjects were a running online commentary or the content of our attempted weekly phone calls but never face-to-face. Face-to-face time was spent listening and laughing and occasionally discussing how the other one saw the world. As usually happens, I thought he got smarter as he got older but we all know what was really going on.
He was intolerant, had high expectations and believed in an assortment of ideals – many of which went out of fashion everywhere but in his presence.
He cut a wide path in a lot of areas of life without much fan-fair approaching an allegorical Willy Loman-type character but instead ending as a hero he never saw himself as being. We’ll just have to wait and see who steps up and strolls down Don’s path now.