So here’s what’s been rolling around in this very addled head of mine…My neighbor Gary is an avid gardener. So much so, that we have never spoken about anything else. He came to the door a few weeks back to tell me that our grass was being over-watered and that I should adjust the scheduling of the sprinkler system. Ok, done. The other day he flagged down my car to advise me that my grass wasn’t getting enough water (I’m abbreviating the conversation to keep this thing going).
Everything needs water – but not too much. Every meal should be savored – but not so much that you get heartburn. My cyber pal David (davidkanigan.com), is pondering the extremes of emotional bungee jumping, as I extol the state of balance. But highs are awesome – it’s the lows that suck. It’s all a paradox (sidebar – Annie LaMott’s Ted talk on her 12 rules of life and writing – enjoy it). I got it – and to a ridiculous degree, it’s all a cliché. Until of course, you get to some lessons I’ve learned from my father-in-law.
Sid calls me his favorite daughter-in-law, and he in turn is my favorite father-in-law. Of course, we are also each others’ only person in that category, so for me, it’s an easy win. He’s 92, one of the greatest generation, the head of Andy’s clan and he wears that mantle handsomely. He recognizes the magnificence of my sons’ as fathers – and tells them. He literally beams at the mention of his grandkids. He’s vibrant and engaged and has become the official greeter to his community. Going up to strangers, introducing himself, inviting people with an outstretched hand and an easy smile. He’d win “Most Popular” if they had such awards for adults.
Pop has an easy walk, this kind of strolling gait that is unhurried yet purposeful. He broke his foot a few weeks back, which only slightly inconvenienced his ability to dance at his granddaughter’s wedding. His two granddaughters wheeled him onto the dance floor, he was handed the mike to sing along with Louis Prima and no one eclipsed him from that point forward.
And yes, now that his boot is off, he’s got golf to return to, bridge of course…you get my drift. Pop’s unassuming and humble, he’s warm and truly finds no fault with anyone in his ever-widening circle. He reaches out – with no hesitation. If you surmise that I love him, you’re right. I think he finds self-absorption boring – too much is happening for the over-examination of one’s self, or the pursuit of that kind of attention from others.
My parents were too young when they passed away. I’ve written about them extensively and will not do so now. What I will say is that neither was able to show me how to grapple with getting older. I’m grateful for Pop’s lessons, because other than learning how to play bridge, I try to play this life as he does.
Pop was married to my mother-in-law for well over 60 years. And he still called her the ‘most beautiful woman in the world’. We all were deeply worried about him – would he be able to get past the grief, heal enough to make a life for himself, etc. And here’s the paradox that Pop taught me, the only one that doesn’t make me crazy.
You don’t get past grief (I knew that part); you don’t get over love and you still live. One can argue that it is a religious requirement to do so (it is in Judaism) – which is a pretty high imperative; so is doing it for the spirit within that begs to sing. Love and grief co-exist. One doesn’t cancel out the other. Losing someone you adore doesn’t give you permission to exempt yourself from life’s dance. They are not different sides of the same coin – they are the same side of the coin. There is no better moment to thank my father-in-law than today, there is no better reason than his patient coaching and his love. What can you say to someone who asks the world to be his guest? Thank you for the invitation, Pop – I gratefully accept and I love you.