The phone rang this morning. At five am.
It was one of those calls where you’re freaked-out because you expect something awful has happened, but you know it’s probably just some drunk idiot who misdialed his latest booty call. Only this time, it wasn’t.
“He’s gone,” was what she said. That’s all she said. “He’s gone.”
And I knew instantly who it was, because we’d known it was coming. For months. My father-in-law has been battling pancreatic cancer since February. I thought for awhile he might actually win. Not because he was stronger or because it made sense, but because this man was simply too stubborn to sit down for anything. . . including cancer. Up until the very last day he was cracking jokes about the hospital “shamen” and wondering what his 21 virgins might be wearing. (I voted for Laura Ashley)
In the end, though, humor wasn’t as good as a working pancreas. So, like Luz said, “He’s gone.”
I think the thing I will remember most about him is his utter lack of self-consciousness. When he forgot his backpack on a seven-day wilderness canoe trip, he didn’t complain or gripe or insist we go back. Nope. He ate dinner in his underwear, bathed in the lake, and didn’t worry too much about the lack of a hairbrush. Because it wasn’t important. Being there was important.
So that’s what I will take from him: I will be there. I will live in my body, in my life, and not judge it. Because this life is all we get. And as Fred would say, “We’re damned lucky to have it!”
This post, small as it is, honors the memory of my father in law.
Thank you, Fred.
“One always dies too soon- or too late. And yet one’s whole life is complete at that moment, with a line drawn neatly under it, ready for the summing up. You are- your life, and nothing else.”
– Jean-Paul Sartre