Last Sunday, heaven gained a good man. My father-in-law, Paul, passed away after a brief illness. He was 65 – too young, in my opinion, to leave – and yet we are so grateful for the years we knew him. Let me tell you the story of how Paul came to be in Mike’s, and therefore my, life.
Mike’s father, John, passed away from lung cancer when Mike was 16. Shortly after, Mike’s mom, Dee Dee, met Paul. They were proud members of Alcoholics Anonymous, and both had many years of sobriety already under their belts. They were married in December of 1992. 12-12, to be exact, twelve being a very special number to them both. Mike had a great relationship with Paul. Paul knew that he could never be a replacement for Mike’s father, but he was always there with advice and guidance if he needed it. Or to bang pots and pans if Mike lingered too long in bed.
Paul and I had a lot of similar interests, especially in books, food and music, so we got along swimmingly. We also found great joy in teasing Mike and Dee Dee. I look back on those times when we were all together and I have so many happy memories. Unfortunately it was a short time. Mike and I were married in 1997, and just a few years later Mike’s mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. Dee Dee passed away just shy of her 49th birthday in 2001.
It was a difficult time for everyone. In the span of 3 years, Paul had lost his only sister to leukemia, his wife, and shortly after, his father. Mike had lost both of his parents. I ached for him, and I ached for our unborn children, who would never know their grandmother.
It would’ve been easy for us to gradually drift away. Paul had a life and children of his own. We were hundreds of miles away in Tennessee. But Mike and Paul made a promise to each other that they wouldn’t let that happen, and they never did. Even though the miles separated us, there were many visits, and many more phone calls. Paul was one of the first to visit after our kids were born. He was there for baptisms, holidays, birthdays. And if he couldn’t be there, you could count on a card with a special Paul touch: an inked stamp proclaiming “First Class,” pointing at your name. When it was important, when it counted, he was always there for us. He didn’t have to be, but he was.
I never knew my grandfathers. Both passed away long before I was born. It made me sad to think that my kids would never know their grandparents on Mike’s side of the family. But Paul gave the greatest gift ever – he was a constant presence in my kids’ lives. Because he was so loyal and caring, my kids will grow up with memories of a loving, doting grandfather. I can never thank him enough for that.
I will always be sad that things couldn’t have turned out differently from the very beginning. It will never make sense to me. However I can’t help but be filled with joy and gratitude for the years and relationship we shared. The kids had a good visit with him in July. Mike and I both had our own conversations with him days before he fell ill, and they were our typical conversations: short, sweet, and fun. Not everyone is so lucky.
We will miss you terribly, Paul. I hope that you are surrounded by the people you loved and lost too soon, and I hope heaven is filled with all the jumbo Malley’s shakes you could ever want. We love you.