My dad had girls . . . three of us. He was a fireman for most of my younger years, a WWII veteran, hunter, fisherman, poker-playing, fiercely loyal friend but still a softie. He lit barbecue fires with gasoline, worked on cars even in the middle of winter, and helped my grandfather construct a garage from the ground up, but he also cried the day our dog had to be put down, choked up the night John asked his permission to marry me, and has a telltale tear running down his cheek on the picture of him walking with my mom back up the aisle after our wedding.
And he loved a good story with a happy ending.
I was the only daughter he lived long enough to see married. Our oldest child (a boy!) was the only one of nine grandchildren he ever met. He died from cancer at 49, wanting so desperately to go home because he loved my mom. My youngest sister was only 14.
And here I have to interject with the hauntingly beautiful plaque my niece has hanging by her back door that takes my breath away each and every time I see it:
Not to spoil the ending, but it all turns out OK.
A few years after my dad died, one of his best friends lost his wife. Our families had grown up together, vacationed together, Sunday-dinnered together, his two daughters and we three sisters called each other cousins, wishing it were true. We hadn’t seen as much of each other as we got older.
Harold called my mom with a question about his tax return, they went to dinner a couple of times, and ultimately discovered they really enjoyed each other’s company.
Harold helped John build bedrooms in our basement for our sons, patiently teaching the boys how to measure and cut, install wiring and drywall, and lay carpet. He came to birthday parties and weddings, and in time fell in love with our mother.
Our fake cousins became our real stepsisters, all of us grown and married by then.
Mom and Harold built a house in the woods together where sons-in-law could be part of the construction and daughters part of the design process, where grandkids could run wild and explode Peeps in the microwave at Easter, where we could all walk and talk and grow.
Harold’s love for my Mom never flagged. He cared for her at home longer than he should have been expected to, then drove the old pickup truck over country roads every day to the nursing home where Mom was struggling with dementia and often didn’t even remember they were married. He was a man of his word. Plain and simple. He died honoring their loving commitment, asking from his hospital bed the night before he died how we were going to get her wheelchair through the door when she came to visit him.
He died honoring our dad’s friendship and enriching all our lives.
My dad would have loved the story.
And it all turned out OK.