My father-in-law Jack is 95 years young today, a fact that fills me not only with awe but also with joy. I’m someone who generally has no trouble writing about big moments like this but when it comes to Jack, well, I find myself a little overwhelmed . . . in a very good way.
I’m not quite sure how to explain the gift of his presence in my life. My mother died when I was 32. My stepfather died when I was 40. I’ve been an orphan for a long time and yet, I’ve never felt like one because through all of that, I have had Jack. Sure, he’s not a parent in the typical sense of the word. I mean, he didn’t raise me. But he’s been there for me in a myriad of ways for almost 25 years, from the littlest moments like waving across the back yard to each other, to really big moments like celebrating my political victories. He’s reliable and trustworthy, he’s smart and funny, and he’s the heart and soul of this family in a million different ways.
You may recall that we almost lost him 4 years ago this summer due to a tickborne illness. It was a scary time in my life and it really opened my eyes to just how much I love this man. I mean, I knew I loved him, but I sort of took that love at face value. And, I had always considered how I would need to help Dale through the grief of losing Jack, because Dale has a long and deep seated fear about this that goes back to his boyhood, but I had never considered what the depth of my own grief might be until Jack got so sick. The lesson I learned then was that Dale and I will have to lean on each other when (a very long time from now) that time comes. Because while Dale’s loss will be more significant than mine, we will both be devastated.
When COVID hit, I was more concerned about keeping Jack safe than I was about anyone else in my circle. Dale visited him regularly but was super careful with hand washing and masks and keeping distanced. I didn’t see Jack at all except from across the yard, not wanting to expose him to any germs I might be carrying since I was going to work every day. Back in January, when Dale told me the VA called Jack and set up a vaccine appointment for him, I burst into tears of relief and gratitude. And when I got vaccinated myself, I vowed that Jack would be the first person outside of my bubble that I hugged.
This is may be a bit of a downer as a birthday post but I sincerely hope it conveys just how grateful I am to be part of Jack’s world and to celebrate another trip around the sun for him. And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that, at 95, he’s still living on his own in his own home. It helps that he’s right next door, of course, but he’s independent with his own friends and social life and hobbies. It’s truly remarkable.
He doesn’t have a computer but Dale has shared many posts with him over the years and you can be sure we will share this one with him, too. I sure would love it if we had lots of birthday wishes to read to him.
In other words . . . you know what to do in the comments.