Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Sense of an Ending


It took some getting used to in the beginning but it’s my father-in-law’s way of greeting women he cares about. He “pecks” directly on the lips.  Men get strong German handshakes (even his boys). That’s about the extent of his touchy feely displays of affection. He’s not a hugger.

He’s only said, “I love you.” to me three times in the 24 years I’ve been married to his son. It’s never been necessary. I know how he feels about me. He reserves the expression, I recognize, for his children and grand children. It doesn’t hurt me. That’s more important anyway.

I do remember each and every time he’s said it, nevertheless.

(He said, “I love you.” at the memorial service after Nan died, his wife of 50 years and my husband’s mother, almost nine years ago.)

Once Nan passed away, the family “glue” dissipated. Someone needed to step up, hold things together and no one did for far too long. The family dynamics changed. Things happened. Relationships unraveled as they wont to do when they're not tended to carefully.

Families are complicated creatures, aren’t they?

(He said, “I love you.” eight years ago.)

It followed a heart breaking conversation in which I told him something he needed to know after his quickly timed re-marriage. I will never completely understand why it was placed in my hands but it was. Maybe they were afraid to hurt his feelings. I did it and it was hard as hell.

(He said, “I love you.” this last Saturday.)

You see, he’s sick.

I’ve purposely stayed away for my own reasons and haven’t seen him since Thanksgiving. And as difficult as it is to admit, I recently had my husband drop me off at Costco while he stopped by. My husband understands my reasons. I felt like crap.


So I didn’t tell my husband I intended to surprise his dad last weekend. Maybe I didn’t want to tell him in advance in case I didn’t follow through or maybe I didn’t want to hear him say, “Honey, you’re doing the right thing. Good job.” I don’t need that. I already felt guilty enough.

I let my father-in-law tell him the following day. My husband gave me a simple, knowing smile after he hung up the telephone. I knew I made him happy.

I’m thankful I went. I’m grateful to have shared a few quiet moments with him all by myself. I love him more now than I ever have despite everything that’s transpired over a quarter century.

And before I left, my father-in-law hugged me longer and hard than he ever has. He told me he missed me and he uttered those three words for only the third time ever but the timing was perfect.

I sense an ending and it makes me intensely sad but I have those words tucked safely away.

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The Sense of an Ending is the title of a wonderful book I read recently and it has inspired me to think about things a little differently. Hence, I used it for my title.

Head over to Yeah Write. Awesome writers, a fantastic community, way too much fun on a weekday!!!

37 comments:

  1. That is an incredibly touching story. Our family is very loose with the "love you". However, when it's utter so seldomly, you know it's a moment you will never forget.

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    1. Thank you! We have had a long and mostly happy relationship. I come from an incredibly touchy feely Italian family. We are always all over each other, hugs, kissed, hand holding, men hug. That whole thing. So understand the meaning if sparsely shown affection. Doesn't mean you don't love each other.

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  2. so sad. so sorry. and i'm glad you went. it's always nice to hear i love you.

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    1. Me too. Part of it was that I didn't want to see him in such great decline as he was once so strapping but I was there daily through the same decline his wife, my MIL, went through. Unfortunately, I know how it goes down and the end if the story.

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  3. My family was never difficult at all. Everyone - aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. - is so close, and no one every gave much thought to how we felt about each other, it just was. So it was a huge lesson for me when I got married and my in-laws are nothing like that. They are not at all prone to grand displays of emotion, and are not super close. So I had to learn how to navigate that kind of family, much like you did. It's not easy, but, like you understand, worth it in the end.

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    1. They are close on the surface but it doesn't run that deep. It took time for my husband and I to get to a completely opened up point. We were brought up the same yet different emotionally. It's sad to think my husband will be the eldest generation in his family in not too long.

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  4. What a sad story. "I love yous" are hard, and you do such a nice job of conveying the complexity in relationships where it is not a phrase often used.

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    1. I think "I love you"s are easier if you are used to saying them (of course meaning them as well). Thank you. The relationship started out easy breezy but with time, as they all do, become more challenging when things change, decisions and mistakes made.

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  5. I find it hard to utter "I love yous" to anyone besides my fiancé, mom, and girl cousins. I'm not sure why it feels so foreign to me, but I'd like to start expressing it more. I definitely don't want it to feel forced, but your story has compelled me to try a little harder.

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    1. If you honestly feel it in your heart, say it! The more you say it, the easier it becomes.

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  6. This is sad but so touching Gina! I am sure it's somehow more special to hear when you he rarely says it. Seems like a wonderful FIL.

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    1. Thanks Stacie. He's a beautiful man.

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  7. This is such a sweet and sad story. I am glad he got the chance to tell you.

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    1. I'm glad for the few moments we had alone. We don't get those often with family, spouses, kids around. I'll see hime this summer but things will have changed even more by then. Thanks for your kinds comment.

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  8. Sadly beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Bo. It's sad when you know that the circle of life is coming around again.

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  9. That's such a beautiful story. It makes me wish I had longer with my husband's father. We had our disagreements about his treatment of his wife and I couldn't get past it. but his theater group did such an amazing memorial I realized I didn't know him at all. We've got to take it while we can!

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    1. We are such a product of how we are raised. I wonder if we "really", I'm mean deep, deep down, know each other. Maybe it's not possible but I'm glad you got to know your FIL from a different perspective. I'm still learning about all the people in my life.

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  10. This was a lovely bit of melancholy, Gina.

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  11. Oh, such a bittersweet post. My father-in-law passed away recently and one of my last conversations with him held the first "I love you" he'd ever told me. I'm keeping that one with me forever.

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    1. She you get it! Thanks. He will be around for a little longer but he senses that his days are waning. That's been the sad part; the fact that the writing is on the wall. I hold a lot of fondness in my heart.

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  12. This is a beautiful post, Gina.

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  13. Beautiful, Gina. Concise, touching, honest. My father-in-law has never said "I love you" to me, but I guess that's not what guys say to guys, although I can't remember him ever saying it to my wife either. Maybe three times in 24 years is more than the average? :)

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    1. You know, thinking about it, I don't think my dad has said it to my husband of whom he thinks the world! He says it to me and my kids all the time now (didn't when I was growing up though). I wonder if you are on to something? I think he still has a few more in there for me.

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  14. I'm so sorry that your father in law is sick. It's an odd thing the emotions and words that come out in those circumstances. I'll be keeping your family in my thoughts.

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    1. He went from healthy to not in a very short period of time. That's the shocking part and to see someone look dramatically different is difficult. Thank you for the thoughts. It's been tough on the family trying to figure it all out.

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  15. I'm so sorry. This is beautiful.

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    1. Thank you, Robbie! I appreciate your kind words.

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  16. This is so incredibly beautifully well written.

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    1. That is sooo nice of you to say. It was a touching moment. One of those crystal clear ones...

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  17. Oh man, I'm sorry. This was such a heartfelt but honest telling of your relationship with your FIL. The emotions, both good and bad, came through beautifully. Sending you love. xo

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  18. This was such a beautiful, heartfelt family story. Thank you.

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