My last post introduced you to my father-in-law and his cows. I’d like to tell you more about him since Robin reminded me that today is his birthday. We can’t recall exactly how old he would have been, but we’ve narrowed it down to 87 or 88. Odist died at an early age, in his late 50’s so we’ve been without him for quite a while now.
When I first met him, I was intimidated. He was a hard living, drinking, smoking, cursing man and I had never been around anyone like him. When we first started dating I didn’t want to stick around their house very long; I felt we had nothing in common and nothing to talk about while Robin finished getting ready for our date. He loved to hunt and fish; I had never done either one. I didn’t even care to be around guns at all. It was awkward to say the least and if it hadn’t been for Robin’s mother I guess we would have just sat in silence with the TV on and cigarette smoke swirling around his head.
He operated heavy construction equipment as long as I knew him. Dozers, graders, paving equipment; I think he could run/operate just about anything. My experience in equipment operating was a riding lawn mower. But once, I volunteered to bush-hog the pasture with his tractor (there’s a first time for everything, I guess). He ran through the basics sitting in his chair and sent me on my way. When I gassed up the tractor, I poured gas in the radiator instead of the gas tank; of course he NEVER forgot that and made sure I didn’t either. He wasn’t angry and he didn’t yell at me, he just went out and cleaned up the mess I had made. After he drained the radiator and properly put gas in the tractor, I did eventually get the job done.
Anytime I was with him and he introduced me to someone he knew he always said, “This is Nell’s son-in-law.” But after I had hung around for a while, I think he saw that I was likely going to be part of his family at some point in time, and I could sense even in his kidding that he sort of liked me. Robin told me later that he liked me better than anyone she ever dated (even though he wouldn’t acknowledge that).
In fact, I can’t recall ever hearing the word “love” come out of his mouth about any member of his family. It’s like the word wasn’t in his vocabulary, but sometimes later in life a little love leaked out in some of his actions. The day came when his lung cancer recurred and they could do nothing else for him; too many cigarettes for too many years had finally caught up with him. One lung had already been removed, and the other collapsed so he was on a ventilator from then until he died. He was sent home from the hospital with around the clock nursing care and his only form of communicating was writing notes.
When we would go to visit I usually would go to his room and just sit by the bed and hold his hand. We still didn’t have a lot to talk about and couldn’t really carry on a conversation even if we did. He lifted his hand like he was holding a pencil and writing in air when he had something to say and one day I got the sign. So I grabbed his note pad and a pencil and handed it to him. After he finished writing he handed me the pad and it said, “Steve I love you like a son.” I was caught off-guard and didn’t know what to say. I think I finally got out “I love you too”. It was a short conversation that meant so much to me and one that I’ve wished a thousand times I could do over because frankly I blew it. I want to tell him in a meaningful way that I love him and that I appreciate him patiently teaching me many things that I would have never learned otherwise.
Happy Birthday, Odist. Thank you for the most precious gift I have ever received; the gift of my wife. I love you and I still miss you.