Monday, March 26, 2012

The Birthday Boy

Today is my father-in-law's birthday. Joe is 79 years young today. I used to kid him that he will outlive me. The older we both get, the more I realize that joke contains more than a mere kernel of truth.

I have known Joe only for about 1/4 of his life, having met him when I started dating Margaret slightly more than two decades ago. While we have not always seen eye-to-eye, we have always been able to deal with each other man-to-man. I admire the hell out of him. I admire him because while he is not always right, he always possesses a good-faith basis for his decision. You might not agree with the result but you develop an appreciation for the process. He has been as much a father to me as he has been a father-in-law, if not more so.

More pointedly I admire the hell out of him for how easily and effortlessly he handles his role as patriarch. Life has been less than kind to Joe these past few years, stealing from him first his mother-in-law with whom me was incredibly close and then Suzy B., his best girl and the love of his life. Yet he has kept on keeping on and in doing so has set an example for the rest of us to follow.

In anticipation of an as yet unscheduled but nevertheless planned move, Margaret has spent copious amounts of time over the past few months culling through boxes and closets in our home and in Joe's to get a better handle on what "treasures" really are and what are something considerably less so. Several nights last week she came home with boxes in her car, which boxes contained mementos from various eras. Among the mementos she unearthed is a photograph that was taken almost a half-century ago. It was in fact taken so long ago that Margaret - while present - is not visible in it. Taken in the Summer of '62 on the carousel on the boardwalk at Seaside Heights, Margaret was still comfortably riding along inside of Suzy B - waiting almost until Halloween to announce her arrival. Although she is unseen in the frame, make no mistake as to her presence and her completion of the Dream Quartet:

It is among the most beautiful photographs I have ever seen. It is evidence of love. It is proof of happiness. Most important of all, it is the best evidence of peace (and its importance) that anyone shall ever see.

It is more than that however. It is a testament to the promise of those things yet to come. It is a testament to the belief that as long as the bond between those present and accounted for in that photo remained unbroken, anything was possible and not a damn thing was unattainable.

I did not know my father-in-law then but I know that face. And I know those eyes. What he believed as a young husband and father fifty summers ago he believes still as a father, grandfather and in the year-plus since Nicholas and Halle joined the tribe a great-grandfather. Not only does he believe it still, he lives it every day.

It has been my great pleasure and privilege to have had a chance to hitch a ride with him these past twenty years or so. It has been a hell of a journey so far. I am very much looking forward to the next twenty years.

Thanks Joe. Happy Birthday.


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