“Please, please, please, tell me that’s not my toddler running around our front yard in a diaper. We just moved here. What are the neighbors going to think?”
I said this as my husband and I were pulling into our driveway. I was tired and cranky. My routine OBGYN appointment for my second child had dragged on for a four-hour ordeal of ultrasounds and blood tests.
Joe laughed. “Well, Tom looks happy with my dad. That’s all that’s important Kathy.”
Of course he was right. I’m so lucky to have my father-in-law to watch him.They had developed a very close relationship ever since Dad had started watching him two days a week so I could take driving lessons in anticipation of our big move to the suburbs.
Now we were in our new house and I just found out that I had placenta previa and was going to need to be on partial bed rest. With a toddler and a new house. I was going to need all the help I could get.
I laughed along with my husband. And I chided myself for being so uptight about these things. So the baby’s running around in a diaper. He’s happy; he’s safe. That’s all that’s important.
I got out of the car and happily accepted the big hug my son gave me. Then I looked at his diaper. Before I could say anything, I heard my father-in-law’s big voice.
“Kathy he took off his diaper, but it wasn’t dirty so I didn’t want to waste it. That’s why I used duct tape.”
Oh great! Not only was my baby running around my yard with a diaper, it was a diaper secured with duct tape.
I looked up at my father-in-law. He was watching me very carefully. He knew me well enough to know that I might find this a tad troubling. He also knew I adored him. We had become very good friends in the eight years that Joe and I had been married.
“Oh, that’s fine dad. But we have enough diapers, don’t worry about using a fresh one if it should ever happen again.”
“Well that’s good Kathy because he sure as heck didn’t like that staple gun.”
And with that I collapsed in laughter.
I’ve always considered myself a very lucky woman. Not only did I get to marry my best friend, but in doing so I ended up with a the best father-in-law a girl could get.
The diaper misadventure happened 16 years ago. The son who was a toddler is now in college. The daughter I was pregnant with is in high school. My father-in-law has been there nearly every step of the way — two moves, four miscarriages, a layoff, and three kids.
When I knew in my soul something was wrong with our daughter’s development when she was just six-weeks-old, dad trusted my instincts and encouraged Joe and I to continue looking for what was causing her developmental delays even when others dismissed my concerns as nothing more than overprotectiveness.
When a five-year-old Tom was screaming in pain and the doctor’s office kept telling me we didn’t have to come in because it was probably no more than a stomach virus, dad offered to make the 45-minute drive out to my house to come with us to the appointment I insisted we needed. And he let me cry on his shoulder when it turned out that I was right, and my son was in the middle of a severe asthma attack.
My children couldn’t ask for a better champion. He spoiled them rotten. One day I mentioned how my three dears adored steak so much that they devoured the one I made them for dinner. A few days later I came home to a box of from Omaha Steaks. Not long after that, I casually mentioned how much the kids enjoyed trying lobster for the first time. A few days later, the UPS truck dropped off a delivery of lobster tails.
I reached the point where I was afraid to tell him anything that the kids liked because I knew he would make sure they got it.
Those days are over, and they’re not coming back.
Dad passed away on Tuesday. He was 91, and his health had been failing him for a while. We were fortunate to have him in our lives for what, now that it’s gone, seems like a fleeting moment. But it had to be. He’s no longer in pain; he no longer has life’s cares weighing him down; and he’s in a better place. I know all of this.
But I’ve lost enough loved ones over the years to know how final death can be. I also have experienced how much it hurts when time is up for someone we love.
This one hurts more than most. In the 27 years I knew him, my father-in-law had become one of my best friends, a shoulder to lean on, and someone I could trust implicitly. I miss him already. But I’m glad I got to know someone who had such unconditional love for his children, his grandchildren, one great-grandson, a daughter-in-law, and two sons-in-law.
He was a rare find, and I doubt I’ll meet another like him in this lifetime. I’ll always be thankful for the many happy memories he left for me, and I’m even thankful that he was frugal enough to try to spare one un-soiled diaper with duct tape, even though he had to terrorize my two-and-a-half-year-old son in the process.