This is a story about my relationship with my Father-in-law. If you have read the about me portion of this blog, you would know that I grew up without a father. Like I said in my “Incomplete Childhood” story, the word “Dad” was never spoken growing up. And if you have read my story about my “Second Chance At Love” you would learn that being a single mom came with judgements and concerns, especially coming from my Father-in-law, but all those feelings were understandable. I am a parent too. So I understood where he was coming from.
When I first met him, he would not say much. I was actually scared, very scared. In other words, he was intimidating. It was like walking on eggshells when you are around him.
When I married his son John in 1997, I also married his family. It wasn’t Mrs. or Mr. Spitaletta anymore. It was Mom and Dad. My relationship with them got better as they got to know me. It became deeper as my family got larger. I am not only their daughter-in-law with their step grandson, but also the mother of their 3 grandchildren.
In 2014, my Mother-in-law was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The family needed someone who could keep her company. They did not feel that Mom could be left alone in the daytime while my Father-in-law went to work. So I stepped up and volunteered to do the job. It was a great set up. What’s best is that you have a family member caring for another family member.
My Father-in-law got to go to work and continued his schedule at his office, while my Mother-in-law got to do what she enjoyed doing, shopping! So instead of driving “Miss Daisy” just like the movie, I’m driving “Miss Mary” LOL!
I enjoyed it. We had a lot of fun. Everyday was a new experience for me. Dad would come home at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and I would tell him how my day went with Mom. So when he got settled in, I would give my Mother-in-law a kiss goodbye, and give him a kiss goodbye…. and say… “I love you!”
This was our everyday routine. Even on the phone, before hanging up, I’d tell my Father-in-law, “Bye Dad, I love you.” I would never end a conversation without saying…. “I love you, Dad!”
One day he asked me….. “Do you always say I love you?” I replied back and said…. “Yes Dad, do you want me to stop?”
He said “Oh no, it’s refreshing!” I explained to him that just like I am with my own mother, my husband and my children, I would never part ways without a kiss and saying I love you. Only because it’s important for me to express how I feel. I will not miss the chance to tell them how much they mean to me.
Funny how saying such simple words can be so powerful.
My Father-in-law is the closest thing I’ve ever had to having a father. My relationship with him grew deeper over the years while I was caring for my Mother-in-law. I would learn a lot about his past. The repeated stories I never once got tired of listening to. Especially love stories of him and his wife. The time he spent in Okinawa while he was in the United States Air Force. His first job as a newspaper delivery boy, and many more that made him the man that he is today. He and his wife raised 6 children. 5 boys and 1 girl. They lived a home life centered largely around the family. Kids came home from school, did their homework and went out to play. Mom starts cooking, then Dad comes home and whistles the same tune every night, standing outside their front door to call the kids in for dinner.
Family life was simple. My father-in-law was a self made man. In 1980, he moved his family to a very wealthy part of New Jersey.
In Saddle River, your home has to have a minimum of 2 acres of land. Not a quick walk to your neighbors to ask for a cup of sugar, if you know what I mean. So there he continued the life he dreamed of for his family.
My Father-in-law is the kind of guy who’s set in his ways. I remember him saying, “At my age, I don’t need new friends anymore.” I laughed!
The song “My Way” by Frank Sinatra best describes him, I think. And since we both love to sing, he and I would belt out songs while we take drives to the local pharmacy, to the bank, or to the food store. Indeed a lot of beautiful memories just like a father and a daughter would be on their bonding time- together. I was with my in- laws every day and some weekends too. This went on for almost 4 years. My Mother-in-law’s condition was getting worse, and the family had to hire a professional live in caregiver. Life changed for everyone. The perfect setup was getting harder to maintain.
I miss the long drives to Long Branch, New Jersey. I miss the conversations we would have over dinner at their favorite Italian restaurant. I miss watching his favorite show with him in black and white called “Bonanza”. Things have changed now that my Mother-in-law is in the severe stage of Alzheimer’s Disease.
My Father-in-law taught me a lot of things. From simple kitchen hacks and cooking his favorite meals, to major life lessons. He has a lot of wisdom. He turned 90 years old last January 28th. I spearheaded his birthday party celebration with the entire family. I felt so happy that we were able to give honor to a man who may not be perfect, like all of us, but has accomplished so much in his life.
His deep affection and admiration towards his wife, and his love and aspiration for his children and grandchildren. The hard work and dreams he has for his family has grown, from 2 people, to now a total of 28 people!
I asked him to share with me more of his wisdom. He said that “Growing old is not for sissies.” The past few years have been focused on doctor’s appointments and getting prescriptions filled. He also added that older people get tired by doing nothing. His advice was to keep moving. Do the things you can while you are still young.
Lastly, he said to me that reaching 90 isn’t just because you took good care of yourself…
Reaching 90 is also because of a 4 letter word. That 4 letter word is L-U-C-K !
And I agree with him. Reaching 90 years old is a milestone!
I wrote this story about my Father-in-law because I want to express how thankful I am that even though I did not have a father growing up, I was given a chance in life to experience what it’s like to have one. And I will never forget the day he asked me……. “Do you always say I love you?”