Father-in-law

The icy sleet was pelting the window like keys on a piano. She sat alone in her father-in-law’s bedroom. Everyone had survived the holidays except George, which was why Dana was going through George’s personal belongings on this cold January morning. Her husband, Harry, was in the middle of a law case so she was designated to clean out George’s house.

She estimated it would take at least a week or so to do the job. Since the weather was tenuous for driving and George lived over a hundred miles from her own house, Harry thought it best that Dana stay there until the job was finished. Normally she felt put upon by his assumption that she should handle all the grunt work in the family. After all as he frequently reminded her; Harry’s time was more valuable than her own. This time, however, she made no fuss. A break from him and her three teenage children would be like a vacation.

OK. Enough daydreaming. Get to work. She told herself as she lifted the lid of the old chest at the end of George’s bed. It was filled to the brim with papers and memorabilia. Laying on top was a well-worn album she had never seen before. It had obviously been looked at a lot over the years.

She opened it and found that on the first page was a picture of George with his bride, Harriett, Harry’s mother. By the time Dana came on the scene, Harriett and George were divorced. Harriett now lived across country in Boston and was a partner at a famous law firm. Like mother, like son.

Dana turned the pages and saw her husband’s early childhood unfold in the pictures. At the age of what Dana would guess was about ten, Harry’s mother disappeared from the photos. Only George with his teenage son was there. Father in his modest off the rack suit standing next to his son in a graduation gown holding a diploma from high school, next to it a picture of Harry holding a diploma from the University of Colorado.

The picture brought back memories of her first meeting with this dashing pre-law student. He was a senior and she was in her second year as an English major. At the last minute her friend Ann asked her to go to a fraternity party. Ann was dating one of its members and was asked to bring along some female friends. She hated fraternity parties. They were loud, boring, drunken affairs, but Ann relentlessly begged her to come with the condition that she could leave whenever she wanted.

She fell in love the minute she talked to him. He was gracious and oh so sure of himself. Five months later they were married. After law school they started their family. Harry moved up rapidly in a prestigious law firm while she took care of the house and all of her husband and kid’s needs. Her father-in-law, George, became a great friend during those years of Harry’s absenteeism.

The following pages of the album were filled with pictures of Dana, George and the kids; in the mountains skiing, at birthday parties, having Thanksgiving dinner, at little league games, at school plays and so on. No Harry.

Tears seeped from the corner of her eyes as she remembered that it was during those years that she fell in love with her father-in-law. Her own father like Harry was mostly physically and emotionally absent when she was growing up. George was the father and the husband she yearned for. At one point in her marriage, she was ready to leave Harry. George took her aside and convinced her to focus on herself and to do something for herself that made her happy.

“What is it you’ve always wanted to do and haven’t.” He asked me.

Dana thought silently for a while and then as though getting nerve enough to speak blurted out. “I’ve always wanted to write.”

“Then do it, but just a word of advice. Keep it a secret for now.”

Dana nodded. She knew as did George that Harry’s inflated ego would not tolerate her accomplishing something on her own that had not been his idea. It was only when her book became a national best seller that Harry recognized that she was a writer even though he still referred to her work as trashy novels.

In the back of George’s album were reviews of her books and announcements of her signings. George had been her best fan. His encouragement and support would be missed. His greatest gift was that he had taught her to appreciate and love herself.

Through tear veiled eyes, she looked up and whispered, “I love you George. Thank you.”