Archive for August, 2010

On your 80th birthday…

Posted in Tiny spaces on August 28, 2010 by talesofanunfinishedmom

Today is your 80th birthday. That officially makes you an octogenarian. And, yet,  that seems so totally impossible.  You seem so much younger than your years.

On our recent vacation together, where we celebrated your birthday early in the company of your most beloved family members, toasts abound. Your brothers and sisters, stepdaughter and stepson, and finally,  your dearest sons shared their feelings about you and the imprint you’ve made on them as people, husbands, and fathers and on the many others you’ve touched in your life — through your business as a successful jeweler on 47th street and by nurturing treasured friendships you’ve sustained for decades.

Although the floor was open to all, I found myself unable to speak. I’m not usually one at a loss for words but I just couldn’t imagine what I could share, being the person in the family who’s known you for the least amount of time. (Other than your granddaughter who is 3 1/2, but, she’s already known you for her whole life.) I also felt that what I would share,  wasn’t really meant for a group setting.

So, I waited until your official birthday to share those thoughts…

In thinking about a toast I might have given, I harkened back to the first time we met. I recall that your son (my now wonderful husband) was eager for me to meet you and so he took the opportunity to bring me to your  home in Woodstock while I was already in New York for a business trip. I remember the train ride to Woodstock, where I pondered what this meeting would be like. I felt nervous. I hadn’t had such great luck previously. Not that I ever had an official father-in-law, but, I had boyfriends with potential who came with fathers. Fathers who in retrospect – and perhaps even at the time – I could not imagine being a part of a fabric that I called family.

I recall arriving at the train stop, my mind curious about the father I was to meet. I don’t remember seeing you for the first time but I’m certain I remember you hugging your son affectionately and being very cordial to me. I recall the ride was not a long one – nor was it a short one. I remember feeling nervous in the backseat of the car and wondering if I’d regret committing to an overnight stay upon our first meeting.

We pulled up to your home and upon entering, I was greeted by your wife (my now wonderful mother-in-law) — a beautiful woman who was extremely pleasant and reserved. I knew I could only be myself but nonetheless, I hoped I didn’t say the wrong thing. I hoped we all liked one another.

An impressive lunch spread waited for us and I recall we all dove in voraciously. I can remember that initial feeling of awkwardness when you’re trying to figure people out. What I remember more, though,  is 10 minutes into our visit, the questioning and nerves,  those feelings went away — and they never returned. It seemed immediately that we all clicked into place, like placing the last two pieces in a complicated jigsaw puzzle.

 I recall we cruised around the town of Woodstock during our weekend stay and I clearly remember your generosity towards both your son and myself. I remember you insisted on buying me a pair of shoes. I had those shoes for years.

I recall feeling so welcomed that we returned to Woodstock a few months later for a “white Thanksgiving.”

And, of course the rest is history.

I ultimately married your wonderful son and we brought you your 6th grandchild. I wondered if perhaps you’d wished you had a grandson, having 5 granddaughters already, but, you were over the moon with the birth of your youngest son’s daughter and have remained enraptured ever since.

I remember when I was preparing to go back to work toward the end of my maternity leave and we didn’t know how we would arrange the childcare situation financially. I remember your asking me what I would do if money wasn’t a concern. When I suggested that it was, you pressed me again, “What would you do if money wasn’t a concern.”

Your generosity has never been lost on me. Your commitment to your family is incomparable.

On your 80th birthday I thank you for raising such an amazing son who has changed my life in so many ways.  I thank you for reaching out across the miles to check in regularly, for making me feel so welcome and loved, even though I’m not officially your blood, and finally, I thank you for being such an amazing Pop-pop to my treasured little girl.

Ellie and her Pop-pop

Happy Birthday with love,  Jennifer