A Voice in the Present Becomes a Voice in the Past
Posted on March 19, 2013
“And how we face death is at least as important as how we face life, wouldn’t you say?” (James T. Kirk)
I was perhaps twelve the last time I saw someone suffering and close to death. I didn’t understand it from a personal aspect, only technically that my grandfather was hallucinating most of the day from the medication and that he had cancer. We weren’t close. It hit much closer to home this time. The word ‘surreal’ comes to mind and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. The emotions ebb and flow, the tears come and go and the memories flash before our eyes, each different from the other between the three of us.
My husband told me last Friday morning as he was getting dressed before heading to the hospital to visit his father that he wished he’d gone up north with him (his dad) back in October to close their trailer down. His brother couldn’t go and neither could he, so I was asked to go. My father-in-law was never comfortable asking anyone, even me, for help, but he called and I told him I’d go. We’d never spent more than a couple of minutes alone before and I think I made him nervous. I was something he didn’t understand because I was his son’s same-sex partner. The logic of it eluded him. He was retired air force and that sort of thing just didn’t compute with that mindset.
The two of us had a wonderful time together during our time up north and I believe it surprised us both. I tend to be very task-oriented, so I was eager to do as much prep work as possible so it would lessen how much we had to do to finish closing down the place the following morning. He was glad to see I was throwing my back into it. I met several of his relatives there, shared some meals with him, and heard a number of stories about the family.
I told my husband Friday morning that I didn’t regret his not being able to go up north with his father one bit. It’s the only chance I’d ever have to take a trip like that and I wouldn’t give back a minute of it. That’s when the tide really started to change between us and my father-in-law-who-didn’t-know-he-was-my-father-in-law began to warm up to me. Not that he wasn’t always cordial. He was. My family treated him as if he was part of us and he in turn was quite wonderful to my parents as well, especially my dad, which isn’t easy. It was just a matter of getting past having a gay son and his gay son having a boyfriend.
The man warmed up even more when he went into the hospital last December and I showed up with his two sons to visit each day. I was with him when he received the diagnosis for cancer. We were both uncomfortable that day. I continued going to visit him each day (with the exception of one or two days due to weather) after my husband flew back down to work and my father-in-law went into rehab to relearn how to walk. My brother-in-law and I made sure we shopped for him, visited with him, exercised him and brought him ice cream. I did what I could to help support my husband and brother-in-law’s efforts to keep his motivation high and spirits up.
My husband and I never told him we got married, not while he was still conscious anyway. We agreed that he would be even more uncomfortable and it seemed like a needless thing to have to introduce if we didn’t have to. Some will say we shouldn’t have hidden it, that we weren’t being true to ourselves or any other number of things. Those people weren’t here. They aren’t living in our place or wearing our shoes. We did what we felt was best and I’ll stand by that decision. Besides, I told him a few days ago when he was unconscious. It seemed a little safer then.
Something amazing did happen, though, that I mentioned part of before. I took their father to one of his radiation appointments and he introduced me to the driver as his son’s partner. He stunned the heck out of me the following day when we returned for radiation and he introduced me to the doctor as his son’s other half. My husband was dumbfounded. When he ended up back in the hospital for the final time, the hubby came in and was telling me how the night nurse told him how chatty his father had been about his “two and a half sons.”
He’s gone now and went peacefully a little before 5 a.m. this morning. In Babylon 5 terms, he’s passed beyond the rim. He didn’t have much in the way of privacy during his last couple of months, and he had to rely on us for everything. I think he was pleasantly surprised to discover we wouldn’t and didn’t let him down. This brought him some comfort. We made every day count and while I don’t know what my brother-in-law took away from this (that’s private for him), my husband’s father’s thank you to us was to acknowledge that which had eluded him for so long. He accepted me. He accepted us. I’ve written many blog posts where I’ve referred to or mentioned my father-in-law-who-doesn’t-know-he’s-my-father-in-law. He leaves us as my father-in-law.
There’s much to be done now. Someone passing away seems so final in the moment, then decisions have to be made and plans put into motion. Not only do we pick up the pieces, but there are so many things that have to be done at home. His home. It’s still his in name and spirit, and the three of us are faced with what to do with the accumulations of a lifetime. It’s a very strange feeling and nothing seems as it should. Each sunrise looks foreign, the next hour uncertain, and we hear the gentle voices of the past fade slowly into the distance.
“It seems as if we’re truly sailing into the unknown.” (Jean Luc Picard)
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.
28 Responses to “A Voice in the Present Becomes a Voice in the Past”
Vastine Bondurant says:
March 19, 2013 at 7:10 am
March 19, 2013 at 12:43 pm
Thank you, Vastine. It’s ironic…we think our parents and in-laws will live forever. In this case, I have a Grandmonster who will live forever, yet we’re losing our parents. This just, well, blows.
Sharon S says:
March 19, 2013 at 7:16 am
Thoughts & prayers, and love, to you & Ralph, Kris.
March 19, 2013 at 12:43 pm
Thank you, Sharon. Trying to keep a strong face for the gang right now.
Victor J. Banis says:
March 19, 2013 at 7:40 am
a lovely post, Kris. I’m glad your father in law came to understand he was your father in law. Sometimes with the near ending comes a clarity lacking in our earlier life. Faced with one of the really important milestones, a lot of other stuff starts to look trivial, even silly. I had a similar experience with my own father shortly before he passed, for which I’ve always been grateful. We had not been close before, and had it not been for the last, friendly get together, I would have carried a lot of bitterness with me through the rest of my life. I think he knew that, and knew his time was near, and reached out to me as he never had done before to try to make amends. And it worked. Today I can remember him with love. God does work in mysterious ways, doesn’t he?
March 19, 2013 at 12:49 pm
Thank you, Victor. I think because he raised his kids several years by himself that it was difficult for him to trust or warm up to people without a good long time to do it. The fact he started introducing me to the people around him as his son’s other half without embarrassment a second thought spoke volumes. I’m incredibly thankful for that. And I’m glad your father reached out to you, too. Mysterious ways? Would we be disappointed if it was otherwise?
Martha Swartz says:
March 19, 2013 at 7:44 am
Thank you for sharing you heart & life with us.
I pray for all of you to have continued strength.
Love you Both!
March 19, 2013 at 12:49 pm
Love you, too, Martha. Thank you. =)
Lloyd Meeker says:
March 19, 2013 at 8:47 am
Beautiful post, Kris — those final gifts are often ones that change the tone of the whole relationship. While settling your father-in-law’s affairs and household may not be fun, it can be a powerful way to process the emotions your family is feeling.
Blessings to your FIL on his journey, and to your family on yours.
March 19, 2013 at 12:52 pm
I don’t envy the months ahead when my husband and his brother have to go through everything in his house. We’re just glad it was quick and not nearly as painful as it could have been.
Katy Trick says:
March 19, 2013 at 9:00 am
I am sorry to hear of your father-in-law’s passing, Kris. My heart goes out to all of you. I am glad you had time with him these last few months and got to know each other better. Your memories will help you thru the grief in the months to come. What I am happy about is the simple fact that in getting to know you better he came to accept your relationship with his son. Take care of that son now and let him take care of you. I think that is what would make his father happiest.
Peace, hugs and love to you both and a special prayer for your father-in-law as he embarks on a new journey.
“……the predjudices people feel about each other disappear when they get to know each other.” – Kirk “Elaan of Troyius”
March 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm
I just hope they have John Wayne films up there and pipe up new episodes of Pawn Stars. That, sitting in his favorite chair and eating Outback Steakhouse while he waits for his children will keep him occupied and happy.
March 19, 2013 at 9:52 am
This was very touching and beautiful, so sorry for you and your family’s loss (((((hugs))))
March 19, 2013 at 12:55 pm
Thank you, Nataly.
Patricia Logan says:
March 19, 2013 at 11:03 am
My love to you
March 19, 2013 at 12:55 pm
Get all the mushy stuff out now because when we get to OutlantaCon and you see what I’ve done…
March 19, 2013 at 11:13 am
Love and sympathy to you and Ralph.
March 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm
Thank you, Kimberly. Much appreciated.
March 19, 2013 at 11:33 am
Sending love and strength.
March 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm
We could definitely use both. Thank you, Jeff.
Kiernan Kelly says:
March 19, 2013 at 11:38 am
This was an incredibly beautiful and moving post, Kris, and both you and your husband and your respective families have our sympathy in what I know from experience is a difficult and trying time.
That said, don’t let anyone tell you that by not telling your father-in-law about your marriage you were copping out or somehow not being true to who you are. You WERE being true to yourself, showing the kindness and empathy both of you embody by doing not what might be good for yourselves, but what you felt was best for someone you loved.
You are both people anyone would be lucky to have as sons. *hugs*
March 19, 2013 at 12:58 pm
Many thanx, Kiernan.
I didn’t realize your hubby was in the hospital. I hope he’s better quickly, but just watch out how many times he requests a sponge bath. Men…
March 19, 2013 at 4:57 pm
Wasn’t expecting this when I logged into Facebook on lunch and the tears are just rolling down my face as I sit here at the computer in the backroom. I cannot describe the joy that I feel to know that your father-in-law was able to accept what a blessing it is that you and Ralph have each other…and how blessed he has been to have you as his son’s “other half”. Thank God that things often work out in wonderful ways that we never saw coming in the past. My love to all of you.
Bobbie B says:
March 19, 2013 at 9:32 pm
(((((HUGS))))) and much strength for the coming days Kris and Ralph. Having to hold my husband up (along with the rest of his family) when his father died six weeks after I had our son and the day we got our marriage license, I know only to well what you are going through. It has been eleven years and it still doesn’t get any easier. You know where to find me if you need more hugs (and if I EVER get back to MI I will hug you in person. Will have to make a detour to Detroit just for you on my way to Clare. LOL)
Lloyd Songal says:
March 19, 2013 at 10:04 pm
What a nice way you gave him to leave this Earth; knowing that he was loved and cared for by all 3 of his sons. The knowledge that he made his piece known to others vindicating your relationship and accepting you as one of his sons makes me feel so good to hear you tell the story of his coming to terms with your relationship with his son. My heart goes out to you and your family. I hope all goes smoothly in the following time to come and also in settling everything. It is is so great that you can share in the celebration of his life with a new found love you shared together. Love, Lloyd
March 20, 2013 at 7:01 pm
I am so sorry for your loss. Please tell Ralph too. You are truly a strong and loving person. So glad that the two of you were able to develop such a trust and respect before he left this earth. Your blog is beautifully written. May your memories bring you and your families peace at this difficult time. Hugs,
Sue Brown says:
March 21, 2013 at 7:06 pm
I’m not so good with the words of comfort. I lost my parents a long time ago.
But I watched your changing relationship with your father in law with recognition. My ex mother in law and I reconciled as I looked after before her death. That time will always be valued, as you value your time with your FiL. Even in your loss, you convey a comfort, Kris. My love to you and Ralph.
March 24, 2013 at 6:55 pm
I couldn’t stop the tears long enough to comment until now. I love that picture. I’m glad he knew about you and Ralph before he left.