2006-08-06: My Father (-in-law)
I've had a conflicted relationship with my father figures.
My birth father was stuck in the 60s and not really into responsibility or thinking things through or actually parenting. We left him when I was 4, and I'm only now really establishing a decent relationship with him again, as my sons' grandfather.
My step-father was a kind, loving, supportive, gentle, interesting, smart man - when he was sober. We left him when I was 13, and every two-three years I hear from him.
My father-in-law was always there, for the past 15 years, in any way I needed. And now he's in a coma. He's had lymphoma for years, and no-one expects him to recover.
When I first met LeEarl Baker, it was like meeting Paul Bunyan or Santa Claus' more cynical younger brother. He was a big man, over 6 feet, with a ready smile and a twinkle in his blue eyes. He filled a room with his presence, his laughter was infectious, and when he was telling a story, everyone listened. He had a wicked scar over his eye where a horse kicked him when he was a cowhand, and he had a big bushy beard the color of old pennies, and hands as expressive as Fred Astaire's feet. All of these he used to great success, making everything from Bible stories to tales from his childhood to yesterday's anecdote come alive. He was funny and clever, and often the joke was on him. He loved playing games, and oh, the songs on car trips! Your cheatin' heart left a tear in my beer, and many more besides.
LeEarl loved books. He loved reading books, and had walls full of them. He always seemed to be studying something, wether it was digging ever deeper in the religious texts he knew by heart or devising a windmill for the backyard or taking con-ed classes. I loved watching him look at a house, because he was seeing the whole house, not just the color and windows, but every line and shape from the inside to the outside.
When I came into the family, he had the option of accepting me or rejecting me, and I found not only open arms but an open heart. Over the last few years, as he grew ill, I occasionally called to chat with him, and I treasure the memory of his voice.
He loved his family, and was a more deeply commited father and husband than nearly any man I know. He spoke with awe and reverence in his voice when he was so moved, and when he was serious or displeased, his voice grew deep and quiet. I saw him laugh often, cry rarely, and only once did I ever see him really mad. I know he struggled sometimes to understand the descisions of his children, but his love was constant. I am honored more than I can possibly express that part of him lives on in my sons, with Sebastian's deep thoughts, Elliot's dramatic flair, and Tovey's ready smile.
While I've been writing this, he has died. It's 6:55 pm on Sunday August 6. A good man has gone. My great-grandmother said we all die twice; once when our body is finished and again when there is no-one who remembers us any more. The man I have been privledged to call Dad for 13 years will live forever.
2006-08-07 12:35:01 anon.
My condolences to you, Vincent, and your whole family. He sounds like he was a terrific guy.
2006-08-07 12:36:45 joshua m. neff
That was me, by the way. I was so moved by what you wrote, I forgot to put my name down.
2006-08-07 15:04:43 Daniel Hosterman
I'm sorry for your loss. He sounds like the kind of father everyone hopes for and few are blessed with.
2006-08-07 20:06:33 Blankshield
Thank you for sharing that, Meg.
2006-08-07 20:33:35 Michael S. Miller
My condolences to you, Vincent, and all your loved ones. May great memories like you've preserved here help cushion the pain of loss.
2006-08-07 20:55:26 Rich D.
A touching tribute to a fine man.
I am sorry for your loss.
2006-08-07 21:49:52 martha
Meg, You've captured LeEarl. He was a blessing in my life, too. I hope you and Vincent and family will be comforted and blessed as you move through this new phase of life without LeEarl here physically. Love you!
2006-08-08 03:55:52 Linnaeus
My condolences to you and Vincent, Meg. Your father-in-law sounds like a wonderful person.
2006-08-08 03:55:59 Linnaeus
Sorry, forgot to sign.
2006-08-08 16:37:59 ScottM
He sounds like he has made a wonderful mark on all of you. I hope the bright times you shared are the memories that last.
2006-08-08 16:59:39 Lisa Padol
Oh, my sympathies.
2006-08-09 09:55:02 Harald Wagener
what a eulogy. I'm moved. All the best to your family in this hard time.
2006-08-15 14:53:51 Iskander
Meg, my condolences to you, Vincent and all your loved ones; LeEarl will surely live forever with such glowing and eloquent fondness to remember him.
2006-08-16 17:57:19 Emily
I will also remember LeEarl's humor, love and insightfulness with great affection. I'm so glad I got to meet him and to see all the love that he gave to his family and everyone he knew so freely. He was an amazing man who will be dearly missed. My deepest love to all the Bakers.