This should be about Father’s Day. It’s about my Father-In-Law. Bill.
Bill was cleaning a twelve-gauge shotgun at his kitchen table the night I picked up his daughter. It was our first date. He put it in the corner near the door, then shook hands with me. That night, I called him Mister.
When the time came and I asked him if I could marry his daughter. Bill looked me in the eye. “I have to tell you, she’s spoiled. She’s always had everything she’s ever wanted.”
Bill was the man who said he would help us every way he could.
Sue called him, early in our marriage. “Dad, I need a shelf for our bathroom.”
Bill said, “I will build you one.” We did.
I had never watched a master carpenter work before. My Dad worked with iron and steel. Bill liked working with wood, making things for others.
He would let me help. I started holding the dumb end of a measuring tape and the dumb end of a board. He taught me to use the smart end of a measuring tape. Measure twice, cut once. That sort of thing.
I saw how much patience he had. He could have taught shop class in any school.
We needed a roof for the concrete slab we wanted to call a back porch. He was there, pencil, saw, square and hammer in hand. He and I built a lot of things. We built a table, a cabinet. A glassed in a sun porch. He taught. I learned.
All he ever asked was for me to take care of his daughter, the one he said was spoiled. He expected that. I tried my best.
My car broke down. It died. Needed an engine. Before I could ask, he handed me his keys. “Here, take mine until yours is fixed.”
He came back a week later.
“Forget about your old car, let’s go to town and figure out a way to get you and Sue in to a car.”
Christmas was the best time of the year for Bill. That’s when he gave and gave and gave again. He was always the Santa Claus, he handed out the presents. He beamed with joy. He was the happiest. All he wanted out of life was to share with others what he had.
He taught me how sharing and giving makes a hard life easier.
I never saw Bill cry until a stroke put him in a wheel chair. The stroke kept him from helping his family and made him depend on others. That broke his heart.
Bill’s been gone fourteen years. I miss him, Sue misses him, our children miss him. It’s a crying shame he never met his great grand-daughters Windham.
I never saw that shot gun again and I never called him anything other than Mister Ray.
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