I’ll never forget my first meeting with my father-in law. I was taking his beautiful daughter for a swim in Lake Michigan. He eyed me warily when I introduced myself , as a violinist handing over his prized Stradivarius to a gorilla. Having rolled up my clothes in a towel, we headed off to the beach. I had not yet realized that my underwear fell out of the towel and into the middle of the living room floor. When I returned he greeted me at the front door and held them at eye level saying “I believe these are yours”. I stammered a quick thanks while looking for the nearest hole to crawl into. So much for first impressions.
The next few months didn’t get much better. He was a man of few words, austere, the CEO of a big company. You either fell into one of two categories: Competent or Incompetent. No need to tell you which side of the ledger I fit. He did at one time ask why God created so many idiots; a question I hoped didn’t include me.
But later I married into the family and we started talking more. He turned out to be a pretty good guy. We would talk at length on business and current events although it took another year before I finally called him “Dad”. After he retired he began to change. He grew in his faith in God, was more patient, kind and one of the most generous men you’d ever meet.
People might say that his greatest achievements included starting out as a young draftsman and rising through the ranks of the business world, becoming president and CEO of a large national manufacturing company. His creative hard work yielded two U.S. patents to his credit. To me, his greatest achievement was being a good Dad and a extraordinary husband. I’ll never forget his words, after my mother-in-law’s health failed and he patiently cared for her in a wheelchair around the clock. “It was my finest hour!” he explained after she passed away six years ago.
…and so it was. Winston Churchill couldn’t have said it any better.