Monday, March 18, 2013
My Brother-in-Law Phil
Does absence really make the heart grow fonder? Well, as far as it relates to me and my blog, not so much. I almost forgot I had this spot in Blogville, and honestly, Blogville has gone from being a thriving community to a being a ghost town, as far as I can tell. It’s my own fault, really. I’m a neglectful neighbor.
Today, though, I remembered I decided to use this blog as a personal journal to look back on. And today I would like to honor my departed brother-in-law, Phil. He didn’t wake up yesterday. Died in his sleep of natural causes. Phil had a history of heart problems and was a brittle diabetic, so he might have died from a number of things.
My in-laws have been scattered across the States for as long as I have known them. In fact, when Husband and I first started dating, his parents weren’t even living in the States. They were spending six months (or maybe a year?) living in Singapore, and I met them after we had become engaged.
Husband’s three sisters attended our wedding, but there were apparently three brothers living on the west coast whom Husband had not seen for five years. The following summer, the family decided to meet for a reunion, and we all gathered at the parents’ apartment in Pasadena for a week of reacquainting and fun. We went to a Cubs game (not a Dodgers game because we are Cubs fans), Disneyland, Burbank, the beach… There were so many of us that we couldn’t all stay at the apartment, large as it was, but we gathered there every day.
It was during this week that I first met the brothers and their wives and kids. I discovered Phil to be remarkably funny in such an odd way—for example, the bathrooms in this apartment were outfitted with American Standard brand toilets. I walked in one day and found a note on the back of the toilet that read “American Standard might be fine for you, but for me and my family, we’ll stick to the KJV.” No signature. No spectacle. No waiting for a laugh. He had just quietly left a note and walked away.
One evening, there was a bit of a family crisis, as there sometimes is at large family gatherings. Know what I mean? So I decided to lay low, sit quietly on the couch and wait for it to blow over. Phil came over and sat beside me to reassure me and to welcome me to the clan. I don’t believe we saw Phil and his family again until the youngest sister’s wedding a couple of years later. We all met in Illinois for the event, and I made it hanging by a thread, sick as could be with a disagreeable pregnancy, and I lingered in the shadows, hoping not to hurl on the festivities.
We all went en masse to Bob Evans one evening, and as I sat with my bowl of chicken noodle soup (why do I remember what I had ordered?), Phil put his arm around me and said, “Robyn, I love you.” It was the sweetest gesture, meant to heal me, but it threw me because I was not (am not still) accustomed to that sort of thing, so I responded so feebly with, “Thank you.” Really.
Phil was that way, always looking to buck up the one who was down, even resorting to a magic trick he happened to have in his pocket if necessary. And when my mother-in-law was in dire need of someone to live with her so she could escape to the warmth of Florida, he went with her, leaving his children and grandchildren behind in Washington. He watched over her, made her laugh, allowed her to buy a house on her own, put up with her dog who he was no fan of, made sure she ate and had conversation and humor and company.
Yes, Phil was that way, but he didn’t wake up yesterday, and we are all a little less because of it. Do you ever wonder if you would leave a hole if you were to go away—from work, from town, from the world? If we live rightly, we definitely will leave a hole when we are gone. Phil, dear brother-in-law, your absence has left a hole. And I say quite belatedly, “I love you, too.”
By the way, I chose the photo above, one taken by Phil's daughter Jolena, because it represents Phil so perfectly. Here he sits with his grandchildren while visiting them this past January.
at 7:18 PM