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So Long, My Favorite Father-In-Law

From the first time I met Dave, I knew he was a trouble maker. He had a sly way of joking and a dry sense of humor that required you to be able to see his face in order to know if he was teasing or being serious. Using an Otis Redding quote from Shawshank, it’s fair to say I liked him right from the start.

He had a love of cars that was evidenced in owning an auto parts business for most of his life. And he had a full garage in his home devoted to working on cars. It was even equipped to spray on new paint jobs. Although by the time I met him, he was winding down towards retirement and his love for cars was seen in an almost full-time job capacity of looking online for the next car he wanted to purchase. The newest search would normally start within a month of purchasing a (new-to-him) car and go on for the next four to five years before trading in and purchasing the next.

He had a love for fishing, too. We heard many fish tales. It was hard to know which ones were true, but I suspect the majority of them were indeed true. He lived to be on his boat and was quick to take us out to fish or troll the lake whenever we visited his home in northern Minnesota each summer. That picture up there with my oldest is one of my favorites of him. In his element. On the water. In a boat. Letting a child, his grandchild, steer the boat and believe he had it all under control as a six year old.

Dave had a giving and generous heart that manifested itself in jumping into projects and helping others. There was never a visit where he didn’t join me in countless projects around the home. From building a shed in one house to building a new bridge over our creek at another house. One year, he was instrumental in helping me find the right car that I purchased secretly as an early birthday surprise for his son. He even helped me with finding the materials to make a gigantic bow on top of the car at a time where you couldn’t buy them from the dealerships. Whatever I wanted or needed, he was always game for helping me.

Yet for as busy as he stayed, Dave also knew how to relax and be still. He was content to keep company on a screened in porch for hours on end in northern Minnesota. With or without a baseball game on the TV. And he was quick to take us out fishing whenever we wanted during our visits Up North over the last twenty years. He could be filled with jokes or he could knowledgeably talk about politics, manufacturing, current events, and anything else that came up in conversation.

I loved that Dave could keep company in peace without feeling the need to fill the air with mindless chatter. He knew so much and could talk about anything. We could always find common ground, yet managed to still respect each other fully when we disagreed. We could talk about hurt feelings when we had them and we talked about our hopes for the future.

Dave was my favorite father-in-law. He regularly told me I was his favorite daughter-in-law. It was partly a joke in that there was no other person to fill either of these roles. But it was also deeply true. We respected each other deeply. And we were indeed favorites of the other.

The last several years were not easy. There was a diagnosis of cancer. A kidney was removed. The cancer spread to his lungs. Medications were added. He dealt with nausea and a host of other digestive issues. Pain in his body moved around and grew. The cancer spread. Eventually through his bones, his spine, and to his brain. This last month was hell. There were hospital stays and so many prayers. Yet he didn’t complain. He was stoic to the end. Fighting hard until he was ready to let go. Until family had come to visit. And everything that needed to be said…was hopefully said by everyone closest to him.

I am so incredibly thankful I was able to fly up to Rochester last Monday and spend that day and the next with him. I’m thankful that our parting included a hug he initiated and that he echoed my words after I told him I loved him so much.

I’m thankful I knew him. And that for eighteen years, seven months, and nine days…he was my favorite father-in-law.

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2 Comments

  1. Virgene on May 16, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    Thank you for such a honest description of Dave.
    I knew Dave and Vicki for many years when I lived in Austin.
    He was a character and you always had fun when you were with the Wenzels.
    I am sorry for your loss. I buried my sister
    A year ago with pancreatic cancer.

    • Kelley on May 17, 2019 at 6:23 am

      Virgene, Dave was my favorite. I always enjoyed my time with him and our conversations. I’m so sorry about your sister. Cancer is a wicked beast.

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