Note:  I wrote this almost a year ago, for a newsletter I used to publish.  It seems a good time to revisit it.


Your Extreme Editor Says Goodbye To His Father-in-Law

I won’t try to tell you all that much about Charles Welch.  He loved Elvis and the Beach Boys and all kinds of early rock music.  He loved cars and animals (the latter a very good thing, given his decades-long career as a zookeeper in Memphis).  He loved where he was born and grew up and lived his whole life, out there in rural west Tennessee, even if he also loved to travel to other places.  Most of all, he loved his family.

I have so much to thank my father-in-law for:

– Obviously, for the beautiful, sweet, beautiful, kind, beautiful, smart, beautiful and wonderful daughter he raised;

– For not taking one look at the VW-bus-driving, bicycle-racing, poison-ivy-prone, soft-handed Yankee fruitcake who wanted to marry that daughter, and sending him packing with jeering laughter ringing in his ears;

– For helping me learn how very smart a guy can be even with the drawl-iest of Southern drawls — and how very dumb so many people can be even if they sound all Northern-y and “smart”;

– For being nothing but supportive when I and my career moved his beautiful daughter far, far away from him — it must have hurt him like the devil, but he never let on;

– For traveling to all those far-flung places I’d moved his daughter to, packing along a cooler of his best-in-the-world pork shoulder barbecue and the Pancho’s cheese dip we couldn’t get;

– For all the homegrown tomatoes he shipped us in those places;

– And most of all, for making me a true part of that wonderful, messed-up, dear, annoying, tight-knit family he loved so much.

I count myself lucky that don’t have much by way of regrets with regard to my relationship with Charles.  He knew I loved and respected him, and I knew he felt the same about me, even as different as we two were.

I guess the only real regret I do have is that I didn’t ask him for his daughter’s hand in marriage.  I meant him no disrespect.  I was just young and stupid and really had no idea that people still did such quaint things.  Only later, hearing and reading about others’ experiences with it, did I realize I’d missed something important.  Charles never gave me any indication that my omission upset him, and there didn’t seem to be much point in asking him about it.  But now… well, I surely do hope that he didn’t take it as anything more than the cluelessness it was.

Anyway, as regrets go, that one’s pretty mild, I think.

In the grand scheme of things, I really wouldn’t trade the friendship we built over the last 23 years for anything.  Still, I can’t help that in the last awful week I’ve been tempted by one other wicked pseudo-regret.  Why couldn’t my in-laws and I hate each other, like we were supposed to?  Then maybe it wouldn’t hurt so damned much.

 And goddamn it, I still miss you terribly.