The recent commemorations of D-Day have sparked my reflections. With this final day of June 2019, my thoughts center on my father-in-law (FIL) whose birthday it is. He was born in 1921. I’ve mentioned him in several previous posts, most recently here.
Born in Kansas, the second child of Fred and Georgia, Max learned early the importance of hard work, a way of life embedded deep in their German heritage. He often reminded his sons how his own father tied a block of wood to the child’s foot so he could reach the tractor’s gas pedal. Able-bodied children learned the value of work to help families survive.
This work ethic propelled young Max into adulthood. Ambition and aptitude directed him to Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science (now Kansas State University) where he prepared for his future career as an engineer. As sometimes happens, these plans were interrupted by the shadow of war. Like many of his peers, this engineering student enlisted in the US Army.
When Max reported for active duty, he served with the Signal Corps stationed in the Philippines. His eldest son (also named Max) was born during this overseas deployment.
Following World War II, Max pursued various engineering and corporate positions that brought him success. He was wise and expert, an admirable man. He and his wife raised four sons, each of whom exhibits distinct character qualities (even facial expressions) learned from their father.
Looking back though, I’ve come to realize … to my regret … I didn’t know my FIL well. He was an imposing figure to me, tall and commanding as one might expect of a former Army officer. As his daughter-in-law, I found myself unable to establish a comfortable level of familiarity where I could characterize him as my friend. Though he was kind and cordial, he seemed a generally quiet man, sometimes prone to share stories, but usually content to observe the interactions and conversations of those around him.
Mostly, what I know of the man is what I’ve seen reflected in my Beloved. The second child of a second child, my Beloved mirrors his father’s disposition as a generally quiet man. Observing my Beloved’s love for me and for his children and grandchildren, I’m grateful to his father for being a good dad and provider.
Perhaps more than anything else, I realize my FIL passed on to my Beloved a precious spirit of play. Pictured at right in the final years of his life, Max displays the winning hand in a monumental match of Texas Hold’em. To start, there may have been eight or ten competitors sitting at that roundtable contest. One by one, they went down in defeat to the most seasoned (and senior) card player at the table. Even as a man in his 80s, Max delighted in being champion of all.
We don’t have much occasion to break out the cards these days, but whenever my Beloved splashes his grand-twins in their mini-pool or welcomes the grandchildren to hop on top his truck for a raucous ride around the lawn, I’m gratified by his joyous spirit of playfulness … and how Scripture – once again – demonstrates its essential Truth to our everyday lives.