I miss Floyd

So, I haven’t posted for about a couple of weeks. I came here to write funny stories about pirates and a pig-themed restaurant in New Orleans. But I can’t write something funny right now. In fact, I’m having a hard time writing anything.

My father-in-law died on April 12th. The short version is that Floyd had a stroke in Cancun, then complications and died after being flown to a Miami hospital. Mike, his niece Christy, his dad’s second wife, Ginger, and I were in Miami at the time. Mike has captured all the details on a blog he’s been keeping.

When he was a 17-years-old newly minted airman in the Army Air Corps, Floyd met Mike’s mother, Betty. He married her the same day. They were married 45 years until she died in 1996. By all accounts, she was a remarkable woman who was kind, selfless and generous. He was close to her, and based on the warm descriptions that I hear, he’s a lot like her.

A lot of my own identity in life has been defined by the fact that I lost my father when I was 13-years-old. My relationship with my mother is closer than most. I think that when you lose one parent, sometimes you make up for the loss by becoming closer, the way that a remaining limb grows stronger when you lost the other. Mike’s relationship with his father was the same. They were best friends. He always said that he would fly thousands of miles to have a beer with his dad. When we got married, his father was his best man. That week, while we prepared for the wedding in Florida, I saw that he changed his name on MSN Messenger. It said “New dad.”

It felt good to have a “dad” again, especially one who reminded me so much of my own father in terms of sheer joie de vie. I loved him, and he loved me back if for no other reason than he knew how much I loved his son. I cherished my relationship with him, even though it came with the complex family dynamics created by his second marriage. (Read into that whatever you’d like.)

His sister gave us some photos of his dad as a young guy in the service. My favorite is of him as a rail thin twenty-something, with sharp cheekbones and the same cloudy blue eyes he had for life, in uniform with his hat jaunty on his head. I don’t know what he was like then, only after I met him in 2000, and truly got to know him since 2004 when Mike I were married.

Floyd was the kind of guy who walked into a bar full of strangers and walk out with a bar filled with acquaintances. He was a man of simple pleasures – to shoot pool with friends, to play some golf, to tell old jokes over beers, to go to the ballgame. In his early years, he played on the Air Force championship baseball team; he was invited to try out for the majors.

I plan to catch up with the blog by adding in posts in the order I lived them, probably against the blogger’s code but I don’t mind. But it feels good to admit that I am sad. More than that, saddened to the core. In losing his second parent, I know that Mike and his brother and sister have lost “home.” There will be no more holidays at the house, no more family get togethers. As he wrote to them, “we’re the family now.” I can’t relate to this loss of a life anchor as my own mother is still alive. And she loves Mike, but it’s not the same.

I miss Floyd. I miss watching Floyd and Mike sharing beers, talking about stuff, razzing each other on politics. I miss watching Floyd make friends by looking at someone in a bar and saying, “that guy needs a beer.” If you asked him if he wanted something and he didn’t, he’d reply, “No thanks, I just had a bar of soap.” I miss hearing Floyd telling jokes including his infamously incorrect rendition of “a bear goes into a bar in Boise…”

And I miss hearing Mike’s laughter mixed with his father’s.

Even if you didn’t know him, next Tuesday or any Tuesday in May, if you’re in a bar maybe you can help remember him. Buy a stranger a beer and start talking to them. If they ask why, say it’s one for Floyd.

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