When Dan told his father about me, he said, “This one is special, dad.”
His father said, “If you love her, I will love her like a daughter.”
And he did. He was a fantastic father-in-law. It was easy to call him dad. It was easy to sit down for family dinners with him. We didn’t agree on anything, from politics to parenting, but we never fought about it, either. He watched Fox News, and I often rolled my eyes at him about it. “I’m a registered Democrat!” he would say, on more than one occasion. We sometimes had some heated conversations, but nothing that would divide us permanently. We very much practiced the “agree to disagree” maxim. We had to.
Because family was everything to him. He was thrilled to have his son and three of his grandchildren right next door. If he had a house big enough, he would’ve asked us all to move in with him. (And then complained about the noise.)
About two months after I lost Gabriel, my in-laws asked us to travel to California with them. About half of my FIL’s relatives had relocated there, in San Francisco and Sonoma. Plus, my FIL managed a very popular restaurant in the airport corridor in Moon Twp. It was practically a business trip!
My pregnant sister-in-law traveled with us as well. She was about six months along. For every 10 samples of wine we had as we toured wineries, she would have one. At one stop, the man serving us said to my father-in-law, “Is this going to be your first grandchild?”
My FIL hesitated. And then he said, “No. No it’s not. My son and his wife lost a baby a couple of months ago.”
Before he even had any grandchildren, he knew what he wanted them to call him: Tadone, dialect from his Italian village in the hills of Abruzzo. TA-down (own as in own, not as in down). Say it with a little bit of Italian flair. Image Marlon Brando saying it as The Godfather.
He went from being called Ta-Ta, to T’down, to Tadone, even for a short time, because of Kate’s inimitable style: Tadonio.
He loved being a grandfather. His grandchildren brought him such joy, and made him laugh. He loved sitting with them, telling them jokes — he had the worse puns — and sharing food. If my children wanted crunchy cheese puff balls or black licorice, they knew the man to ask. He made a mean French toast, and I am pretty sure he is responsible for my children’s love of fried eggs.
When I was pregnant with Kate, my FIL sometimes drove me down to and picked me up from the bus stop. At this time, Flora was about 2, Nephew was 3, and Niece was 1. Some days all the children were at my IL’s house, depending on their parents’ work schedules. My ILs sometimes picked Flora up from daycare as well. It was a busy time for a couple of retirees!
One day, Tadone picked me up. I could tell he was in a bad mood. I asked about his day. He groused that all the children were at his house. “I don’t remember asking for this,” he said.
“I know exactly when you asked for it!” I laughed. “Dad, you whispered ‘grandkids’ to your son-in-law on your daughter’s wedding day. You at least gave DR and I a day or so before you asked when we would give you grandchildren!”
He paused, and then burst into his signature Coraopolis cackle. “You’re right,” he said.
“And you wouldn’t trade it for the world,” I pointed out.
I was right again.
He had special bonds with each of the children. He and Michael were buddies; Kate loved to snuggle with him; he tried to make Flora laugh with his jokes. He was there for us when one of the children couldn’t go to school. I know he adored Nephew and Niece, too.
It was hard for them to see him so sick and suffering. He was not his cheerful self. They each got to say goodbye at the hospice. Tadone died surrounded by love.
We, none of us, can ask for more.
I know my husband lost his best friend, and he is struggling. Please lift him up in love; lift all of us. We’ve lost a good man.
He will be missed.
Here are the details of arrangements for my father-in-law. The outpouring of love and support we have gotten has been overwhelming. If we haven’t said it yet, thank you.