It is nothing short of a miracle of winning the gene pool lottery to have been born in America. Most people around the world can’t imagine living in a country where food is plentiful in stores everywhere, fresh running water runs in houses and no military oppression. In this country, we have the freedom to travel anywhere and cross state lines without showing “papers” There is so much pain, dysfunction, corruption, and destruction going on around the world that it is almost inconceivable to perceive how fortunate we are.
During the summer, I was up early one-morning reading reports on the war in Ukraine. That previous day many young soldiers were engaged in street battles with Russian soldiers that included hand-to-hand combat. It struck me profoundly how I was safely in my den while, at that very moment, young men from both sides of the battle were fighting for their life. The thought of a 20-something young man having left his family and now engaged in street warfare while I, on the other side of the world, prepare for my day of meetings. It was a humbling moment and quite a stark contrast between our two lives.
In 2020, my wife and I moved to San Antonio for multiple reasons that included helping Keith, my father-in-law, as one priority. At 88, Keith was in reasonable health, although suffering from COPD, living in Aransas Pass, Texas. Elderly people can fall into the “tea and toast” syndrome with a diet of tea and white toast for breakfast, apples for lunch, and microwave dinners. Malnutrition results in weaker bones and health. We picked him up at the hospital not a moment too soon. After getting him moved in and settled, my wife, embarked on a quest to bring his health back with excellent cooking. Now, keep in mind even though my wife is an excellent chef, she does not like to cook. However, after Keith moved in, cookbooks started showing up in the mail, and amazing meals were on the table! His health did improve, and we were able to go out on short day trips or to places to visit. What became an evening ritual was to enjoy another delicious meal, clean up the kitchen, and play 3-13, a card game, for an hour or so before he retired. I regularly warned Keith not to die because he was my meal ticket to amazing meals every night.
My wife’s siblings came out many times to visit, which was good for all, as he did not do a very good job staying in touch with anyone for most of his life. One morning (we’re both early risers), I made him breakfast, and he shared his entire life story that I, fortunately, took notes of. That morning we researched the actual Navy ship he served on along with places he had lived. This year in January, we celebrated his 89th birthday with a party complete with candle lite birthday cake and us all singing him “happy birthday .”My wife learned afterward it was his first birthday party because his mom died when he was four, and his dad was overwhelmed with three young boys during the great depression and didn’t have time for parties.
I say we picked him up not a moment too soon, as it turned out we only had 13 terrific months with him. Keith died peacefully and without pain a few months later, on the morning of March 18, with my wife holding him. We are very thankful for the time we all had to renew our relationship with him.