Most people called him the Judge. Even long into retirement, he was usually affectionately addressed as “Judge” by friends and acquaintances. He did spend a quarter of a century on the bench, after all. But I never thought of him as the Judge. I knew him as my lovable, if irascible, father-in-law.
Many were a little nervous around him – even his children, if the truth be told, and for good reason. He had a quick mind and a debater’s heart, and he did not hesitate to severely challenge a carelessly spoken opinion, even if he agreed with it. In the beginning, I kept my mouth shut around him because our political and life views were not often in agreement.
During those early days, he made statements that just INFLAMED me, but I sat quietly and seethed – until the day that I caught him glancing at me out of the corner of his eye. I realized he was baiting me! He was deliberately making outrageous statements, just to get me to engage. I finally took the bait, and we found in each other worthy sparring partners. From that day on he adored me and I adored him right back. He was a loving grandfather to my children, and a caring father-in-law to me.
We remained close even after my beloved husband, his son, died: closer, really, because by then his health was declining a little and my sons & I were the only family in town. We invited him over for dinner every Monday night. I would cook and musically talented Nicholas would sing. The weekly dinners quickly evolved into concerts with Nick & his many talented friends, who entertained us with piano concertos, opera oratorios, jazz numbers, and more. The Monday night dinners are legendary still – all started to please a man who meant the world to us.
Dad’s health declined precipitously this past year. In June, he was moved to Tennessee to be near his oldest son.
I got the phone call this morning. It was a blessing, really. In the end, he was nothing but a shell of himself, hooked up to a respirator, IV’s, and a feeding tube. But the fact that it was a blessing for him doesn’t completely ease the pain for me.
Who is going to sit with a smile on his face and tears in his eyes while Nicholas sings? Who is going to engage me verbally and challenge my opinions? Who is going to complain that the world is ‘no damn good’ and in the next breath relate a tale of justice and kindness?
He was difficult and lovable and cantankerous and generous and I treasure all the evenings we spent talking over a glass of wine. I loved him deeply and I will miss him dearly.