I lost my father-in-law Ron this weekend. He’d been fighting cancer for a year or so but when it finally decided to take him, it seemed to whisk him away as quickly as a gust of wind takes a leaf. I first met him early in my relationship with his daughter Sharon, and was immediately charmed by his warm Trini accent and generous nature. Ron was an exercise in contrasts. He had the appearance of a little old man, a look he seemed to have had, to some degree, his whole life. And yet physically, he had a quiet strength, endurance and stoicism that would shame many physically larger men, myself included. He loved people and loved his family more than anyone I know making it hard to find a photo of him by himself.
Always a good sport, he was even willing to risk life and limb tearing around with me on the back of my motorcycle.
One of my favorite memories of him is from some years ago when it was time for the fence at the house where Sharon and I lived to be replaced. It was spring and Ron and Olivia were up for one of their frequent visits so Ron was going to help me put in the new posts and build the fence. I rented a post hole digger thinking it wouldn’t be too bad of a job and off to work we went. Ron would have been in his mid to late 60s at the time and I assumed he would be simply providing a pair of extra hands when I needed them.
As anyone who does this type of work knows, these jobs often take a turn for the worse and become much more difficult than originally forecast. It had been a wet spring and the back yard was clay. We fought this beast of a two man post auger, wrestling it as it tried to spin us around in circles, caught in the sticky clay, catching rocks, mud piling up around us. The clay would stick to the soles of our boots, building up in layers until we were walking around like the Frankenstein monster on heavy 6 inch platforms, giving up on scraping them because they would simply build up again a few minutes later. We kept at it and finished the job many hours later before going into the house to get cleaned up. I was wiped out, popping some pills for my aching muscles when Sharon asked Ron if he wanted an Advil. “What for?”, he replied, seeming genuinely puzzled that there would be anything out of the ordinary that might need relief. To this day I’m still embarrassed that a little old guy like Ron worked me into the ground.
Ron always had a great sense of humor and loved to tell a good story. He had this whole dirty old man thing going on that I don’t think many of us could pull off without coming across as perverts. With Ron though, it was just a charming part of his personality. Whenever Olivia was around he was quick to cop a feel, never caring who saw, much to the embarrassment of his daughters when their high school friends were visiting. My inbox was always full of racy jokes and saucy pictures that he loved to forward to all his friends and I was always careful to look over my shoulder before opening an email from him at work. He had a little code word, “Summertime”, that he used to let me know that he had spotted a scantily clad young lady that he wanted to point out. He talked of ‘turtle skirts’ which, as he would laughingly explain, “are so short that if they bend over you’ll see their snapper”.
The ladies always loved him. He was a great dancer and any time there was a wedding or concert, he seemed to have no shortage of women waiting for him to sweep them around the floor. His niece Ashleigh‘s wedding was full of her tall, statuesque model friends and he had a blast dancing around with them, cheek to chest.
The best, however, was watching him and Olivia dance. They moved with the grace and style that only two people who have been dancing together their whole lives possess. Everyone would watch them when they were gliding around the floor and for all his joking, you knew he only ever had eyes for her. Even this year, when sickness had taken away so much of his strength, he still managed to take to the floor with Olivia at his niece Christina’s wedding.
There are so many things I admired about Ron. His dedication to his business, never letting a customer down even if it meant answering the phone and doing tech support when he was on holiday or golfing. His dogged determination to solve problems when he was working on a cash register. As a programmer myself, that kind of tenacity in fixing things is the main quality I strive for in my professional life and he was the type that never gave up no matter what. I hear that even when he was in the hospital, they wheeled him down to the lobby so that they could put a cash register on his lap for him to fix. That’s just the kind of guy he was, doing support for his clients, even when he was so sick himself.
I wish I had known him longer. Like everyone he met, I know that my life is better for having known him as long as I did. Wherever he is, I hope there’s dancing and golfing and sailing and liming and love. Requiescat in pace Ron.