Next Tuesday, I will be flying to Raleigh, North Carolina so I can attend Stan’s father’s funeral in Lexington, North Carolina. The Raleigh-Durham airport is about 100 miles away from Lexington. So, I’m renting a car and driving that distance, then I’ll check into a hotel, meet up with family, drink a lot of wine and try to sleep before the funeral the next morning.
I know this is what I will do because I’ve done it before. In June of 2005, I flew to Tampa, Florida, rented a car, drove about 60 miles to Beverly Hills, Florida, checked into a hotel, met up with the family, drank wine until I passed out and then attended Stan’s memorial service the next morning.
The trip feels similar to the point that Stan and his father shared the same name. So, once again, I’ll be attending a service for a man named Stan Lapinski. The major difference is that this time when I arrive, Stan Sr. won’t be waiting for me with that first glass of wine.
When I knocked on the hotel room door where the family was drinking that day in 2005. Stan Sr. opened it widely and forcibly gave me a long hug and a big glass of wine. “We’ve been drinking for days already. You’re going to have to catch up,” he said. Even in the wake of his son’s untimely death, he still was watching out for me. He was kind and warm and funny and generous and he had welcomed me into his family as if I’d always meant to be there. No questions asked. Just affection given. And I will always be grateful for that.
The next day, after Stan’s memorial, Stan Sr. took me aside and said, “Gaye and I want you to know that we’ve decided that you’re our daughter-in-law. We’ll always refer to you that way and think of you that way. And if you ever get married to somebody else, well, his parents are just going to have to understand that you already have in-laws.”
So, my father-in-law passed away last Monday. August 3rd. My birthday. And if I ever do get married, well, this future husband’s father is just going to have to understand that I already had a father-in-law. And he was wonderful. And I will miss him dearly.