Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I have been absent from this blog for some time now.  Not from lack of material, or even desire, but initially from a balky computer which was finally retired and replaced, and lately as the result of pressing family considerations.  I don't, as a general rule, do a lot of writing about personal matters on these pages, though I do see fit from time to time to make an exception.  This is one of those occasions.  

On September 7th my father-in-law was called home from the frailties of this corporeal life.  While at 93 years of age and having suffered a broken hip barely a month before, his release was not wholly unexpected, it was nonetheless an occasion of great loss for the family and friends who had the privilege of knowing Jack Brown.  For those who are interested in a description of the ceremony honoring Jack, please follow this link, 
to my son's blog.  It has been requested by some that I post my remarks for the occasion.  To honor Jack's memory, my comments are posted below.

I met Nancy on a December 12th.  I had been invited to a holiday party by a business associate.  We arriving unannounced at her home, I was tagging along with her date for the evening.  Unannounced, because we all lived in Central California, where in the winter if three people sneezed simultaneously while it was raining the power or the phones went out.  In this case it was the phones.  For you younger folks, this was before the internet & personal computers, phones still had cords, and the keypads only had numbers and no color touch screens or cameras.

Our first official date was on December 17th, and on December 19th I put her and her three children on the train in San Jose, ultimately headed for Florence, Oregon where they would spend Christmas with her parents, Jack and Dorothy.  They returned December 29th.  By the second week in January we were engaged to be married, scheduled for late June.  That was nearly 28 years ago.   

I tell you that story so I can tell you this one.  In mid-February Omi and Opa as they are affectionately known, contrived the flimsy pretense of bringing a used sofa to their daughter.  Of course, it made perfect sense, drive nearly 1,300 miles round trip in the dead of winter to deliver a piece of furniture that $50 would have purchased locally.

Although they never admitted it, I’ve long suspected that a thorough inspection of this son-in-law in waiting, that had so completely swept their daughter off her feet, was the true object of this odyssey.

By any measure, Jack Brown was a big man.  6’5” tall, size 14 feet, that gravelly, baritone voice, firm handshake and welcoming hug.  I was more than a little nervous, I’ll admit, but as we talked, I discovered he had a way of putting people at ease.  We shared interests in baseball and fishing.  We could talk about politics from differing points of view without rancor.  He listened thoughtfully; spoke respectfully with someone less than half his age.  He laughed at my jokes.  A deep, rumbling laugh that revealed his great sense of humor:  And finally, he asked the question, ‘Do you love my daughter?’

I told him the truth-then and now; ‘Yes, I do; with every beat of my heart.’

We sat silently for a while as he contemplated.  Finally he said, ‘Then welcome to the family, son.’  It was that simple.  He took me at my word, gave me the benefit of the doubt, and just like that I was swept into this remarkable family.

I'm a small-town, conservative, adoptee from Idaho, mostly self-educated being embraced by a liberal, college educated California family.  I owned guns, they owned ukuleles.  My genetic family consisted of a few names on a sheet of paper yellow with age.  Their family history can be traced back centuries to the clan McDougal in Scotland.  But the patriarch, with a firm handshake and a six word sentence invited me into the warp and weft of the tapestry of his family-my family.

Over these years it has been my great privilege to know Jack Brown. His generosity, his wise counsel, his unconditional love and affection and most of all his leadership by example will be sorely missed.  Ever the educator, he taught me that the stature of a man isn’t measured in feet and inches, but in tolerance and forbearance, grace and kindness, and courage and respect.  Jack is standing tall in the presence of God now, and with his permission I’ll close with this:

Rewarded in Heaven is Jack.
Kudos from life, he’ll not lack.
For a goodly long time,
He enjoyed a good rhyme,
And now, he’ll be watching our back.

It should be noted that Jack was famous for his limericks, sometimes composed on the spot, and always displaying his humor and affection for the target of his poetry.  In many ways he was the father I yearned for at an intellectual level.  Intelligent, thoughtful and conversant with the diversities and dilemmas of life, and always ready to lend an ear (if you spoke loud enough) and offer his advice when asked.

I will miss much, but most of all his unconditional love and affection for everyone he could touch in his remarkable life.  Fare thee well, Dad.