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I am standing beside my father-in-law. He is in his best dark suit. He looks absolutely handsome - more relaxed than I've seen him in so very long. His right hand holds his favorite cane. His fingers gnarled with arthritis mirror the twisting carved wood of the cane.I like his tie. It's his favorite because it's yellow. He loves bright flashy colors. But today, the yellow tie is tempered with his best white button down shirt and dark suit. I've always thought of him as well-mannered with a bit of maverick in him - that's what I'm thinking now as I look at that flashy tie with his conservative suit.His lips are pursed, highly unusual for a man known for his laughter, extravagant story-telling, and love of good food. I remember being pregnant with his second grandbaby and him teaching me how to fry squash, stew tomatoes, and turn ordinary cabbage into a sinful delicacy. He enjoyed kidding me all that summer about being barefoot and pregnant while cooking in the kitchen.His hair is snowy white and brushed back from his forehead. He doesn't often wear his hair this way, but when he does, he says he looks like his cousin, the movie star Jack Nicholson. Of course, they really are not cousins, but he's fooled many over the years into believing he's Jack's long lost South Carolina cousin.I reach for his hand. It's swollen. His skin feels tight and cold. He's had a bad time lately - lupus, arthritis, COPD, fungal meningitis - they've all exacted a price. Scars and sun spots mark the passage of time on his hands - his years as a textile chemist, his retirement spent outside on his favorite John Deere tractor as a gentleman farmer. I see those hands swinging his grandbabies through the air, rubbing their backs when they are sick, and clapping through many dance recitals and volleyball matches.His bare feet are in stark contrast to his somber clothing. I know it feels good to him - no ankle braces, no structured shoes. Just wiggling his toes all he wants now.I am standing beside my father-in-law. I bend over the casket and give him a quick kiss on his forehead one last time. I miss him already.
Author's Bio:Missy Nicholson is a part-time CPA and a most-of-the-time Stay-At-Home Mom. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart, Nick, and they are gingerly traversing the teenage years with two daughters, Mary Kate and Zoe. Two dogs and a bad-tempered cat allow them to share the house.
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