Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: In-Law(s) (05/08/08)
TITLE: Mr. Barton
By Mary McLeary
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Don and I had only been dating a few months when he asked me to ride out and meet his dad at the construction site where he was working as Building Foreman. I said , “Sure!” and we took off to meet my future Father-in-law.
Don had already met my dad., Mr. Buck, as my friends called Daddy, was a small man who loved to listen to Dixieland music, make authentic Italian spaghetti and tell stories of some of his World War II adventures. He was a mail carrier with the Postal Service and because he was “on the road” a week and off a week, he often helped mother with grocery shopping and cleaning the house. It never dawned on me that in the early sixties this might not be the norm.
As we drove up to the work site, the pavement simmered in the summer sun. Don braked, rolled down his window and yelled, “Hey Dad!” In a minute the biggest, brownest pair of hands and forearms I had ever seen gripped the lowered window. Then there appeared a tanned face with piercing blue eyes. The mouth did not smile. He looked tough! “What are you doing here?” was all he said. Don quickly told him who I was and that we were just out “riding around” He looked at us for only a minute, and said, “OK, see you later”. He then turned and went back to his work. When Don looked over at me he seemed embarrassed. My eyes were as big as saucers. Wow! He was nothing like MY dad!
Through the years I learned that Mr. Barton worked hard and played hard. His contribution to housework was to watch his wife do it. He usually got on my last nerve. I always wanted him to be softer, gentler, more like my dad and he just couldn’t be. It seemed to me that everything had to revolve around him. But when we lost one of our infant twins, Mr. Barton took care of all the arrangements. We found that our other twin was severely handicapped. As he grew, Mr. Barton held him, hugged him and rolled him around on the floor to make him laugh. When Matt got older, it was Mr. Barton he mimicked with “Hey there, Boy!” Matt could sound just like him!
Matthew 7:16 says, “By their fruits you shall know them.” I ignored Mr. Barton’s fruits for a long time. I only focused on his thorns, but he left lots of “fruit”. He left four sons all of whom have an excellent work ethic. He left eight grandchildren and fourteen great grandchildren. He had to pass up veterinarian training to help on the farm, but all his grandchildren have college degrees. He left his sons a home place with a yard full of azalea bushes and fruit trees. He left a small house full of memories where all of us still gather on special occasions. He led by example, not words. He loved his wife. He worked at what ever his hands found to do to put food on the table. He stayed around when times got tough! Finally, on the night he passed away he was able to tell his sons he loved them.
I was so judgmental with my father-in-law! Thank goodness he was kinder with me. As different as he was from my dad, Mr. Barton holds a special place in my heart. I learned a lot from him – mainly that love can be tough.
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