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In case you were getting your moustache bleached when the July edition of The Overcast hit shelves…

You know two of the things I love most about my husband? His jiggleberries. Just kidding. HIS PARENTS.

It’s unusual, I know. Most people hate their in-laws. Hating your in-laws is as universal as hating root canals, autocorrect, and Nickelback. I guess when you swoop into someone else’s nest and make off with one of their flock, it can ruffle a few feathers. The new bird is always strange, and the nest is always cuckoo. (Sorry, everyone hates bird analogies too.) Personally, this lucky duck wouldn’t know much about it because I hit the jackpot in the in-law department.

I have friends who detest their “outlaws.” When they tell me about the latest assault on their parenting or housekeeping methods, I say “Why, I never!” Then my sympathy switches to gratitude for my own good fortune and I shout, “Sucks to be you! My in-laws are fantastic!” Then they throw rocks at me.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about anything five years ago when Dad died. I wondered how any of it – having kids, getting published – would matter when he wasn’t here to see it. But it seems the void loss creates can be occupied by other good things if you let it. I broke the rules and filled in the dad-shaped space – with someone else’s father.

When I met Wayne Murphy more than a decade ago, one of the first things I noticed about him was his eyebrows – thick, black, severe looking, like an angry Muppet’s. But I quickly discovered those brows were actually wooly canopies shielding the world’s brightest smile from the elements. If this guy was a Muppet, he was Tickle-Me-Elmo.

When we visit, Wayne is out in the driveway before I’ve shut off the engine – to carry his baby granddaughter in from the car. He plays with Rae so much, I can scarcely get my hands on her when we’re there. His sandwich sits there, uneaten, because he’s too busy playing peekaboo. Sometimes he’s so moved by her funny faces and sweet babble, tears well up in his eyes. He says, “She’s so cute, it hurts.”

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Wayne and I also share a special bond, one largely based on naughty jokes – a sentiment I’ve generously brought into the family, to my husband’s amusement and horror (mostly horror).

I feel bad sometimes because I get to enjoy him more than most of his own crowd. And when I say crowd, I mean CROWD. Wayne and Rosena have seven children and ten grandchildren. But only two and four of them, respectively, live here in the province. Work and commitments keep the others away, but their hearts are home in Mount Pearl, where they used to pile into the car to go for a drive and fight for the coveted spot in the front seat between their folks, where breathing was possible.

A couple years back, I made Wayne a Father’s Day card that read: “My dad is dead but I reckon you’re a pretty good substitute.” (My humour can be dark.) Nobody can replace my father. Jim Combden was something else and I’ll think of him every day for as long as I live. But I won’t spend so much time remembering him that I forget to see the souls still above the sod. Apparently recognition doesn’t matter much to anyone once they’re tits-up. The world is full of love that goes unspoken.

My dad would be glad. He was grateful that I was a part of the humble Murphy brood, where the kettle is always on for me, where I still speak of him often. He knew I was in good hands, with the family I had and the one I had married into. Of course, blood is thicker and all that. But I’ve told Wayne and Rosena: if things don’t work out with me and Andrew – he’s out, I’m in.

Tomorrow, I’ll be helping my father-in-law celebrate his 70th birthday. And the very next day, I’ll be celebrating my father’s memory at the 6th annual Jimmy Golf Tournament for the Gander Cancer Clinic.

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