By the time I was 18 years old I had the misfortune of witnessing many disastrous marital unions. I came upon the dating scene wounded by association and sub-consciously set up filters by which to screen any future boyfriend by. Nobody could measure up to my expectations. Nobody was supposed to. Until Cowboy came upon the scene. Though he was a gem to look at, with a personality that brimmed over like sparkling champagne, I always suspected him too good to be true. I thought I knew his type and knew that one day the true beast he was would be unmasked. I was afraid to be lulled in by his wit and charm and determined early on not to let myself be taken in until poor Cowboy passed through yet another filter. Unbeknownst to him his home life, most specifically his dad would have to be filtered. Surely, I thought, who the dad is is who the son will be.
When I first met Stu, Cowboy’s dad, I discovered a welcoming man with an easy smile and a vivacious personality. Our first meeting he teased me. He was easy-going, and liked to laugh. He was easy to talk to and I instantly liked him.
7 months after first meeting Cowboy his dad and mom renewed their wedding vows. The ceremony so left an impression on me. That they were renewing their vows to one another after 27 years of being married spoke volumes to me about Cowboys pedigree. Cowboy was the genuine article born of a couple who were committed, dedicated and loved one another. It was in that moment that I knew that Cowboy knew what love was and had an excellent foundational framework for accomplishing a long-lasting loving relationship.
Over time as I got to know Cowboy and his family better I learned how truly devoted Stu was to his family. He had a playful and loving relationship with Cowboy’s mom. Actually, he had playful and loving relationships with all of his children and cherished each one individually.
I loved how he teased Cowboy and how he and Cowboy would banter and spar over ideas, sports, politics. I loved how he babied Cowboy and faithfully made ‘ his boy’ sandwiches to take to work. I loved how they respected one another and how Cowboy, though he didn’t like it, respected his dad’s authority and dutifully mowed the lawn.
I grew to know Stu as a prankster who devilishly overfed our pug turkey right before we headed back home from visiting. The 40 min trip back whilst smelling the innards of a pug was no laughing matter, on our end. I remember when he laughed mercilessly at Cowboy’s embarrassment for the singing chicken I gifted Cowboy with for his birthday. I think he thought it was a prank, when it was actually the best way I could think of to express my joy and celebrate the birth of my beloved. I loved how he was a self-less man who always shared his lemon meringue pies, apple dumplings and key lime pies with me. He was a master at making baked chicken and any sandwich he made was a delicacy.
Best of all, I loved how holidays were Stu’s specialty. He loved the holidays. Maybe not for the holiday itself, but that he was surrounded by all those he loved and who loved him. Stu shined on the holidays. Always, inadvertently somehow winding up in the center of some of the families funniest stories, I loved how Stu could laugh at himself. Like light to fire flies, I loved how easy it was for Stu to draw others to himself.
I had the privilege of knowing Stu for 7 years before he passed. He left us too soon and we often recount ‘Stuisms’ to the Natives. We know he would have loved them and they, in turn, would have adored him. If how he treated his Grand Pug Puddin’ was any indicator of how Stu would have spoiled the Natives, our Natives would have long ago jumped ship to go live with Pop-Pop. He was a man who exemplified the fact that love is a verb. With his actions and his words he loved his family. He’d be proud of Cowboy. His little boy has grown to be a man with 4 of his own now. I can see Stu’s easy-going nature in Cowboy, how he teases his sons and laughs when they tease him back. How devoted he is to his family and me; how, like Stu, he lights up for the holidays; and now how he’s doting on his little girl. I remember when Stu would dote on his own little girl. Fri nights was it? Cards and the reason for baked chicken?
I think he’d be impressed with Cowboy’s building skills, though it’s nothing he couldn’t have handled with his rolls of duct tape.
We think of him often especially on days like today. His absence is so acutely felt. He’s so missed for who he was, for the love he so freely poured out, for how it shaped his family and how he lived his life with honor and integrity. So much of who he was and how he lived his life shaped Cowboy’s character.
From his story of loving his family, ours has branched off . My 18-year-old mush-of-a- head was right: who the dad was is who the son is.
Happy Father’s Day, Stu. I loved having you as my father-in-law though for too short a time. We think of you often and miss you greatly. I wish you could’ve known your ‘spiclets’. You’d be proud of ‘ your boy’, Stu – your boy is just like you.