My in-laws visits are always fraught with expectations that are never realized. Even before my husband did the unthinkable by marrying outside his race and class - he's from an upscale suburb in northern Virginia that is a world away from the Section 8 housing in which I spent my childhood - his relationship with his father was strained.
When my husband was only four years old, his father divorced his mother and married their neighbor and friend with whom he had been having a long-term affair. The battle lines were drawn. My husband and his brother, Jay, lived with his mother in Kansas and visited his father and his new wife in Connecticut during the summer. At some point, Jay stopped visiting but, when he was sixteen, my husband chose to live with his father and left his mother and Jay behind in Kansas.
I am certain the years my husband spent with his father did a tremendous amount of damage to his psyche. My husband's father is a career soldier who does not suffer fools. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy and rose quickly through the ranks, retiring as a Lieutenant Commander and going on to work for several large military contractors before starting his own engineering consulting business. As a Type A person myself, you would think my father-in-law and I would get on fabulously, but we don't because my father-in-law still treats my husband like a sixteen year old boy.
His visits are not so much paternal as they are professional. He's distributing his estate between Jay and my husband, so we get phone calls on short notice telling us to expect him with a moving truck full of furniture in a few days. Most recently, he gifted us with an antique US Naval Academy chair (see photo) that will go to Bubba when he has his own home.
This time, though, there was another reason for his visit: he has cancer and felt he should tell us in person and not over the phone. But, he was very unemotional about it as though he were speaking about someone else and not himself. The rest of the weekend my husband hid his emotions in plain sight - quiet and brooding. His father didn't seem to notice and left early this morning without saying a proper good-bye.
I just hope, when the time comes, they are able to strike a truce and say things to each other that have been left unsaid over the years. It may be wishful thinking on my part but I believe no one should leave this life with regrets.