Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A most special and amazing man...

A most talented musician primarily jazz music

The Downeast Duck Hunter Blog is all about friends, family, and a passion for duck hunting, and this post is no different. However, it isn't loaded with a limit of ducks or a six pound smallmouth bass. Rather it is to acknowledge the life and passing of one of my most cherished and loved friends. On the Fourth of July, my father-in-law passed after a brilliant and tedious battle with cancer. Even though it hurts to see him go, I am appreciative that he may suffer no longer. His participation in my life gave me a better understanding of what it means to live life like it's your last day.

When I first met Donnie, I had only been dating my lovely wife for about three weeks and was fairly nervous because for the first time in my life I had met a girl that I could see myself marrying. I couldn't afford to drop the ball on this one. Needless to say, I walked out of his house with a smile.

There I was sitting on the couch in the den as her dad arrived from making errands. He wasn't a large man in comparison to me, but he carried himself with a proud honor that wouldn't be compromised. I stood up to shake his hand and while he looked up, he put his hand forward and offered me a beer with these words, "Can I offer you a cold one?". Not once in my life had I been introduced to any girl's father and felt ever so relieved. I told him if he didn't mind, I would love to have one.

We chatted about everything, actually it was more of him in a unique way of assessing me. He asked me of my career plans, passions, and family. From the beginning, I enjoyed his company. It would be with this meeting, that my wife went from a casual dating relationship to something more. He won my favor for his daughter, I could then see an opportunity to move forward with a great relationship.

Following this short visit, my wife smiled and informed me that she felt great about the visit. After all, she's an only child and I was after his most prized possession. Needless to say, I wasn't about to let this family get away from me.

Over time, Donnie and I built a relationship that many son-in-laws would wish they had. We combed the lakes of downeast Maine chasing trout, bass, and salmon by avenue of ice or water. His passion for fishing was unlike anything I had ever seen, for me it was something I did as something to do but he loved casting lines and setting ice traps. He explained the process of fishing and the time tested tactics to help land more fish. One of my favorite quotes from Donnie centered around the timing of brook trout in Maine, "Every evening in the spring walk out into the woods, until you come home pestered with black flies don't you dare cast a worm". Over time and trial, he was right. He saved me many failures and allowed for greater success just through his experience.

A proud grandfather on the ice
Click the above link to this experience

It would be of most importance for me to share that he became a best friend, one who I would ask many questions and always get a level response. As my wife and I continued our courtship into engagement and marriage, her parents became my biggest supporters while I continued to build my career and business. Never was Donnie so proud when I launched my new lobster boat or when I attained my Master's degree, it seems that every achievement in life came with him patting my back and suggesting that I may want to go after something else. My staunchest ally and friend, Donnie became a father and I will never forget the gleam in his eye when I proudly displayed a wedding ring in front of him. The only criticism I got from him was "about time".

Several years ago, our family discovered that Donnie had cancer. Even with this tragic news, he took it in stride. It amazed me with his courage and attitude, but he had fought setbacks his entire life. This would be no different, either choose to life or accept the alternative and he wasn't about to lose out on the earliest years of his grandchildren. We as a family fought, he as a beacon of strength fought. Never have I seen such a small man fight like a giant, he was a David against Goliath. There were better days, and not so memorable ones. But he seized the better ones and made memories.

Eventually the man who know almost everything about anything whether it be boat building, welding, construction, iron working, mechanics, electricity, music, and anything else would have to submit. Terminal is just that, and even when one choses to live with cancer as opposed to die with cancer, time is limited. He passed peacefully with his family by his side.

The skiff he started for me

The final product

Donnie was essential to the development of my being, he played a large role in my life long process to be the best father, husband, and man I aspire to become. Life without you Papa isn't going to easy and I've got a lot of weight on my shoulders but I promise you that your girls will be okay. My life has been enriched because of you, for that I thank you and I'll find you on the dock when my time comes. God bless you and rest in peace best friend, until then I will continue to make our family stronger, safer, and secure.