Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Gentle Giant

I discovered Wi-Fi at my sister in law's house tonight which allows me to share this post with you.....
Day 3 away from technology and the only thing I miss is writing. No Internet access here, but I can write on Mark's iPad, save it and post when I get home. It is Wednesday, December 28th. We are at my father in law's farm house in rural Pennsylvania. It is peaceful here; quiet. This is the house Mark grew up in. The boys sleep in Mark's old bedroom and they share his old bunk-bed. I love that! I have always wished I had that house to go back to and I think those who have it take it for granted. Mark and I sleep in his sister's old bedroom in her sweet double bed with the pink & blue quilt and Laine is happily wedged between us. :) There are lots of good memories in this house and you can feel them as you go  from room to room. I miss Mark's mom--my Mama Chook. I can still hear her contagious laughter. She died from Ovarian Cancer 8 years ago at the young age of 53 and it was a tremendous loss. I think about her a lot when I am here. Mark's dad is the sweetest, most gentle giant I have ever known. He is intimidating in stature with his deep voice, his big beard and his 6 foot 4 frame. But you have never seen a Pappy in action like this one...down on the floor playing with the kids, rocking them in his chair, really talking to them and listening. He cares so much..his love is enormous. And all the grand kids love their Pappy--they adore him. They love to come to Pappy's house and to take rides with him up to Cedar Point to throw corn out to the deer. There are no video games here, no computer, and an old tv with basic channels. They spend their time outside, climbing trees, playing with the farm cat, exploring, and target shooting with the bee-bee gun. They are happy here. Pappy's basement is filled with treasures. There are old dressers filled with Mark & Tina's high school clothes. I don't think he's ever thrown anything away. One corner of the basement is a total man cave complete with mounted deer and turkey surrounding a big table with gun cleaning equipment. There are quilts and costumes and old furniture and a pole that marks the children's growth each year. I will share a story from today that completely captures my father in law's sweet nature. I was admittedly feeling some cabin fever and the children seemed louder than usual, so I bundled up and told Mark I was going outside to do some shooting with my new camera. I headed down the long driveway and crossed the street to the old Blasin farm. I shot the red farm house, the creek, the bare apple tree and some milk thistle until  I was out of ideas and unsure of where to head next. I just knew I wasn't ready to go home yet. Just then a white pickup truck pulled up along side me and my father in law peeked out and said, "Whatcha doing Annie?" I said, "I don't know," and he said "hop in--I'll take you down to the Hatchery where you can get some nice shots." See..I love this about him! I love that he came  up from the cellar and asked Mark where I was and then headed out to find me. Maybe it's just because I miss my own father so much, but this is something he would have done. We drove along in comfortable silence until we got to our spot and then he hopped out and said, "follow me." We walked across a creaky old bridge and through some brush until we came out at a beautiful spot where the cliffs dip down and the water travels fast over mossy rocks. It was a perfect picture spot. I shot and he watched without critique or suggestions. Then I followed him back over the bridge to the spot where the fish are hatched and he lifted up one of the big covers so I could see the baby trout inside. It was beautiful. We rode home in no rush and by the time I got back to the house, I was ready to be back. My father in law, Pete, is thoughtful, kind, generous, honest, and beyond proud of his children and grandchildren. Family is everything to him--everything. He started a routine with Mark the day he left home 22 years ago that continues to this day--Sunday phone calls. Every Sunday morning Pete calls to talk and hear about Mark's week. I think it's why they're so close. When Mark and I got married 15 years ago, the phone would be handed to me when Mark was finished talking and Pete & Mama Chook would want to hear about my week too. It made me feel loved and a part of this family from day one. This is a tradition that Mark and I will no doubt continue with our 3 children when they leave the nest. It's so perfect. Truly, if we can live up to even half the parent and grandparent Pete has been, we will be doing a damn fine job. Pete is getting older now and he has some health issues that concern me. When we make our trek up here after Christmas each year, there is always a part of me that wonders if it will be our last. He is such a strong man and that makes me believe that he will be here longer than he thinks.  I pray that is the case. I can't imagine this house without him. I can't imagine Sundays without his phone calls and I can't imagine Jake, Will & Laine not rushing up those steps and through this door to see their Pappy. He is a huge presence in all of our lives and he is LOVED. I'm grateful to be here;  I'm grateful for him. I really lucked out in the in-laws department! My sister in law is a whole other story of love and admiration and I will write about her next time. Goodnight!


  1. What a beautiful post, Annie. I have been enamored with Pete since my short conversation with him when he thought I was you! Mark's childhood home sounds magical. Everybody should have some place magical to retreat to. I am so happy that you have a dad to look after you!

  2. Sounds like such a special wonder Mark is such a great guy!!!

  3. How wonderful that he can connect with each of you and truly give you the gift of roots, continuity and family. It's invaluable. Please give him my love. Happy New Year to you all.