I met my future in-laws about three months after Rick and I started dating. I was nervous, of course. I was nervous, partly because Rick was very close to his parents. That was one of the things that attracted me most to him – his relationship with his parents and his sister. It was important to me - that closeness - and I didn’t want to be in the way or, on the other hand, excluded.
My fears were all for naught. Rick’s parents treated me like I was a member of the family from the moment they met me. Something I have always been grateful for. I was especially taken with Efrain, Rick’s father. It was Thanksgiving, and he came to Rick’s house bearing a large jar of pico de gallo that he had made (one of his specialties), and I attacked that jar with relish. Efrain made fun of me mercilessly, which I enjoyed immensely.
The next time I saw them was the next month at Christmas when Rick and I announced that we were getting married the next Thanksgiving. Again, the reception was as warm as I could have ever hoped for. And it just got better from there.
Dad was an interesting man. Born in Eagle Pass, Texas, he grew up in a small, tight knit community with lots of family around. He was in the military, once in the South Pacific when he was younger, before getting married, and again when he got called into active duty in the Air Force in the 1960s. After his service was done, they stayed in Dover, Delaware and he taught at the college there and finally settled into a job with the state. He loved to tell stories about all of the things he had experienced, and I loved listening to them.
Efrain was a man with a servant heart. He was a very faithful man, and helped anyone he could, whenever he could. He loved meeting new people, and I don’t think he ever met anyone with whom he couldn’t share a story or two. He took great care of his family and friends without a second thought. Always. He was a devoted grandfather and his grandchildren are better people for having had him in their lives. He was quick with a joke, or a laugh, and filled with the joy of just being around his family, which in turn filled us with joy.
My memories of him are full of laughter and smiles, loving embraces and long talks. He loved his wife, he loved his kids, he loved his grandchildren, and he loved me. And that was a gift for which I’m eternally thankful.
Efrain passed away on Wednesday. He leaves behind a family that was so blessed by his presence, and we will surely miss him. But Heaven got a new angel, and I know they’re so happy to have him. I hope his meeting with God was one of light, comfort and joy. One day we’ll all see him again, and that day will be one of the most joyful days I can imagine. I wish him peace and joy, and I hope he looks down on us and knows that we all loved him with all of our hearts.
Dad, thank you for being the best father-in-law I could have ever wished for. I love you, and I will miss you.