To be fortunate enough to find that one person who would be your perfect soul-mate is in itself a wonderful thing, and means you are blessed. To have perfect in-laws, too, is usually asking too much. The most you can expect, I was told by well-meaning friends who were already married, is that they tolerate you for your wife’s sake. I don’t know if that is true or not, but the following story may go a long way towards explaining, how hard it must have been on my soon to be father-in-law to tolerate me long enough to become his son-in-law.
I believe there should be a patron saint for father-in-laws, especially those of daughters. I say this because of the problems I caused my own father-in-law Jesse Yahne, while I dated his daughter.
A courtship between a man and woman can be difficult on the two main parties. It is usually a turbulent yet exciting time as they learn each others’ likes, dislikes, virtues, and shortcomings. It is also a time when the two parties forget the simple things, such as time, temperature, and the drain on car batteries. The courtship then becomes a family matter, which usually means lost sleep for someone else, in my case a future father-in-law.
My one-day-to-be father-in-law was Jesse Yahne, and he had all the good traits people who knew him attributed to his Indian ancestry, such as a quiet stoicism, and an economy of words. He would need those qualities, and more patience than a saint to make it through the winter of 1959-60 when I courted his oldest daughter.
The old 1953 Chevy I borrowed from my stepfather to court my future bride was never quite up to the task, as we would spend too much time, and battery power, talking into the early hours of morning with the car radio playing softly in the background. In my defense, I was fresh out of the Navy, and knew nothing about cars, radios, or future father-in-laws. My bride-to-be lived about six miles north of Sedalia on “EE” road, and it seems as if the road was covered by snow most of that winter, conspiring to keep me from reaching her; but of course love, and a future father-in-law with a chain, conquers all.
I don’t remember how many times he had to get out of a warm bed that winter to either pull me out of a snow-filled ditch or some other car related calamity, but somehow the problems always seemed to happen after he went to bed.
I can still see him hunched over the fender of the car tinkering wordlessly with the carburetor, or some other part I knew nothing about at that time. I was also sure he was thinking all kinds of bad thoughts about me too. He would hardly speak as he hooked up the battery cables to give me a jump start, or snaked out a chain to free me from a ditch. He laughed about it years later, when I admitted how scared I was of him at the time, but as he stood shivering on those cold nights, I knew he didn’t see the humor at the time.
A man can choose a wife, but in-laws are something he has to accept as part of the package. I was fortunate, because the package I wound up with was a good one, and my father-in-law, Jesse Yahne, was the best I could ask for. I did get better at avoiding ditches and running down batteries, something I’m sure he was grateful for, but even after I was married to his daughter, “Pop” was only a phone call away, and would always get out of a warm bed to help me one more time.
It has been many years since my father-in-law died, but I will always miss him, and his quiet ways.
Jack Miller is a longtime Sedalia resident whose column runs in the Weekend edition of the Democrat.