December 7 has been a reminder all my life of the horrific Sunday morning attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941. But today . . . it will take on new meaning. My father-in-law, Martin Henry Glynn will be laid to rest today in Portsmouth, OH. His funeral service is just beginning as I begin to write this morning.
Marty Glynn was 95 when he passed away on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 2019; he was born in 1924. Both his daughters are present at his funeral, of course, as well as a host of family and friends. But not me. I am sick. Too sick to travel safely there and back in the cool Ohio winter. It had been the plan that I would be healthy enough to make the trip, but the wee hours of the morning of departure told another story. So, I am here.
When each of my parents died (several years apart) my wife was there beside me, supporting me, comforting me. And it is only right that I be there for her. It seems so unfair. And although I am sobbing at a distance as I see a picture of his flag draped coffin sent by text message, I am more than aware that I am 525 miles away. It is agonizing. It is nothing like what my wife and daughters are experiencing there, of course, but something more akin to watching your child stumble and fall, and supposing that if you were near enough you could prevent the hurt, or at least diminish it.
So what can I say about this man, today? I wrote a poem describing him decades ago: his entertaining story telling, his infectious laugh, his house filled with friends, and the party atmosphere that seemed to be part and parcel of his personality. I said he was “generous to a fault as the old saying goes,” and his home was open to strangers and friends alike.
When I came into his life 44 years ago I was just another young man who was interested in his beautiful daughter. And when my wife spoke with him about marrying me, he said, incredulously, “You want to marry a preacher?” (which was what I intended to be at the time). As the years went by he softened to the idea. And I softened as well. We met somewhere in the middle (as they say), and began to enjoy one another immensely. I was “the favorite son-in-law,” I would say. And he would chuckle and then say my brother-in-law’s name instead of mine.
“Pop” never had a name until we had children. I didn’t feel comfortable calling him “Marty,” and “Mr. Glynn” just seemed a bit too formal to me. So, once we had kids the name “Pop” worked just fine for me.
The most fun you could have with Pop was to get him talking about his experiences in WWII. He was a belly gunner on the B-17, and his real life stories depicted him as a young, and wet-behind-the-ears soldier, who found the mirth in situations others might find humorless. They sounded quite real because they didn’t always show him in a larger-than-life way. He adored John Wayne, but it was clear he didn’t seem himself as a John Wayne.
He never held a particularly impressive job, but worked through the years in a variety of occupations, most beloved of which was neighborhood milkman. He loved planting his tulips every spring, and displaying his American flag with pride. And he loved his wife . . . for just short of 71 years.
The last time we were together, just over two months ago, his hearing had gotten so bad the only way you could successfully converse was on his special hearing-enhanced telephone. So, after numerous failed attempts to answer questions, my voice tiring of repeating the same words, I called him on my cellphone. [NOTE: we were sitting within 3 feet of each other, mind you]. Pop turned in his wheelchair to pick up the receiver, and said, “Hello.” I told him it was his favorite son-in-law, and he turned back to see me holding my cellphone. He chuckled. And he loved it!
As we departed, on a rainy morning at the end of September, we visited one last time, not knowing if we would see him alive again. I called him on my cell phone as we sat there, the four of us (Marty, his wife, my wife, and me), and I prayed for him. As we said goodbye he kissed me and we hugged with tears. Then down the hall we went for the last time before we would receive the word of his passing in just two more months.
If I had the power . . . I would not do anything to change that visit; it was perfect.
The hour has passed as I write. And his service is likely done. The family will go to the burial site now, and the body of this sweet man will arrive at its resting place. I believe his spirit will be elsewhere, of course, and I know that it will live on in the lives of those who knew him, too.
Rest in peace, Pop. I love you.