My one and only beau-père, John.
My step-father passed away on Sunday. We are all in shock and facing the reality of life without this tender and loving man who knew the power of gratitude.
"You and your sister are really nice," my mom said over the phone, as she tried to process the news. "But John--he was the kindest person I have ever met. He was an angel!" Mom's words hung in the air as another, familiar sound, began to fill my head.
Kristi, don't worry about a thing. I recognized John's voice, which was now echoing in my mind. Just enjoy life! How many times had my beau-père repeated this to me?
John exemplified this trust-the-universe attitude. Day after day he got up, fed the neighborhood cats (which were lined up at his front door), then carefully combed his hair and dressed his best before taking the rickety bus across down town Puerto Vallarta to go to work. In a beautiful resort by the Bay of Banderas, John shared his experience and knowledge with a sales force of young Mexicans. He loved his job! He turned 74 on July 4th, and continued his feed-the-homeless-head-to-work schedule up until Thursday. He died of heart failure, days later, in Javier hospital. He must have shared his trust-the-universe attitude with the nurses, too, as my mom heard laughter each time John called her from room 107. He dialed her up one more time before falling to sleep, to tell her he loved her.
"He told me he loved me 50 times a day!" Mom shared, in one of many fragmented conversations we would have over the next 24 hours--until my sister, Heidi, could fly in from Colorado, to help Mom put one foot in front of the other.
Before I went to Mexico, last March, I told my family that yes, I was going to see my Mom. But that I was really making the trip to see my step-dad! I had a feeling I needed to get over there and spend time with John.
My father-in-law picked me up from the airport, then returned an hour later to pick up Heidi and my niece and nephew when they flew in, from Denver. John cooked for us, entertained us, and asked us, often, "How are you doing? Can I get you anything? Is everything alright?"
And he always had the same, from-the-heart response. "I'm glad to hear that. Don't worry about a thing. Just enjoy life." He would then disappear, in his neatly-ironed shorts and bright blue golf shirt (the color of his eyes) and leave us to spend time with our mother.
On the telephone with the hospital reception, Sunday, I tried to locate my mom, who had rushed to the hospital a few hours before. As I repeated to the secretary who I was looking for, a light went off and she said, "Oh, yes. Mr. John."
Mr. John. I knew he had passed, but her words made it seem that he was present. And her adorable (accidental) name, "Mr John," let loose another flood of tender emotions and regrets. I could hear my beau-père's reassuring voice, once again. Don't worry about a thing! Enjoy life!
The day my father-in-law, "Mr John," passed away, I walked around in a haze until I found a better project. I hurried outside to rescue the neglected laurier, or bay leaf tree (bought months ago), and finally planted it--in honor of a man who loved to serve others and who was a great cook!
I knelt beside the little bay leaf tree and made a promise to a certain angel: "I will, once and for all, try my best not to worry about things! And I will enjoy life! Thank you. Thank you, Mr. John. I miss you so much."
My thoughts go out to John's family, and to my dear Mom who is lost right now and who has 50 stray cats pounding on her door each morning. And she is all out of cat food.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety