In Memory of Pops

On a cold, winter Saturday morning, about 5 years ago, Heidi and I were awakened abruptly at 6am by loud banging on our back porch. I jumped to my feet and peeked through the blinds at what was causing the raucous. What I saw was my father-in-law carrying, and stacking, a bunch of firewood he had “borrowed” from H. H. and Belinda Spiller. He knew we had run out the day before and didn’t want us to be cold.

I was putting on my jacket as he pounded on the back door. (He never did anything subtly.) I ran to open it before he woke the boys, and he welcomed himself in—ice, mud, leaves, and all.

“Good morning, Mike. I’m going to show you how to build a fire.”

I watched him as he strategically piled the wood in the fireplace. (I’m still not sure it was safe to stack it that high.) Then he began to try and light it. It must have taken him at least 30 minutes to get it started, but the combination of twigs, paper, and the stained wood leftover from building our deck finally did the trick. He proudly walked over and sat on the couch, getting up occasionally to stir the fire with his oversized screw driver.

“Would you like some coffee, Pops?” I asked.

“I’ll take half a cup.”

We sat and talked for a while, as he barely sipped his coffee. (It was a lot weaker than the tar he was used to drinking.) Then, as he headed for the door, he asked me if I had a poker set, which I did not.

“You really need to get yourself a poker set. That thing isn’t safe to use.”

I had been getting by with a metal clothes hanger, so he left me his giant screw driver (which was much safer) and was off. After he left, I cleaned up the mess he’d made and sat in front of the fire he’d built. Now, every time I build a fire, I think about him fondly and wish I could share a weak cup of coffee and clean up after him just one more time. I love and miss you, Pops. You had a bigger heart than most. Thank you for giving to us from it.

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