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A Tribute To My Father-In-Law

by Jeanette on April 1, 2011 · 12 Comments
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My dear, sweet father-in-law, Paul.

I am dedicating this post to my 93-year old father-in-law, Paul, who just passed away this week. Paul immigrated to the United States in 1951, where he received his Master’s degree in engineering from the University of Michigan and his PhD from Columbia University. He was a devoted husband, and was married to my mother-in-law for 50 years before her passing 4 years ago. Not only was he an extremely intelligent man, but one of the dearest, most loving men I have ever known.

I first met Paul 30 years ago when I first started dating my husband. He reminded me so much of my maternal grandfather, so sweet, gentle, and humble, and always the perfect gentleman. In all the years I’ve known him, I cannot recall a single moment where he raised his voice or complained about anything. From the beginning when I met him, he took me in as his own daughter and made me feel part of his family without any thought. I can still remember him dancing up such a storm at my wedding that I was scared he might have a heart attack (obviously, he had a lot more stamina than I realized!!).

My father-in-law (and mother-in-law) moved in with my family 8 years ago, following a hospitalization after which we realized he could no longer live on his own. Paul had Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disease of the central nervous system, that can be slowed down with medication, but not stopped. At the time my in-laws moved in with my family, I was completely overwhelmed as I had just given birth to my youngest son, with 7-year old twins and a 9-year old son. Selfishly, I wanted time to just be with my family, as I had finally made the decision to stay home with my children after 15 years in the financial services industry. 

Although there were definitely many tense and trying periods over the past 8 years as I adjusted to the additional responsibilities of taking care of my husband’s aging parents and the shift in family dynamics, I can say without any regret now that the past 8 years have been a treasured time in my life, my husband’s life, and my children’s lives. My mother-in-law passed away over 4 years ago, and we were so fortunate to have my father-in-law for another 4 years. 

As a mother of 4 boys, ages 8 to 18, my father-in-law has touched each of their lives in ways that can not be expressed with words. Through his living example, he has taught them what it means to be a man of humility, honor, grace and faith. We have so many wonderful memories with him that we will treasure for the years to come, all of them happy and joyful. Not only has he been an amazing father to my husband, but also an incredible role model to my sons.

With my father-in-law’s Parkinson’s Disease progressing over the years and his health failing, it has been difficult to watch. However, it has also brought our family closer together, and my boys will have beautiful memories of their grandfather for the rest of their lives. I have been able to witness my dear sweet husband in another light, as a devoted, faithful and loving son to whom his father is his biggest hero. In fact, two years ago, he wrote a beautiful blog post dedicated to his dad, An Ode To Dad, long before I even knew what a blog was. My four sweet boys have grown up with a super star model grandfather, living a life of humility, faith and love, and are blessed to have a father, as my husband did, who has followed in his father’s footsteps. We will miss my father-in-law dearly, but I am confident that his legacy will live on in my husband, my sons, and future generations.

We have been so blessed to have my dear sister-in-law and brother-in-law who have been able to provide medical advice and hands on care whenever needed (an incredibly good reason to have a doctor in your family).  We have also shared many special moments with my two nieces, especially during my mother-in-law and father-in-law’s illnesses, which have brought our families closer. Although the circumstances under which our children drew closer might not seem ideal, the bond they have developed as a result of these shared experiences is inseparable.

And what about me? Although in some ways I feel like my life has been on hold for a while, I have learned to be more patient, to take one day at a time, and to be more compassionate. I have grown to understand that the past 8 years have not been a burden at all; in fact, it has been a true blessing for all of us. Yes, the past several months have been chaotic, stressful and exhausting; however, as I think about what it will be like next week when my husband returns to work, the kids are back in school, and I am left alone at home, I’m not sure how I will feel. The house will be so quiet, too quiet.

Although this is an incredibly difficult time for my family and a tough post to write, I feel it is so important for me to share what I have learned for those of you who might find yourself in a similar situation or know of someone who is, and I hope you will pass this along.

As my father-in-law’s Parkinson’s Disease progressed over the years, we had to adjust the foods that he was able to eat. Parkinson’s can affect a person’s ability to chew and swallow. As a result, as his Parkinson’s Disease started to affect his ability to chew and swallow, my father-in-law’s wonderful caregiver and I experimented with foods that he was able to enjoy and kept him healthy.

Here are some of the foods we prepared for my father-in-law as his chewing and swallowing became increasingly challenging. These are foods that can be enjoyed by anyone on a soft food diet.
  • Egg White Quiches
  • Stir-Fry Tofu
  • Steamed Fish with Tofu
  • Yogurt
  • Pudding
  • Rice Pudding
  • Tapioca Pudding
  • Chocolate Tofu Pudding
  • Mung Bean Tapioca Pudding
  • Applesauce
  • Mashed Sweet Potatoes
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Jamaican Plantain Porridge
  • Jamaican Corn Porridge
  • Chinese Congee
  • Oatmeal (ground up oatmeal made into porridge)
  • Graham crackers or other whole grain crackers  soaked in milk
  • Pumpkin, Banana or Corn Bread/Muffins mixed with low-fat milk into a porridge consistency
  • Pancakes soaked in low-fat milk 
  • Soft Scrambled Eggs, blended smooth
  • Chinese Steamed Eggs
  • Pureed Soups
  • Fruit Sorbets (see below for recipe)
  • Ice crushed in a blender into fine piece

Easy Homemade Fruit Sorbet Recipe

The banana adds sweetness and creaminess to this sorbet. If you like it a little sweeter, add some raw honey or agave nectar. 

Easy Homemade Blueberry Sorbet, One of My Father-in-Law’s Favorites
Printable Recipe
2 cups frozen fruit (blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, peach, mango, or cherry)
1 banana
1/2 non-dairy milk (e.g., almond, coconut, rice)

Place all ingredients in blender container; blend until nice and smooth.

Easy Homemade Peach Sorbet
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  1. This is a beautiful tribute, Jeanette. I am so sorry for your family's loss, he seems like he was an amazing man. But living with extended family, especially with ones with health issues, can seem like a burden at times, I understand. You took it all in stride, I think, even when it was hard. I commend you.

  2. Jersey Girl Cooks says:

    So sorry for your loss Jeanette. This is a wonderful post you wrote for him!

  3. Pretend Chef says:

    There is so much heartache in the blog world today. I think I've cried for the past hour. This was a beautiful post and your father-in-law seemed like a wonderful man. Sending a big air hug to you and your family!

  4. Jeanette says:

    Thank you so much for all your warm comments, so appreciated. I do feel truly blessed to have been able to have such a wonderful role model in my family's life.

  5. I am so sorry for your loss Jeanette. When I was growing up my grandmother lived with us for half of the year and the other half she lived with my Aunt and Uncle in New Jersey. I know of the special bond you speak, my cousins and I are so very close and remain extremely close today. Even with all the miles between us my Grandmother drew us close together. I have so many happy memories and I know when your children look back as I do now they will be so grateful to have had that special time with their grandparents. Not many would do what you have done Jeanette, you are a remarkable person with a beautiful heart. Always remember he may be gone but he will always live on in your hearts, your thoughts and your memories.

  6. Jeanette says:

    Thanks so much Grace. It is truly a gift for my children to have had such a beautiful bond with their grandfather and now a wonderful relationship with their cousins. My father-in-law was an amazing role model of love, generosity, selflessness and forgiveness. We will miss him, that's for sure, but he left behind a legacy he should be proud of based on his example.

  7. Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels says:

    I'm so sorry for your loss, what a lovely tribute to your father in law. I can see why the blueberry sorbet was one of his favorites, it looks so good and refreshing. :)

  8. Jeanette says:

    Thanks so much Lindsey. I was so happy when I first made the blueberry sorbet and saw that my father-in-law liked this simple healthy sorbet.

  9. I'm so sorry, Jeanette. I'm sure this must be a very difficult time and please know my thoughts are with you…

  10. Heather Davis says:

    What a wonderful post! A beautiful tribute to a man who obviously meant so much to your family. I am so sorry for your loss.

  11. Jeanette says:

    Thanks for your kind thoughts Marly and Heather. My father-in-law was indeed a special man, one of a kind. We were truly blessed to have him in our lives and my hope is that my children will seek to live a life as truthful and giving as he did.

  12. Jeanette,

    I’m so very sorry for the loss your dear mother in law and father in law. What an amazing man he was.
    Thank you for sharing him with us. Having such a wonderful person in each of your lives will be a
    blessing through the years. I’m sure your sons will grow up to be just like their Dad and their Grandad.
    How very special you are also. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

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