The world lost an amazing man this week. My father in law passed away thursday night in his sleep. He had been struggling for several years with his health, ever since suffering a stroke in 2004. The last year had been tough on him and on my mother in law as we watched his health and indepedence decrease. It had become impossible for Texie to care of him recently and she had to move him into an assisted living home for help with his everyday care. I know this must have been very hard on him and I think that is why he started on a downward slope. His life had been full of open pastures that he viewed from the back of a horse or his favorite white pick up. He lived his dreams and said his mind. Two things that I have grown to love and respect him for.
I remember the first time I met him, so unlike my own dad. He was huge, a little gruff and not one to put on airs or try to impress anyone, especially a young girl that was in love with his son. Needless to say I had a very healthy fear of him and thought that my relationship would be one born out of that fear and probably would not venture much further. At the time that Dave and I married, they had moved to Orgeon where they had bought a ranch, so our time together was limited. I do remember on our wedding day, Leonard was unable to go into the temple with us and I know that saddened Dave so much. This was at a time that he had very little to do with the church.
Shortly after we were married–about 3 months, we took a trip up to the ranch for the first time. I had recently found out that I was pregnant and was so sick. That windy road to Halfway just about did me in, but not nearly as much as assisting with removing a cancer eye from one of his cows the first day we were there. I did not want to look like a weak vet’s wife so I swallowed hard and didn’t blink an eye as I watched them cut this eye out and stitch it shut. I did excuse myself to go to the restroom where I lost my lunch!!!!
Life on the ranch was much different than what I knew and I marveled at how Texie pampered to his every need. I was hoping that Dave was not expecting the same from me. I also had never heard many of the words that escaped his mouth, at least not inside my home. The surprises did not stop there as I learned that the barn was not just for the horses but a place for him to go to have his cigarrette. Another thing that was new to me and how I was raised. Beer was a staple for all that worked the cattle and the only fridge I had ever seen it in was at the grocery store. For a few short moments I wondered what I had married in to. But that was before I fell in love–not just with my husband but with his tough on the outside amazing man. I have a picture of him that Texie does not like — one with a cigarette haning out of his mouth leaning up against the barn. This is special to me because that is the man I first grew to love.
As I watched him work and associate with the othe ranchers in Oregon, I learned that he was a man well respected for many things, his honesty, his work ethic, his loyalty to his friends, and his knowledge of cattle and horses. Wherever he went there were people gathered around him wanting his take on things. He said it as it was and you never had to wonder what he was thinking. So many people these days spend so much time trying to be someting they are not, they do not even know which part of them is real. This is not how leonard was. He knew who he was , good and bad.
After awhile I realized that there was one thing that he wasn’t truthful about. He wasn’t as tough as he led on to be and he really wasn’t glad those mornings that we packed up to leave back to Utah. Our trips to the ranch became the highlight of our kid’s lives. There was no Disneyland or Hawaii or such trips because the only place they wanted to go was the ranch. I will never forget the excitement as we turned onto the dirt road leading to the ranch. They could not contain their excitment. They learned so much about hard work and putting in a good days work even if you were tired. They loved to work along side him and beamed when the occassioanal praise was sent their way. But that was not his way to coddle and praise the kids for no reason. They had to earn it. They learned some other things to. Like the time that Kallie found a huge toad and came running into the family room and yelled “Thats the ugliest bastard I have ever seen” It was quite obvious who she had been spending time with that day.
But we also witnessed the miracle that Texie had been waitng for and that was Leonards true conversion to the gospel. He had to do it in his own time and in his own way. While up in Halfway Oregon, he served many and was called to be the branch president for 7 years. I don;t think he always did things in the most conventional way, but it worked for that small simple branch of people that loved him. I saw the work of God in his life and I saw him become what God had planned for him. It was a miracle and a blessing for each of us to witness and whenever I think I cannot change or do something hard, I think of him.
I look at each of my children and see that mark of Leonard in some way. The way that they live life with full honesty. How they put in a full days work. Their love of animals. And for Jace a skill with horses that he was born with and learned at the masters feet. A love and passion that has blessed his life.
I must confess that there was a time that I worried as I witnessed my son watch his grandpa with open admiration and worship, trying desperately to become him. I worried that he would pick up on some of his rougher mannerisms and colorful language. I also worried silently the same thing about my husband and wished for him to not be “so much like his dad” Again that was long before I knew the man behind the rough exterior. Now when I watch my son train a new colt or use one of the Leornardisms, I am grateful for the wonderful example that he had in his life And as I watch Dave and see the little things that are so Leonard, I am very grateful that he did pick those up and that they live on in the lives of my wonderful husband.that turned out the perfect combination of his mom and dad.
My fondest memories were as we packed up the car to leave each trip to the ranch and we would all give our hugs and say our good byes. The kids would be in tears and Grandpa would try his hardest to look and act like he was thrilled to have us on our way so he could get some peace and quiet. But he never knew that we noticed the tears in his eyes and how he watched us until he could no longer see our car. It was after we pulled out that he could no longer hide the tears. As for us , the crying did not stop until we hit Baker an hour a way and then only because we were planning our next trip.
Leonard was bigger than life to me. A man that knew all and could do all. Our life will not be the same with him gone, but it will never be the same for me since the day he entered mine. I am one of the lucky ones that am blessed to have the best in laws in the world. In fact I don’t think of them as in laws, but as mom and dad. I will miss you dad more than you know