Carl, my father-in-law, passed away in the early hours of July 4th. It was nearly four years to the day that he had been diagnosed with synovial sarcoma cancer. Carl was one of the kindest men I've had the pleasure to know, and I'm forever grateful for the time we shared together. Carl taught me to hunt, taking me out every year and passing on his knowledge of the woods and tracking deer.
Carl and I didn't have an instantaneous connection. First of all, I was dating his daughter, which is rocky footing for any two men to start out on. Also, many of our interests did not overlap. A manager at a GM dealership, Carl had a huge passion for cars. I was never one for cars; I couldn't fix a flat, I'd rather fix breakfast.
As it turned out, food was a common bond I shared with Carl. This too, had a rocking beginning. The first time I visited Carla's family, her mother asked if I'd like to help cook something for dinner. I was happy to do so, until she handed me a pound of miniature frozen salad shrimp. “They were on sale for $4, perhaps you can do something with them?” Undeterred, I tried my best to put out a good plate of sauteed shrimp. Sauteing garlic in oil and butter, I tossed in the shrimp. The already-puny shrimp hit the hot pan and shrunk to the size of something that could be mistake for an infant's fingernail.
At dinner, judgment was swift. “Who made the shrimp?” Carl asked, “They're terrible.” This was actually the start of our friendship, as Carl had a great sense of humor. For Christmas that year he gave me Bubba Gump's Shrimp Cookbook. Eventually, I lived that meal down, by slow-poaching the largest shrimp I could find in two pounds of butter. Overkill? Maybe. But God, they were good.
As time went on, Carl and I developed a friendship built on a love of family, but one that always seemed to come back to food. One day, after an unsuccessful day of hunting, we headed home. He saw two men down in another field cleaning two deer. He walked down and talked to them a bit, then we both headed home. The next morning I came down for breakfast and found a surprise. “I went out again this morning,” explained Carl, “I noticed those guys were tossing the organs into the snow, so I brought the liver and hearts back for you.”
Carl, thank you so much for being part of my life, and raising the woman I love with my entire heart. Come autumn, when I'm out in the woods looking for deer rubs and listening for barking dogs to give away the deer's position, I'll know you're with me.