Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Rick's stepdad, the man who raised him, Richard D. Cook, died last week at the age of 73. Rick had the good fortune to stay with him at the Hospice House in Jackson for his final few days, offering comfort as Dick made this last transition in his life's journey.

Rick does not remember any other father, this was the person who taught him how to pitch a baseball and drive a car (a stick shift VW beetle complete with an ice scraper for the inside of the windshield!). Dick was the primary disciplinarian in his life, and when Rick is scolding our son Connor for some indiscretion I often call him "Richard D. Cook" -- and, yes, oddly, his kids did refer to him by his full name with middle initial. No idea why!

Looking back at Dick's life and his relationship with his children has brought many transitions into focus. The first is obvious -- the day he married Rick' mother and agreed to parent her five young children in addition to his own two boys. Wow! Talk about a transition.

Over the years Dick's relationship with his children made many transitions, following the ebb and flow of the marriage that made them all a family in the first place. Eventually developing into adult respect and friendship. I recall the first trip that Rick and I made to visit Dick at his home in Florida. We were living in the Chicago area and both had just completed our master's degrees. As we sat on the balcony of his apartment, watching the Gulf of Mexico transition from sun dappled azure waves to the smoky and mysterious chop of evening, I had the priviledge of listening as a father told his son just how proud he was of the man he had become.  My father-in-law was not overly effusive. But, in his more relaxed retirement in the Sunshine State, he found the perfect way to offer the highest praise a child seeks. Respect and pride. Nice transition, Dad.

Dick had perfect joy when relating to his grandchildren. He gloated about their every achievement, from phenomenal or just passable sports accomplishments to academic honors or sometimes simply passing grades to cutting a first tooth or taking that first tottering step - each accomplishment gave him more reason to be proud. The transition to grandparent was one he truly loved, all of the love without any of the disciplinary responsibilities! Perfect.

In his final days we talked about where he wished he could be, where he could go in his mind to help remove himself from the pain he felt so intensely within his body. He smiled as I asked if it would be the sugar white sands on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida, kicking back on a chaise lounge chair and watching the sun drop slowly into the diamond strewn water. His smile was so serene as I spoke, I knew he was perfectly in the moment and maybe even feeling that ocean breeze on his skin. In classic form, it was when I suggested that he'd probably be sipping on a pina colada while sitting on the beach that he squeezed my hand for the first time that day.

I like to think that now he's found his perfect piece of paradise on a gorgeous, white washed sand bar and that he'll keep on strumming his guitar and smiling...enjoying the rest of the journey and whatever transitions may be waiting beyond our touch.