Looking back today at my late father-in-law, Nick, who would have been 95 this past Wednesday.
It’s strange to see Nick so serious in this photo, for during the short time I knew him, he smiled more often than not.
Perhaps even at the tender age of 4 of 5, Basil — the eldest of three — had already gotten on his last nerve!
Many years after this photo was taken, when Basil and I were dating, Nick took incredible delight in waking Basil if I called on a Sunday morning (this was in the pre-cell phone days). No matter how many times I might say, “I’ll call back later,” Nick would gleefully put the phone down and run upstairs to rouse Basil.
We had the same conversation every time I stayed to dinner: “How’s the job?” he’d start. Sometimes he’d lapse into some Greek and Basil would have to remind him there was a xeno at the table.
Many of Nick’s personality markers have been passed down. Like his dad, Basil saves things — just in case he might need them, or in case they can be fixed sometime.
And like his dad, Basil will rarely talk about himself or his accomplishments. Nick surely had incredible stories to tell about his service during World War II, but he almost never shared them.
And just as Nick was one of the few people who could soothe my niece, Christina, when she was an infant, Basil is a terrific baby-whisperer.
They shared very cerebral thought processes and the love of just about any food with a plate under it.
And both of them were/are social butterflies. Nick loved to be around people, talk with them, go to concerts, be out and about.
Basil is much the same — always preferring face-to-face interaction over the email or phone route I might choose. (One time when we were dating, Basil spent an entire evening talking to a group of Hell’s Angels at a bar in California.)
One thing that didn’t get passed down was Nick’s recipe for roasted potatoes. Basil cannot quite duplicate the dish, even with the copious amounts of butter Nick favored.
Sadly, Nick died in 1994, nine months after our wedding.
I think he liked me, even if I’m not a Greek girl.
Before Basil and I married, Nick stood in the kitchen and shyly presented me with a gold necklace on which hangs a dainty pearl. I wear it now on special occasions, always thinking of him when I close the clasp around my neck.
Basil idolized him and still does. He had a very rare cry last night when we were sifting through photos and talking about how very much Nick would have loved Catherine, and vice-versa.
Strangely, Basil doesn’t see how much his dad lives within and through him. We see it, though, as you will here, in this photo from Nick’s 64th birthday. (Catherine made it a point to show Basil how is hairline is receding just as Nick’s did!)
Happy birthday, Nick! I hope they’re serving VO and soda in heaven.