By Faye Bayko
I have been married more than once, so, as you would expect, I have experience with in-laws.
During the first three marriages I kept this relationship at arm’s length. I refused to address my partner’s parents as Mom and Dad because I felt to do so would have been disloyal to my parents. Instead, I would address my partner’s parents using the formal Mr. and Mrs. titles. If they insisted on going informal I’d use their first names.
I had no desire to confuse things by having two moms and two dads in my life. It had been hard enough dealing with one set.
Then I met and married Robert, who came with a set of interesting and very Italian parents. Formal titles quickly progressed to informal first names with these two. And just as my relationship with Robert was different from previous ones so too was my relationship with his parents. Even so, I still found it difficult to consider them a second mom and dad.
Unfortunately, our parents never got to know each other. My parents were on Vancouver Island, his parents in Ontario, and health issues kept them tied to their communities. So Robert and I, who were living in Calgary at the time, spent our vacations traveling either east or west. Then, suddenly, both of my parents were dead and two years later Robert’s mother died. The opportunity to meet was gone. This was doubly sad because I felt our dads would have had so much to share with each other.
Robert and I had each grown up with the smell of sawdust filling our homes and the whine of a table saw announcing our father’s latest project. Woodworking and carpentry were only two of ways in which these two men were similar. They were also each very creative. Dad carved and experimented with watercolour while Robert’s dad crafted furniture and worked with oil on canvas.
There was one major difference though. My father had always discouraged my artistic pursuits, whereas from the moment Robert’s dad came into my life he encouraged me to try anything and everything. And it was with a set of oil paints and brushes he had gifted me that I tackled my fear of blending colours and discovered the joy of creating a perfect skin tone.
So this year’s Father’s Day celebration is in honour of my father-in-law. I have finally learned that I sacrifice none of the love or loyalty I feel for my dad by recognizing the love and respect I have for my father-in-law. A heart will always expand to make room for one more.