Few things plunge your world into a surreal fog of, “Is this really happening?” like being woken up, at approximately 3:30 am, by the paralyzed and dumbfounded shouts from your partner stating that his dad, your father-in-law, could be dead. Followed by cries of, “What do I do?!” before your partner heads out of the house, terrified to learn the truth.
Seconds become eons as you wait to hear the reality, silently hoping that it was all a miscommunication.
Then, your heart stops when you receive a text that reads, “Don’t know how to say it. He died.”
To make it even more difficult, one person is in British Columbia, Canada, while the other is in Virginia, USA.
That is how my day started, not even 30 minutes after finally falling asleep.
My father-in-law, Bob Edgar is one of most amazing people to have graced my life, even if briefly.
Bob had an amazing career as a US Representative for six terms (please click the link), serving the people of Pennsylvania’s 7th district, as part of the Watergate class. He worked on Capitol Hill while Ford, Carter, and Reagan were President. Bob even has the distinction of Reagan calling him the most dangerous man in America. He was an ordained minister. He was a social activist, getting arresting multiple times because of his demonstrations. He rubbed elbows with celebrities. He spent his entire life in the service of others, both as a private and public citizen, passing away suddenly while he was the President and CEO of Common Cause.
Rarely did I talk publicly about my father-in-law. This is mostly the result of the type of career he had. I didn’t want to be “that person.” You know, the one who thinks they are hot stuff because of the people with whom they are familiar.
Bob truly was one of the most amazing people to have blessed my life. He may be a former politician and superhero-activist, devoting his life to serve people. But, to me, he was just “Bob” and someone whom I quickly became comfortable calling “dad.” He was also the wonderful dad and good friend to my partner, Andrew.
Bob’s life does deserves recognition. And not because of his public face, but because of his life behind closed doors.
Instantly, both Bob and Merle — Andrew’s mum — welcomed me with much love into their family. They didn’t tolerate, but instead, accepted that I am a trans man. For them, my gender identity made no difference. The only thing that mattered was that I love Andrew, Andrew loves me, and we were happy.
I would say weird and ridiculous things — such as, “I’ll stroke many things, just not your ego,” the first time I met him — and he wouldn’t even bat an eye. He’d recognize when I was overwhelmed with a social situation — this is easily accomplished, and is never a reflection of those with whom I’m having to be social — and instead of giving me a parting hug, he’d give me my physical space and opt for a fist-bump.
I am glad that when I saw him last, we hugged in parting. I would probably be taking this a lot harder than I am if I didn’t get to hug him goodbye.
He was a wonderful friend to his son, my partner, Andrew.
I could say more but I’ve already said more than I am comfortable with, as my feelings towards others are, for me, extremely private and intimate matters.
He had a great capacity for caring. He had a great capacity for puns — how I’ll miss those. He had a great capacity for listening and observation. He was a gentle giant among men.
Today, the world is saying goodbye to someone who was irreplaceable. I wish I had the opportunity to spend more time with him.
Currently, I can’t even think about the upcoming wedding without becoming overwhelmed with grief because he will not be there.
Not only did the world lose a great individual, but so did Andrew, his mum Merle, his brother’s David and Rob, the buckets of grandchildren, and the rest of Bob’s family.
I am heartbroken over their loss, and deeply saddened by my own loss.
I know I haven’t said much about who Bob was, but I hope you trust me when I say his life deserves to be celebrated.
So, if you see me on Twitter “boasting” about and sharing some of the public things Bob has done, or the things people have said about him, it is because I have a need to share, and I’m not comfortable discussing the more private things, such as how much I adored him and why, and how a tsunami of grief is threatening to wash over me.