This week I said farewell to my father-in-law. It was an unexpected parting, even though it shouldn’t have been. And I wasn’t there…
Having lost my dad as a child, I’d spent a large part of my youth looking for a father figure and yes, in all the wrong places. I didn’t know that I was doing that. My friends probably did. I suspect they were too polite to tell me.
I didn’t marry young. I’d always meant to but you know what they say about the best laid plans. When I finally walked down the aisle, I found myself acquiring a father-in-law. Thirty-five years later, I’m in a state of grieving for a man who came to mean a great deal to me.
Harald Bohle grew into the paternal figure I sorely needed. He was undoubtedly the family patriarch and meant so many things to so many people. For me, he represented everything I admire in a person. He was a man of integrity, a giant in the world of business, someone who respected everyone’s humanity, a gentle soul who took care of the people around him, a family man and at the same time a great friend to many. He was an adventurer, a lover of life, an art collector, a man of the world, a keen gardener… and a gentleman through and through.
…And it was in his garden that our relationship grew. It was there that I could ask him about different plants and how to care for them. It was there that I trusted myself enough to speak his language and listen carefully to his measured answers. On every visit, there would be something new to explore. I would enquire about a bush that had disappeared or a species of flower I’d never noticed. I’d crouch down to listen to him, as he grappled with a weed in the grass. And as the sun melted over the lake, we’d admire it before turning in to join the rest of the family for a light supper.
Each member of Harald’s large family, will remember this extraordinary man in their own special way. I’ll meet him in my garden, beckoning me to prune the roses, weed the little patch of lawn, plant bulbs for Spring.
And just before the rain came today, I felt my father-in-law urging me to feed the hydrangeas. The mixture would soak in nicely. My tea could wait. I didn’t need a second reminder…