My father-in-law was a rugged man, a man of duty and honor. He wore Levi jeans and scuffed boots, dirtied from years of chores on the family farm in Iowa. He had no romantic notions about farm life, or about his years as a decorated Army Ranger captain.
There were hard years, really hard years. There were foxholes. And death.
He didn’t talk much about it, and though we wished he would have, we respected his silence.
He simply kept his hand on the barn door, the tractor wheel, and the hymnal on Sunday mornings.
But the image none of us will ever forget is this one: those same calloused hands held dainty teacups. The distinguished Army captain was the most gracious host of tea parties, which he held in honor of his granddaughters.
This is one of the fondest memories that my girls have of their Grandpa Paul. He’d sit cross-legged with them on the porch of his house, under the shade of a giant tree. He’d stir muddy water, and engage in polite conversation, and pretend to eat cookies, which were actually landscaping rocks set upon fragile saucers.
I was always struck by the tenderness and humility of my father-in-law. Looking back on it now, I know that the same core values motivated both his service in the military, and his impromptu tea parties: A deep love of people and of country.