By Tonya S. Swindell
My father-in-law is kind-hearted, friendly, hard-working, and funny. Even before I became a member of his family, I saw him work, serve and encourage others in unique ways. Now that he’s my father-in-law, my family and I receive his acts of kindness on a regular basis. When I was a child, I called him ‘Mr. Swindell’. Our families knew each other because of our participation in an historic African American community nestled within my hometown. Mr. Swindell was raised there so he often visited his aunt, who served on the mother’s board, and his uncle, who was a deacon at the church my father pastored. On Sunday mornings, just after service began, I would see Mr. Swindell walk through the wooden double doors at the back of the sanctuary, dressed (as always) in a nice suit, starched shirt and colorful tie. Directly behind him, in single file, were his wife, two of his daughters and one son. I had no idea I would marry Mr. Swindell’s son one day. I’m so blessed to have that memory now!
Mr. Swindell was also my brother’s basketball coach. According to my brother, he was a father figure to all of the players. My mother also worked with Mr. Swindell at a facility where he was a basic education instructor and taught woodworking to adults with disabilities. Some people still know my father-in-law as, “Earl the Wood Man” because he still sells wood to support his family. He’s also a licensed funeral director. He used his professional training and personal experience to respond to me in a helpful way after my father passed away. Currently, my father-in-law encourages me about my blog posts. After reading my last post (which I dedicated to my deceased father), he texted me the phrase: “Great memories will last a lifetime”.
Over time, I’ve developed a greater appreciation for my father-in-law’s kindness. He’s supported his children and grandchildren in many ways. He drove through sun, hurricanes, and snow to help us move in and out of apartments, graduate from college, start new jobs, and get married. He also helped paint houses, mow lawns and transport grandkids to and from school. He uses his mouth to quack like a duck, which gets his grandchildren’s attention and makes them smile. He also asks his grandkids how they’re doing, and really listens for their responses.
Recently my father-in-law used his unique story telling ability and sense of humor to encourage me. He demonstrated what it looks like when a person tries to say “No” to someone God has already favored with “Yes”. His demonstration reminded me of lyrics from the song “Say Yes” by Michelle Williams, which say, “When Jesus say ‘Yes!’ nobody can say ‘No!’” My father-in-law is a good guy who expresses his love to others in unique ways. ‘Mr. Swindell’ is my father-in-law now, but I usually call him, ‘Dad’!