DOUG CREAMER COLUMN: A father-in-law’s wisdom

Published 10:38 am Friday, November 18, 2022

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I first met the man who would become my father-in-law in the parking lot of a gas station. I was coming home for a weekend from college, and brought his daughter to him. I was bringing paying riders to help cover my gas bill. He was not a tall man, but I was impressed by the strength of his handshake. Little did he know that four years and countless trips later I would marry his daughter. My father-in-law, Bob Nordstrom, passed away a few weeks ago.

Bob grew up on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The stories he told me from his youth are fascinating. He met and knew some of the most interesting people you can ever imagine. One time we went over to the Eastern Shore and he showed us his childhood church, school, several places he lived and his childhood home. His childhood home was dilapidated and falling down. The walls were still in place and he explained where each room was in the house.

Over the years he told me many stories about the people from the Eastern Shore. He told me about many of his family adventures. He talked about fishing almost every day because that was how they got their protein.

Times were hard growing up during the Depression. He told how his dad bought his brother a BB gun and his brother went out on the beach and shot a number of little shore birds. His father made him clean every one of those tiny little birds, which took so long for so little food. He said they learned not to shoot something unless they planned to eat it.

He shared many stories of the men he knew. Three of my favorites included a man who jumped into the bay and swam while pulling a large boat to a dock. Another man could pick up a 500-pound barrel. The third man went AWOL from his Norfolk naval base because he wanted a home-cooked meal. When the MPs caught up with him on the Eastern Shore, he was able to escape. He swam back across the bay to his Norfolk base, where they found the guy asleep in his bunk. The judge who heard the case dismissed the charges, saying a man couldn’t have swam both ways across the bay. I always thought someone who owned a boat must have given him a ride.

The thing about spending any time with Bob was that he was always going to tell you a story. Sometimes when we arrived home after driving five hours he would greet us at the door, and while shaking my hand would launch into a one of his wonderful stories. Many of his stories were funny and all contained the many interesting people he knew in his lifetime.

When I asked if he knew any interesting weather stories he told me about some hurricanes he experienced as a child. I wondered why he was never a fan of snow until the day he told me about his father having a heart attack on a snowy day and the doctor wasn’t able to get there in time to save his father’s life. Another reason for disliking snow was when my wife was little he got caught at work by a bad storm and was unable to get home. He had to sleep on the floor in the lobby of a hotel in downtown Norfolk because all the rooms in town were booked by others who were stranded.

Much of the wisdom Bob shared with me came during dishwashing sessions. My mother-in-law is a great cook and after we enjoyed her delicious cooking he would get up and start washing the dishes. I rinsed and dried. He taught me a lot about life, people, how to handle difficult situations, what was really important, love and laughter. We always laughed and I hope I never forget his funny stories.

Bob had a deep, strong faith. He rarely missed church and served as a deacon. He taught me much about church leadership and how to make important decisions. He loved the old hymns and remembered the words.

In his later years, he would tell me that he could remember a line from a song but couldn’t remember the whole song. I would type the line in Google and up would pop the song. We would listen to it together. Sometimes they were hymns and other times songs from his childhood. It was great fun.

Bob has finished his race and now he is in his heavenly home. He is not in pain any more. He can remember all those old hymns. His arms are strong and his handshake firm. His smile is broad and his eyes are brilliant bright blue.

If you meet him I imagine he will be telling a story. I encourage you to stop and listen because at the end of that story will be a piece of wisdom or one good laugh you will not want to miss.

For us, we carry the hope in our hearts that we will join him and of this I am sure … he will greet us with a great story.

Contact Doug Creamer at PO Box 777, Faith, NC 28041 or