By Alan Williamson
My father-in-law and I were about as opposite as you could get. Ed Lisoski was a night owl, always finding a reason to stay up well past midnight. I was a morning person, trading late-night merriment for pre-dawn runs and sunrise solitude. Whenever my wife Sherry and I stayed with her mom and dad, I always had some version of this conversation with him around 11 p.m.
Ed: “You want some roast beef, Al? How about a shot and a beer?”
Me: “I just brushed my teeth and was heading to bed.”
Ed: (Surprised): “Oh … sure … ok, old buddy. See you in the morning.”
I always felt like a party pooper around Ed, which underscores another notable difference between us: He loved a big party, I liked small get-togethers, especially ones that ended by 11 p.m. During my first few years in the family I was repeatedly distressed by outings that stretched on way past my stamina and hunger for revelry.
One particular Elks club dinner epitomized the pattern. The night started out with a crowd of about 200 people, a live band, open bar and enough food to stuff a herd of actual Elk. I ate, I drank, I even danced. At some point, I noticed the crowd was thinning out as the evening cycled down. I was ready to join the exodus. Ed had other plans.
“Everyone’s leaving, why are we still here?” I asked Sherry despairingly.
“Dad’s having a good time. He wants to be here when they end the evening with the Elks’ absent brothers toast and sing Auld Lang Syne.”
“They’re putting all the chairs on the tables and vacuuming,” I pointed out, embracing my role as a wet blanket.
Oh me of little faith. With Ed leading the search party, an authorized Elks officer was rounded up and the handful of us left at the lodge did the toast and sang Auld Lang Syne like it was midnight, New Year’s Eve.
Ed: “How about a shot and a beer, buddy?”
Me: “I was thinking more like a bed and some shut eye.”
Ed: (Surprised): “Oh … sure … yeah, you look tired. Better get some sleep.”
Ed was a man of big appetites and one of his cravings was the daily news. He was a newspaper junkie and, in addition to the paper he had delivered to the house, he would pick up an assortment of local rag sheets in his travels. Often, without any obvious relevance to other people in the room, he would read some random story out loud.
“Thief Steals Wooden Sign From Local Park,” he’d announce, broadcasting some yawn-inducing headline.
“Is that a park you go to?” I’d ask, expecting a connection.
“No, no. I don’t know where that park is,” he’d say, looking up at me blankly. I finally realized over the years that Ed was just the kind of guy that wanted to share with you whatever he had. Sometimes it was a shot and a beer. Sometimes it was the Pizzelle cookies he was so fond of making for friends and family. Sometimes it was a Polish song he loved … or just a story in a community paper.
Ed passed away on July 27, 2013 after battling various ailments and physical setbacks, including six years as a dialysis patient, having one of his legs amputated, and being confined to a wheelchair for the last three years of his life. He was 92, but even as his body wore out and frailty diminished his once robust presence, he never stopped being the larger than life Big Ed that marked the majority of his time on Earth.
Ed packed his life fuller than most. He was a proud ex-Marine who served his country as a Master Tech Sergeant during World War II. Before retiring, he relished his work testing new car design enhancements at General Motors. He loved his Polish heritage, music of all eras, dancing, hunting and fishing. He was devoted to his wife Leona, daughter Charlene (a.k.a. – Sherry), son Dennis, and his many nieces, nephews and godchildren.
I was Ed’s son-in-law, but that description is way too formal to capture how he treated me. Ed had a way of making everyone feel special, and he always made me feel like his other son. He called me “Aloosh” or “Old Buddy” and even in his downward spiral toward the end always wanted to know what was going on in my world.
Big Ed was a people person with a great curiosity and zest for life. I’ll always remember him that way and admire his courage and fighting spirit when times got tough. Love you, Dad L. I will miss you every day.
Ed: “How about a shot and a beer, old buddy?”
Me: “I was hoping you’d ask again. Count me in.”
Alan Williamson is an award-winning writer with 27 years in the field of true fiction (advertising). A practical man who knows that writing for a living is risky going, he has taken steps to pursue a second, more stable career as a leggy super model. Alan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2013 Alan Williamson.