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Entry date: 10-12-2022 - Happy Birthday, Doug - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

I have to take another birthday break today. It is my father-in-law’s birthday and I must take a moment and write about him. I often tell people that I hit the father-in-law lottery with Doug and it’s true.

When Rhondi and I met, she talked an awful lot about her dad in Maine. From what she shared with me, I was, at least initially, very intimidated by him. He sounded like the coolest guy around, for one thing, but he also sounded like the epitome of what I believe a man should be. Rhondi described him as honest, straightforward, strong, and someone who took care of his family with love and respect.

All of that is true, by the way.

Born in Mexico, Maine, which is about 45 minutes south of where his house up there is, Doug was quite an athlete growing up and blossomed when it came to ski jumping and cross-country events from what I have gathered. He’s not shy about talking about some of his college experiences, but he doesn’t talk a lot about his accomplishments. He’s definitely not a guy to blow his own horn and I love and respect that about him. From what I’ve learned, though, he was (and still very much is) a fun guy to be around in his youth.

He went west for college and ended up living in Colorado and New Mexico during his twenties. This is where he met and became very close with Rhondi’s parents, Frank and Patti. As you may surmise, they were close enough for Rhondi to be conceived and, well, it was the 70s and all. Not my story to tell, but it’s a very interesting dynamic. Frank and Doug are still very good friends and Rhondi has two dads in her life. She can elaborate on that if she chooses.

After Doug’s accident, he eventually made his way back to Maine and got involved in working in the tax industry. He owned two small franchises of a well-known national tax return service company and made a nice living for himself. One of the offices was down in Rumford, which is right next to Mexico, and one was in his home.

I didn’t have a chance to meet Doug in person before the time of our wedding, so our first official meeting was just a few days before Rhondi and I got “hitched,” as she likes to call it. We decided to do the wedding in Rangeley and we flew out with kids in tow, including baby Teresa, for me to meet Doug and the Maine/Massachusetts family. Truth be told, the wedding was actually in Oquossoc, Maine which is right next door to Rangeley and Doug made sure it was a helluva party.

An awesome host, Doug is the type of guy who likes to make sure that people around him are having a good time. I try to be a good host, too, but I still learn how to be better at it from Doug all the time. If you have ever gotten a chance to join us, you know what I am talking about here.

Over the years, when I talk to people in Rangeley, I often explain that I am visiting my father-in-law and even if they don’t know him personally, they know about his former businesses because of the signs that used to be up near his home office. When I was first learning my way around the area, I needed that sign to know where to turn. It would still be helpful in the dark, for sure, but I’m glad I know the area better these days.

When we did get to meet, Doug instantly reminded me of my grandfather, Tom. Like Grandpa, Doug uses a wheelchair due to a car accident he suffered as a young man, but the similarities between the two men runs much deeper. Handsome, distinguished looking fellas, those two, and I have written about my grandfather here on several occasions so you might have an ideas as to why I loved him so much.

Grandpa, or Papa as I called him as a little kid, was my guy growing up, so I felt a quick connection to Doug that, over the years, has filled a huge void in my life. In fact, my grandfather was still alive when Rhondi and I got married, so it was even nicer to be able to tell them about each other. I wish they would have gotten a chance to meet.

I felt so grateful for the new family I was marrying into that I wanted to get to know Doug more. The next year, Liam arrived and the timing was such that we didn’t get to go back to Maine in 2007. Doug ended up coming out to visit us in the Spring due a convention he was attending in Vegas and Liam took his first steps in Doug’s hotel room.

We commenced visiting Doug every summer after that, and I enjoyed getting to know him better and better each time. We’ve had a number of beer and scotch-fueled conversations over the years that have cemented our bond. When I have screwed up, and I have definitely done that, I have not only felt like I needed to make things right with Rhondi, but I’ve also felt like I needed to do the same with Doug.

I am fortunate he is a forgiving type. Often, when I am faced with decisions to make, I will ask for his thoughts or think about what he would do. When he decided to buy a condo out here in Phoenix so he could be here part-time once he retired, it was such a good feeling to know that we would have a lot more time with him. It’s nice to want to be around family and nice to feel like they want you around. I have that feeling from some of my family but not everyone.

Doug opened up a really huge, in my eyes, world for Rhondi, the kids, and myself. He is a huge part of the reason that Maine feels just as much like home anymore as Phoenix does. I enjoy getting to see him through the eyes of the family back there very much. Everyone seems to have a great deal of respect and admiration for him and it’s easy to understand why. He’s just a great dude.

I’ve really enjoyed that my dad and Doug have become friends over the years, too. It makes my heart happy and even though they tend to playfully gang up on Rhondi a bit, she hands their sass right back to them and it is fun to watch and listen as it is happening. We have so much fun just sitting on the porch and talking or enjoying a breeze.

Happy birthday, Doug. You are one hell of a guy in my book, and I love you.

See you tomorrow (in more ways than one).

Taken by Rhondi on a fairly recent Rangeley Lake excursion, the man is doing his thing. Long may he captain that boat.

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1 Comment

Sylvia Harlow
Sylvia Harlow
Oct 17, 2022

Wonderful writeup and description of a terrifically great guy!

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