My father-in-law, Frank Kanaskie, died a week ago, of a heart attack, on 19 March 2022 at the age of 94. He was one of the good ones – one of those “luckiest people in the world people;” a person who needed people. He made and kept many friends all throughout his long life. For example, he was the grocery manager of a butcher shop, and had teen age stock boys working part time under him. Many of those stock boys remained lifelong friends of his. Though he loved life – he often mentioned his sadness that all his lifelong buddies had proceeded him in death. His stage 5 kidney failure meant that he could not eat his favorite foods, and a very painful bad back meant that he could not walk without pain, and not much further than a couple hundred feet, even with a walker. His short term memory was going as well, so conversations with him could be pretty circular. None of these aliments prevented him from taking his scooter down to play sheepshead with the other card playing residence of the senior housing facility where he and his wife of 50 years, Trudy, lived. In short, if I in his position, I would be wondering were death’s sweet sting was, he was still in love with life.
His first wife, and mother of his four children, Jean, died of cancer when my wife was only 10 years old, and she was the oldest. Left with four young children to raise, he was lucky that his mother, “Granny” was also a people person who welcomed him and his children back home. His stepfather at least tolerated them – they served as this remote control for the TV in the evening. Still, if I was in that position… well, I give him credit as well. Frank and Granny raised them until he was introduced to Trudy ten years later – proposing to her on their first date and marrying her three months later. He was an impatient man, a man who wanted things done, ideally, right now.
I am sure that he would be diagnosed today with ADHD. He was always on the go, especially in his early years. My wife as some notes she took on their annual vacation with him when she was 12 years old. On the second day he woke the kids, telling them that it was 7:00 am. They later found out it was actually 5:00 am, but he was up as was the sun, so why waste the day in bed? And on vacation, it was one activity after another – no rest for the wicked. He never liked silence or just sitting around doing nothing, though as he aged into his 50’s, he came to enjoy reading. And though he never finished college, he loved to learn new things all his life.
He could play a variety of musical instruments by ear, but with ADHD he never had the patience to spend the hours of practice needed to become a musician. He envied handymen and artists and tried his hand those arts as well, but again, lacked the patience -- he judged his efforts against the work of decades and found his work too disappointing to continue. However, his great talent was as a people person, and he was great at that.
Another of his talents was the laying "guilt trips" on his daughters, though he called it “salesmanship.” He was a master salesman and for all his life, his wish was their command.
His greatest passion was golf. He was good at it, and played the game well into his 80’s, though I think his back was bothering him long before that. When he retired and could play golf whenever he wanted to, he still only played twice a week, which, in retrospect, I think is telling. His next greatest passion was sheepshead, and he could play that, and win money at it, until the very end of his life.
He was also one of those great fun-loving Grandpas, a favorite of all his grand and great grand children, and will be deeply missed by them. He was a dear friend of mine. He was always enthusiastic and supportive of my various ventures, be it selling tea mail order, painting, or writing books. In recent years he always asked about how my writing was coming, and read and enjoyed my books. We enjoyed talking religion even though we never agreed. Age, distance and covid reduced our contact to a few brief visits and telephone conversations over the last few years, Given the pain and reduced state he lived it, I can’t help but see his passing as a blessing. Though I know he would disagree with me on that too, even though he said he was ready. Still, death is the price we all must pay for life, and at 94, no one can kick about the price of a lifetime like his. While I know that I won’t ever see him again, he remains in my inner world right where he has always been – a great guy, a great friend and a great sheepshead player. Death doesn't change that.