The most unlikely of in-laws

Of all the relationships in this crazy, “Can’t Make This Stuff Up” family of mine, ours was the most unlikely.

The man we call, “Pops,” experienced more loss than one person should have to endure in a single lifetime: his first wife, and both his adult children passed within a few years of each other.

Left behind were only him and his precious young granddaughter.

Twist the knife again as that sweet little girl left his custody after his daughter died and went to live full-time with his former son-in-law.

A few years later, along comes me. A California-raised, outgoing, somewhat zany lady who is not of his faith, a faith that has been everything to him.

My marrying his former son-in-law, adopting his granddaughter, this was not the answer to his prayers.

And yet, somehow, we worked. We met in a place we both understood, sharing an endless love for our girl.

We did the family math: your kid’s grandfather is your father-in-law, and so he became mine.

And we grew from there.

In Pops, I found my match for the world’s biggest sweet tooth. He taught me the importance of topping every dessert with a side of vanilla ice cream. “Knocks the sweetness down a notch,” he explained with a wink.

He taught me to roll with the tide, as in “Roll Tide Roll,” the beauty that is Alabama football.

It’s not like Pops and I had a talk one day and agreed, “I’ll be compassionate about your loss, if you respect that I’ve now adopted your granddaughter.”

Nope. Never happened.

Somehow, in a potentially stressful and awkward situation where things could’ve gone from zero to bitter very quickly, we, two imperfect people, both managed to show up as our best selves.

I have never forgotten how painful it must be to see another woman raise his daughter’s child.

He always found an occasion to thank me for being a great mom to his granddaughter.

Pops died last week, just days after his 80th birthday. Cause of death: congestive heart failure. Not a single one of us is surprised. Never has there been a heart that worked so hard, loved so much, shown what is possible.

What is possible when you dare to open your shattered heart after tragedy breaks it over and over and over again.

Pops’ brave heart and big love brought him his beloved second wife, her two sons, their wives, four more adorable grandkids.

Oh, and me.

In a world where it’s so easy to shut out those with different beliefs, where it’s so easy to give up and give into a broken heart, we all need to be more like Pops.

Let’s open our hearts, love big, leave it all on the field.

I sign out as I did all of my emails and texts to him,

Love, YDILD (Your daughter-in-law, Daryn.)

Daryn Kagan is the author of the book “Hope Possible: A Network News Anchor’s Thoughts On Losing Her Job, Finding Love, A New Career, And My Dog, Always My Dog.” Email her at

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