When I started to date my wife nearly 14 years ago, I had to eventually face a major obstacle: meeting her dad. I had met her mom when I first met my wife at a university alumni function (should I even say I met my wife and her mom in a bar?). But of course, meeting "the dad" is always a different thing entirely. After all, I was dating his little girl and, well, you know the anxieties of a father (and I'm beginning to dread those same anxieties as my daughter grows older).
I'm happy to say that the initial meeting and all subsequent meetings since have gone very well. Wayne is an entertaining and humorous guy with a good head on his shoulders. He was very personable and made me feel like part of the family from the beginning. In fact, it wasn't long that I found myself invited within a most sacred of groups: his golfing foursome.
I can't recall exactly the first time I joined him golfing or the circumstances as to how I was invited. But I'm sure that we golfed together with two other gentlemen that made up our foursome for many outings. Krish was Wayne's next door neighbor and eventually became friends enough with me to be apart of our wedding party. He also had a great sense of humor and loved the movie "Blazing Saddles" which is probably why we instantly connected. The fourth member of our group was Denny. He was a good friend of Wayne's from church and they shared the fact that they were both Pennsylvanian born and bred. Denny was a good guy as well, but I really didn't know him as well as the others.
What I do recall about Denny was his love of Rusty Wallace. I was never a NASCAR fan, although by proxy of living in North Carolina, I had to have some familiarity with the sport. Except for the more household names of the day, such as Jeff Gordon and the late Dale Earnhardt, I didn't really know much about the other drivers. But in golfing and associating with Denny, I eventually learned that Rusty's car number was "2," and that Miller Genuine Draft was his team sponsor. Whenever a hot golf day insisted on liquid refreshment, you can bet that Denny would buy a MGD for Rusty's sake.
Other than the occasional golf encounter, I would sometimes see Denny and his wife at church (back when we attended church regularly...is that thunder I just heard?) His wife Jean has a remarkable sense of humor and is a beacon of light to all that know her. She's always involved in church and social activities, and it is always a pleasure to make her laugh. I knew that Denny had to be a good guy to have such a good wife.
After my kids grew out of their cribs and into "big" beds, we sold the crib furniture to Jean and her expectant daughter. "Sold" seems like a harsh word because there's definitely an emotional attachment to such furniture: the nights of kids crying and the subsequent soothing, the bouncing of happy faces in the cribs, and the eventually tumbling out after the first adventurous climb. So rather than say they we "sold" them the furniture, I suppose it's more accurate to say that we "entrusted" them with the furniture. Denny's family is worthy of such trust.
Denny passed away last night after an extended illness. And even though the golfing expeditions stopped long ago (Krish got married and moved, I had kids, etc.), it will feel a little different the next time I grab the clubs. In as little as I really knew and socialized with Denny, I'll still miss him. He was a gentleman of goodness overall, and an accompaniment of good times for me.
Here's to you Denny, and may your angel's wings be adorned with the number 2.