Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Jon's dad died yesterday at home in suburban Chicago. I can't believe he's gone. Though we never lived near the "senior Tienstra," his influence and opinions affected us each and every day. He was not an easy guy. Dictatorial and egocentric are terms that I don't use lightly, but they describe him perfectly. I gave up trying to get him to love me early on, but I think I earned his respect, despite the fact that I was a woman and a "career girl."

He was fierce, always fierce. Whether he was preparing perfect pork barbeque on the outdoor smoker he designed, fishing in his beloved Caloosahatchee River in Florida, selling insurance policies, or advising family members, it was always done his way or no way. He was tireless, working two jobs for half of his life. By day, a respected businessman, by night, "the grassman."

He taught his children the value and honor of work. He demanded perfection and when he didn't get it, he often closed the door forever.

He was tough. Perhaps it was the "small man complex" or maybe it was that he was the middle child of 12, born to Dutch immigrant parents with no time for coddling.

If you met him once, you didn't forget him. Though opinionated and outspoken, he could be charming and outgoing. When he talked to you, he talked to you. And he listened to you too. How many people do that today?

He was a man of another era. A time when men were men, women stayed home and took care of the house and the children, and good work was rewarded.

But he was the father of my husband and I'll always owe him everything for raising my Jon, an improvement by 100% on the old model. We'll miss John Franklin Tienstra and we will pay him homage each day when we talk to our fabulous children, and look into the clear, Dutch blue eyes of our grandsons.


Anthony said...

My condolences, and my heart goes out to you both. Take care.

DebraLSchubert said...

My sympathies are with you and Jon. My father-in-law sounds quite similar. Born from staunch German stock (his father organized cans in the cupboard alphabetically), things were always his way or the highway. After 26 years of marriage to his son, he still won't look me straight in the eyes. But, that's okay. He helped bring my husband, and by extension, my sons, into the world, and for that I'm forever grateful.

Your article was amazing, btw. What an interesting vocation!

Again, my sympathies are with your family at your time of grieving. May your father-in-law be honored through memory, and may he rest in blissful peace.

Karyn said...

Thank you for the honest and poignant portrait of Jon's father. I am so sorry for your loss; my thoughts are with you both.

Rebecca Knight said...

This was a beautiful tribute to read. Even though we didn't know him, I think you honored him by relating the good and the bad, and letting us glimpse a little of who he was.

Blessings on you and your family during this time!

Tiffany A. Belcher said...

My heart goes out to you and your family during this difficult time. For several years I have worked in healthcare, to include the Oncology/Hematology departments. I've seen many terminal, chronically ill, and hospice patients. There have been times where I've felt like I don't have anymore heart to give, but I've always found it amazing that in the passing of a great person you can always find a little more. It sounds like your father in-law lived a long and wonderful life. That is, in the end, the goal for us all. Best wishes.