Rest in Peace, Pat Kolinsky

Just yesterday, I finally sent out the files for Monster Academy: I Will Not Eat People, the first book in the trilogy. I’m running late on the series, of course, but my backers have been kind and patient about it. A good chunk of the delays came down to me having an overwhelming amount of work on my plate this year, including the new edition of the Marvel Encyclopedia coming out from DK on St. Patrick’s Day of 2014, as well as a pair of trips to Shanghai to work on a couple of iOS games for Ubisoft.

Some more personal issues cropped up. Notably I was diagnosed with glaucoma, and my father-in-law died. I haven’t written about these yet because I’ve been too busy dealing with the fallout, but now it’s time.

Let me take those in order of greatest importance.

1451964_687441751295775_363995867_nPat Kolinsky was a wonderful man. He spent his working years as an educator, both as a classroom teacher and as the placement director for most of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Lots of students up that way owe their livelihoods—or at least their first steps into them—to Mr. K, as they called him.

After he retired, he and his wife Mar became snowbirds, traveling between homes in Salome, Arizona, and Land o’ Lakes, Wisconsin, which put him within spitting distance of the town where he grew up: Watersmeet, Michigan, home of the Nimrods. (Honestly, that’s their school mascot. ESPN did commercials about it, which spurred a six-episode documentary called Nimrod Nation.)

I owe him and Mar for the incredible job they did raising their daughter Ann, to whom I’ve been married for over 21 years. She’s the love of my life and the mother of our five children, including a 15-year-old son and a set of 11-year-old quadruplets. With Mar’s help, Pat instilled a love of nature, education, and people into Ann and her brother Nick that shines through not only in them but our kids.

I could write a book about Pat and all the things he’s done for me. He loved to hunt and fish and tell stories and play games, and he welcomed me into his family without showing any hesitation. I remember the first time I talked with him, when I had to call and ask him to run out from Ironwood, Michigan, to the family cabin near Watersmeet so he could tell Ann (who was waiting there without a phone or electricity) that I’d walked away from totaling a car on the way up to see her. I also remember the last, when I thanked him and Mar for spending an extra week with Ann and the kids on their way south this October so I could head back to China again.

He died just a couple weeks later, on November 3, 2013. He had a heart attack while watching football on his TV down in Arizona, cheering on his brother-in-law’s Kansas City Chiefs.

He never wanted to wind up in a rest home as he got older, so at least he avoided that particular fate. And he left us while doing something he enjoyed. We should all be so lucky.

Still, he’s gone too soon, and he leaves a massive hole in our lives, so big we still can’t see the edges of it. But we’ll refill it with memories of our time with him and our love for him, which would be enough to overflow the Grand Canyon.

Those of you who knew him should stop by the Pat Kolinsky Memorial page we set up on Facebook. If you have memories of your own of him—photos, stories, whatever—please share them there.

Here’s one of my favorites.

One time, before Ann and I were married, Pat offered to take me waterskiing on Lake Marion, on the shore of which sat the family cabin. He was worried that his boat’s engine wasn’t quite powerful enough to yank my beefy body hard enough to lift me out of the water, but if I was game, he was willing to give it a try.

He hauled me all around the entire lake three times and through countless attempts to pop me out of the water, some of which dragged me under the boat’s wake for several yards. No matter how much of the lake wound up plowed up my nose, though, I refused to give in as long for as long as I could. With Pat’s encouragement, I kept getting back into position and trying again and again and again.

Despite my determination, I never did get out of that water. When my arms finally gave out from exhaustion, Pat helped me back on board the boat, and we returned to shore. When he reached for the boat’s anchor to throw it overboard, he looked down and saw that he’d been dragging it along behind us the entire time.

I’m sure it was an accident. Honest. Or maybe a subconscious way to test out a future son-in-law’s sense of humor.

Either way, we had one hell of a laugh over that. I’ll miss that about him most.