My father-in-law Harry, Papa to his grandkids, is a real hoot. He has a constant mischievous grin, like he’s up to something he shouldn’t be.
Every time we talk he tells me I’m his favorite daughter-in-law and I counter by telling him he’s my favorite father-in-law. It doesn’t matter that I’m his only DIL and he’s my only FIL, it’s our inside joke.
When Hubs and I were first married, we lived in Tennessee and so did the in-laws, only half an hour or so down the road. Harry helped us move into our first home.
He and Hubs were in the kitchen unloading boxes and man-handling appliances into place, while I was at the other end of the house unpacking the bedrooms when I noticed the smell of smoke. Worried that the long dormant A/C might be faulty, I went sniffing down the hallway looking for the source.
As I made my way to the kitchen, I found my “smoke.” Harry was standing in the middle of the room, lit cigarette in one hand, the other cupped beneath to catch falling ash. He turned to me and asked, “where’re your ashtrays?”
I’m not a smoker, never was, never will be. I lived with a chain-smoking dad and watched both of his parents die miserable deaths from emphysema. Hubs had never smoked, despite his parents and both sisters smoking. We had decided our home would be smoke free. This was my first dilemma as a new wife, defying my father-in-law.
Squaring my shoulders, facing Harry, who I was still trying to get to know after only a few weeks, I replied, “they’re out in the backyard.”
He stared at me, turned to Hubs who just shrugged, “you’re serious?”
He got me back a few days later though.
The phone rang, and I answered, “hello?”
“Hey, is that you?”
“Yeah, who’s this?”
“No, really who is this?”
“It’s me, is that you?”
By now, I’m totally freaked out. We’d only been in this new house a short while and I’m getting weird phone calls. I hung up.
The phone rang again almost immediately, Hubs answered.
Pause… pause… “You can’t be doing that to her!”
And it began…
Now, whenever I answer the phone and it’s Harry, he says, “it’s me, is that you?”
“Yeah, it’s me, is that you?”
Both in-laws have thankfully quit smoking so I don’t have to exile Harry to the backyard any longer. But, the ol’ FIL and I have an understanding. I’m his favorite and he’s mine.
*From the Vault of IMSO, originally published July 12, 2008; edited and updated. This piece seemed the perfect response to this week’s prompt.