“I’m Hungry!”

Once my brother-in-law pointed it out, I can’t help but notice my father-in-law says this phrase often. There’s an emphasis on the “I’m” and the “hungry” follows obediently, the only logical conclusion to the phrase. I’ve started saying it this way myself. He and I are two peas in a pod when it comes to our bellies: we are usually in the mood for a meal.

Recently in NYC, he said “I’m hungry! Annie, are you hungry? Let’s eat!” and I knew we were kindred spirits. We left my sister- and mother-in-law shopping and went to find some grub. My husband tagged along, of course, but he’d had a bagel four hours earlier so he wasn’t very hungry (I will never understand this).

Richard is a character I could never capture on paper, though I’m going to try. We were walking to a nice restaurant for his “birthday prequel” dinner one weekend and he announced:

“If I smell like dog urine, it was for a good cause!”

Their aging Bichon was the culprit. “Yeah,” he said with a shrug, “I picked him up and he peed a little. But you know what? It’s okay!”

Sometimes, in the middle of a conversation that has been going on for several minutes, he’ll giggle and agree with something he said much earlier in the evening. We’ll be discussing politics, and he’ll chuckle and nod and say to himself something like “yeah, I really like the new Fiat.” And my mother-in-law will utter an exasperated “Richard!” and my husband will laugh because he’s the same way (I am constantly reminding my husband that I don’t get to go along with his trains of thought, so he has to tell me how he got from talking about a new bumper for his Wrangler to making a statement about business schools in Southern California in the space of thirty seconds).

My father-in-law adores his kids. When I say Richard adores them, I mean there are moments where it’s almost tangible. Whenever my sister-in-law is in town, there’s a subtle shift. Richard uses pet names like “sweetie” in almost every sentence he says to her. If I’m standing next to him, I can almost feel the warmth and pride filling him when he talks to her.

My husband, too. He and his dad will go out for burgers just because it’s a Wednesday night and they want to. After college, my husband lived at home for a while, and they got used to being buddies. Even though it’s been a few years since my husband moved out, I can tell Richard misses having him home. They’ll talk on the phone and he’ll ask when my husband is coming home next, but instead of the usual way parents ask, it will be something more along the lines of “you’re coming for dinner Sunday, right?” and my husband’s answer is always “sure!”

I can tell you almost word-for-word how every one of their phone conversations will begin. It doesn’t matter which of them calls the other:

“It’s a beautiful day to be outside, you bum!”

“I know, we’re out walking (or on our way to Old Town/Georgetown/DuPont to walk around…).” This family takes a lot of walks.

They go back and forth a little bit, trying to one up each other about all the time they’re spending outdoors, then they discuss the coolest cars they’ve seen recently, then one promises to call the other back in ten minutes and never does. Like clockwork.

As a fairly recent addition to the family, I’ve enjoyed getting to know my father-in-law the way his family does, as a man of wonderful characteristics and even better quirks.