“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.

My Father, the All-American

My dad has always been in great shape. As far back as I can remember – in snippets and photographs, mostly – I’d ride a rocking-horse contraption in the garage while he worked out.

After we moved to “the homestead,” his exercise routine grew, and so did the yard work. Rather than a simple vegetable garden in the back yard and a couple carefully-mulched trees, we had acres of land, and my dad filled them with rows upon rows of corn and carrots and tomatoes and beans and potatoes and…you get the picture. We have landscaping that wraps around the house — rosebushes and daffodils and barberry bushes — as well as apple trees and pear trees and cherry and plum and apricot trees, not to mention the Japanese maple that moved with us. Dad started making up his own weight-lifting techniques to strengthen his back for splitting wood and push-mowing the yard and digging out a pond for turtles and goldfish.

He’d visit my school or come to track meets or drill competitions and my friends would all make a point of telling me how hot my father was. (Nothing better captures my feelings when people do this than Gene’s comment in an episode of Bob’s Burgers when a student compliments Bob: “He’s married! And to a friend of mine!”)

He and my mom recently stopped by my work and my boss and co-worker had a high-school-girls moment after they left, gushing over how good he still looks. One of them said they’d seen Facebook pictures of him when he was younger and he’s only gotten better looking. As usual, I uncomfortably thanked them and thought well, at least I’ve got good genes, right?

He threw the javelin in school. We have a pretty sweet picture of him in all his college glory, posing with the javelin and looking boss.

Now, he throws the javelin in the Senior Olympics. And by that I mean he pretty much cleans up at every meet. He’s medaled over and over. He’s been named All-American. He recently out-threw every competitor at the meet, aged 35-70.

He’s too humble to brag and feels silly making a big deal about it, but that’s what people have kids for.

I should probably mention, he’s dealt with a lot of joint issues. Every meet, he’s got his wrist or his back or his knees or his ankles (sometimes all of the above) wrapped. He stood on crutches at one competition, waiting for his turn to throw, and he still did amazingly well.

Dad gets his strength from his Savior. He throws to bring glory to God. As long as he’s blessed with the ability, he’ll use it to showcase how good God has been to him.

With Father’s Day around the corner, I think my father deserves a little recognition, too. He’s an All-American, and a hero to his family.