Before my father-in-law was, uh, my father-in-law, he used to take me hunting on his farm frequently. Larry and I hunted squirrel a couple of times, but the usual was quail. Quail was my favorite because it required less silence. We talked as we walked through the fields and followed his dogs. I looked forward to our excursions even though his oldest daughter, my future wife, did not.
He invited me to hunt with him long before Chrisie and I had our first date. Actually, it was before Chrisie even wanted to date me, or even liked liked me in the Semantics of Relationship. Well, actually, it was after a brief period she did like me. A briefer period when she disliked me preceded it and a long time of greatly disliking me followed. Basically, she met me and disliked me for a week, liked me for a week after that, and greatly disliked me for years. For anyone making a timeline its: Disliked > Liked >Greatly Disliked. With me?
Her complete lack of interest in me kept things . . . interesting. I often arrived at their house before sunup and then hunted with her dad for a few hours. We’d get back to breakfast already prepared and in Larry’s case, an angry daughter.
“What is he doing here?” she often asked.
“We went hunting,” he answered.
“Yeah, you can tell from the hunting clothes and shotguns. They’re kind of a dead giveaway,” I helpfully added. She usually stormed off at this point.
I guess she didn’t like the fact I was in her house uninvited (at least by her). Whatever the cause she definitely did not want me hunting with her father. Larry and I once talked of her distaste for waking up with me in the house. We considered hunting elsewhere or just not hunting to keep Chrisie from getting so upset. We carefully weighed all the options and her feelings. Then we kept hunting anyway.
I enjoyed they walks with Larry. He’s often a man of few words. I’m a man of several but somehow our conversations always felt balanced and I enjoyed our time together. We developed a friendship and expanded to racquetball. We maintained even when Chrisie went from dislike to outright hatred for me. Even during the darkest days of my relationship with Chrisie, Larry always hinted that he’d like to be my father-in-law.
“I’m not sure she’ll ever be interested,” I said.
“Just wait. She’s still young and doesn’t know what she wants.”
“I’m pretty sure she knows what she doesn’t want. You were there when she pulled the knife on me, right?”
“I think deep down she does like you and wants to end up with you. I hope you’ll be patient.”
He clearly ignored the comment about the knife (which she totally did, ask her about it, she loves talking about it). Still, one word of his statement stood out for me. Hope.
The years passed and Chrisie eventually warmed up to me hunting with her father. This happened, coincidentally I’m sure, the year we finally started dating. Oddly, it became the last year Larry and I regularly hunted together.
Before the season in 1996, he and I were in his truck on our way to a work day at Lylewood. My heart hammered as I went old-fashioned and declared my intentions to marry his daughter. He got teary eyed and gave me his blessing.
“I’d be proud to have you as a son-in-law,” he said. It was a wonderful moment, partially because I could finally breathe easily. I really sweated telling him.
We hunted that year the same as we always did and continued our good relationship. Then I did something to mess it all up. I actually proposed. He suddenly didn’t seem proud about having me as a future son-in-law. In fact, he seemed downright hostile.
When the fall of ’97 came, he again asked me to go hunting, but there was an odd gleam in his eye. I politely declined because being alone in the middle of nowhere with him and a firearm seemed like a very bad idea. It’s easy to understand now that I have a daughter of my own. I can see that I was taking his oldest girl away from him. It all makes sense now. Then? I was terrified.
He was still friendly, but there was also an edge in his voice whenever we talked. “I though he liked you,” my friends said.
“He used to like me, then I proposed and everything changed.”
He eventually did warm back up to me, but only months after our wedding. During the wedding he tried to convince her to run off right before she walked down the aisle. He assures me this was a joke. I pretend to believe him. When it was clear I planned on the long haul with his daughter, our friendship returned. Of course, it never really left, it was just the context that shifted.
Now I’m very thankful we’re friends. I only have a brother, so I get keen insight on “losing” a daughter from my father-in-law. I know it will seem all too soon when Autumn marries.
Maybe when that hopefully far off day comes, Larry can give me some advice on how to keep her from marrying. At the very least, he can tell me what doesn’t work and we’ll laugh. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll pat me on the shoulder and without words we’ll share just how much we love the same woman. His daughter, my wife.
We’ll both feel like the luckiest men in the world.