Papa don’t jeep

Willys graveyard

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?”

“It’s me.”

“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.

This week’s Studio30 Plus prompt is “Papa,” and/or “Enormity.”

*From the Vault of IMSO, originally published July 12, 2008; edited and updated. This piece seemed the perfect response to this week’s prompt.

10 thoughts on “Papa don’t jeep

  1. I love this story, love knowing a little bit about your “family life”. I mean who wouldn’t pick YOU as a favorite?

    my FIL died 3 months after we married and I wasn’t his first DIL or even his first DIL with John, but I know he loved me, he made me Special rice and Chicken marsala, he bought Diet Coke and not Pepsi because he knew I loved it, he taught me to say I LOVE YOU in Croatian.

    many many jokes are made about the relationships of inlaws, but I’ve been lucky, the laughs I have about mine are shared. 🙂


  2. An endearing description of what sounds like a warm and fun relationship with your FiL. And good job on your handling of the delicate task of setting that “ashtray” boundary quickly. That is no easy task.


  3. I love this so much. That you have that kind of relationship with an in-law is something very special. It says a lot about both of you.


  4. That’s really cool that you have such a fun, relaxed relationship with your FIL. He sounds like a fun guy.

    My dad has always played the “it’s me is that you” game on the phone. It made me smile to know your FIL does it too.


  5. Good for you ~ stand strong, woman! I’m also glad they’ve prolonged their lives by stopping. Maybe you were part of the impetus.
    My own horrible habit ended 20 years ago in February 1993 when my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was given a six-month life expectancy and lived only six weeks. Reformed smokers are its strongest opponents.


  6. This is almost weird. When I posted that prompt I was thinking of a story on how my dad always said “Marie, c’est ton père” when he called even if I always answered the phone to his calls with “Allo Papa!” And here you are with almost the same story but totally different. How cool is that?

    p.s. I have no feedback to give to you on this – all is well. 😉 BLOGGERS UNITE!


  7. He sounds like a special man – and I am glad he and his wife have quit smoking. I can’t believe I left a two pack a day habit in the dust on February 14th, 1982. But I have been thankful, every day since, that I did.


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