Thursday, July 19, 2012

Meet My F.I.L. aka "The Whirlwind"

As I look back on our five day trip to California, previewing our future home, I realize, in part, that story really isn’t about me.
It’s about a guy named Steve.
When I first meet Steve, I am fifteen, and he is taking his wife, his daughter—my best friend, Julie—and me to a Third Day concert (anyone remember them? Oh golly, that seems ages ago) for Julie's fifteenth birthday. We are running late and have to stop by their house for reasons I have forgotten.
Steve HATES running late.  It makes him antsy. Take it from me, you do NOT want Steve antsy.
The entire truck seems to snap with his energy, and the air seems to thicken as he growls.  Julie and I, usually twittering like over-enthusiast birds, are struck dumb in his presence, as if instinct told us that speaking would shatter something very precious. 
Thirty minutes after meeting Steve, I meet my future husband, asleep on the living room couch, but that’s a tale for another time.
This time, it’s about Steve.
Over the years, as I frequent Julie's house for sleepovers, Steve habitually sits silently in his recliner, posed midway between sleep and consciousness, watching a football game or live concert with a beer in hand. Even when he is relaxed, Steve emits a certain intensity. 
At this time he ignores me, but he still makes me incredibly nervous. You see, I’m already a sort of anxious person—I’m constantly tapping or twitching with my thoughts darting unceasingly like minnows in a pond. I do not sit still well, nor do I make eye contact when speaking.  In high school, I am notoriously terrified by the opposite sex.  Steven is the epitome of the things that send my nerves into a frenzy: loud, direct, and quick-tempered.
Over time, Steve—gruff, blunt, and living by his own rules—ceases to frighten me (as all males did) but instead merely becomes a presence. He is there, I am there, and we accept this fact quietly.
Then, at nineteen, I begin dating his only son, and it seems Steve and I realize our relationship must change. We must truly acknowledge each other, appreciate each other, even.
The strangest thing happens. 
The being who once reminded me of a grizzly now seems respectable, humorous, and, by golly, I even like his company.
Steve still sits in his recliner watching his giant television, but Chris and I sit and watch with him.  We talk about things—politics, cars, purchases, agriculture (Steve and Chris’s line of work), and food.
If Steve knows anything well, it’s good food.
If the man tells you to eat it, you eat it. You will not be disappointed.  The man’s a king of culinary fineries from sushi to barbecue.
What do I like most about Steve? He’s notoriously honest.  The man doesn’t sugarcoat a thing. If you’re acting the part of the village idiot, he will tell you, boldly without any hesitation, that you are “a nincompoop.”
Quite frankly, most times he’s right.  There’s wit and wisdom churning in there. Everyone who has spent time with him knows this and respects him for it. If you want advice, you go to Steve.
He talks about all taboo subjects fearlessly but not without reason. It never seems inappropriate when Steve brings up politics and religion, oddly enough, and he doesn’t do it to start a fight.   He just speaks his mind, and it reveals itself to be a sharp tool. 
And, cliché as it is, beneath all the prickles, he’s a big teddy bear inside.  He’s generous (grumbles about the bill as he might), and he loves his family and his Christ deeply. Everything about Steve is intense, even his affection. 
Also, he makes me laugh.  Sometimes, without meaning to, but, even then, I am laughing with him, and, may I add, I giggle with the utmost respect. 
When I learn that Steve and his wife, Lisa (oh, how opposites attract), will be chaperoning our trip to California, I find myself, again, nervous.
It is one thing to see someone weekly at church or family dinners. It is an entirely different thing to travel with them.  
Before I continue, let me assure you that my in-laws and I are still friends. We still enjoy each other’s company.  There were no shouting matches, gnashing of teeth, or drawing of weapons. In fact, we all escaped unscathed, though utterly and completely exhausted, because, you see, Steve stops for no man.
I just thought it was rather vital, before I begin tell you about our trip in any sort of detail, that you understand its key player. Steve, after all, ran the show in Cali. 
It only took stepping into the airport that first time to realize that Steve is a hurricane . . . or a tornado? A tornacane???
When Steve’s coworkers ask, “Hey, Chris! How was your trip?”
Chris replies, “It was really good, had a great time . . . but it was a bit exhausting with the Whirlwind in command.”
They always laugh. Why? Because they know EXACTLY what we mean.

In Cali, my FIL versus the peacock . . . guess who's winning . . .


  1. I absolutely love the part "everything about Steve is intense, even his affection."

  2. Loved reading this! What a great tribute to your F.I.L.

  3. 1. I had NO idea that you married your best friend's brother!

    2. That last snap is roll on the floor funny. If I were you I would give Steve a framed print of it. Not kidding.

  4. Yes, you should give your FIL a framed copy of this! So funny, but also respectful and sweet! I loved the story!



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