Clancy and I are both very fortunate in that we really like our in-laws and our in-laws like us and one another. For Thanksgiving, two years in a row our parents came up to Estacado to visit us for the holiday. Her father has no sons and no American sons-in-law and little in the way of nephews, so I occupy more of a sonly position than is commonly the case with fathers-in-law. My mother, upon meeting Clancy, pulled me aside and said “Hold on to that girl, hold on to that girl, hold on to that girl!” (an enthusiasm she never had for Julie or Evangeline). Even our extended families get along quite well.
A lot of it can be traced to our similarities of values. The upper-middle class sort of values Sheila would say make us decided un-prole. Further, despite coming from well-off families we also come from parents that did not grow up nearly as well off so there’s not the sense of invulnerability that a lot of well-off people have.
So I enjoy spending time with her family and she enjoys spending time with mine. What we’ve sort of discovered over the last couple weeks is that this goodwill has limits. We each tire of our own parents, but we tire of one another’s a little bit faster.
I think as much as anything it comes down to shared history. I can spend a lot of time with my family because it takes a lot longer to run out of things to talk about. We can reminisce about old times. Mom can fill me in on how various people I know are doing. Our stories about how things are going are made that much funnier and more interesting by intricacies of our personalities that our spouses and in-laws may know but haven’t fully experiences and can’t fully appreciate.
And when the conversation stops, the awkwardness can begin. There’s nothing explicit about the awkwardness. No one is made to feel bad about about anything. There is the odd sense, though, of knowing that you’re fortunate to be able to get to spend time with these people that you don’t get to see often. So you feel the need to try to make the most of it.
I don’t get nearly as much time around my father-in-law as I would prefer. There are all sorts of times where I want to ask him questions or tell him about something extraordinary that happened at work that I know he will be able to appreciate, but I don’t get the chance to. Neither he nor I are really phone people and we haven’t found the calling-up-father-in-law dynamic like the weekly jam session I have with my parents.
Then this week came around and I plum ran out of things to talk about. There were various things that I could tell him, but the pressure to be entertaining is different if you’re sharing something that happened last week and something else that happened last month. I saw him twice in recent months and may see him again if he comes up to Cascadia to help us move. I am going to have to reload my conversational rifle in preparation.