“So who would you live with if I died tomorrow?”

My octogenarian in-laws have been thinking more than ever about what happens after one of them dies. After dinner last night, around the table a discussion arose among the four of us about their London house, and where would the survivor live, etc. My father now living without my mother in the same house they had bought together in Pennsylvania, and what he is going through as a widower, was the main immediate conversational catalyst.

However, my father-in-law insisted several times on taking matters too lightly for my mother-in-law’s taste. At one point, she put him on the spot: “Don’t joke,” she admonished him as he chuckled. “What will happen to you if I go first like Robert’s mum? You’re useless. You can’t do anything for yourself. You couldn’t live alone….”

Born before World War II began, he is old enough to remember as a child the 1940 Battle of Britain and seeing the Spitfires and Hurricanes dogfighting with Nazi fighters over London and bombs falling from the sky smashing homes in his neighbo(u)rhood. He makes a great gin and tonic, but has never really cooked for himself and never really washed clothes. He turned serious and answered slowly and authoritatively: “I shall go to Ann’s.”

Seconds of silence followed. Moments later laughter of a sort I have not been blessed to have experienced since before my mother died in October consumed the other three of us. It was flat-out one of the funniest moments I have ever witnessed.

Ann is a family friend, a widow, who lives near Brighton. My in-laws have been friends with her for nearly 70 years.

“What?” my mother-in-law replied. “Ann? Go now!” she laughed. “Tonight! I’ll ring her and say you’re on your way!”

My poor father-in-law, I suspect, was horrified.

“He’s obviously thought about it,” my wife laughed. “Ah, so it’s been Ann all these years as the fallback!”

My father-in-law sought to laugh it off and disappeared into the lounge shortly after. We other three next washed up the dinner dishes. I hugged and thanked my mother-in-law for the biggest laugh I’d had in months.

But I suspected that was not the end of things. And I was right. After my mother-in-law had left the kitchen, the washing up finished, my wife cornered me: “Okay, you,” she pointed my way. “You men. So who would you live with if I died tomorrow?”

Free Stock Photo: A small house in the woods.
Free Stock Photo: A small house in the woods.

“I’d live alone in the Catskills,” I made plain. “I’d become a mountain man.”

“Nonsense,” she came back. “You couldn’t be a hermit. You’d need some babe around. It’s a shame Kam’s gone. You’d have wanted Kam.”

I smiled warily.

“Yeh, I know you….” she kept on.

“Uh, I miss her a lot,” I finally admitted, a glass of brandy post-dinner having dangerously loosened my mouth a bit. “Yeh, I would….”

“….Ah, ha! I knew it!” she roared. “If I’d died, it would have been Kam! But who now? None of my other friends interest you the same way?”

I’m writing no more here, but just offer this word of advice. Married men, trouble your father-in-law landed himself in is no defense. Never never ever ever even accidentally reveal anything like that to your wife.

Never ever ever! You hear me? Never! 🙂