You must know Gary

Last week my husband Eric and I bopped on up to the cities to hang out with his parents. I’m very lucky when it comes to my in-laws, Gary and Sharon. They are great people. I know a lot of people who tell in-law horror stories. Not me. I tell Gary stories.

Not that he’s a horror, mind you. He’s a great guy. He’s just fun to tell stories about, because he’s such a character.

For instance, almost everyone knows Gary. If you don’t, ask the next five people you see. At least one of them will know Gary and another one will have at least heard of him. It’s kind of like the “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” thing. I’ve lived in various states and places in my life, and it never really surprises me anymore when someone hears my name and responds, “Wettschreck? Oh, you must know Gary.”

This had happened to me in Eric’s hometown of Stacy, of course, but also in Pensacola, Fla., Norfolk,Va. and even in Avoca. A man we had never met bought a house as a fixer-upper a couple of years ago right across the street from us. When we introduced ourselves, he responded with the expected question and we answered that yes, we do indeed know Gary. Who doesn’t?

Gary told me a great story the other day — I fell right into his trap. It seems, he said, that a female movie star had stabbed her boyfriend eight or nine times. Gary had heard about it on the news that morning.

“A Reese something,” he said.

“Witherspoon?” I supplied, quite shocked.

“No, with her knife,” he replied, then laughed as I rolled my eyes and chuckled.

Gary was in the hospital lately, and kept all the nurses rolling their eyes and chuckling.

“I’m the charge nurse,” one stated as she walked in the room.

“What are you going to charge me?” he shot back.

We all rolled our eyes.

You know those socks with sticky bottoms they give you to wear in the hospital? Gary’s were on the floor, and my husband teased him about not keeping them on his big feet.

“What size shoes do you wear?” a young nurse asked.

“I wear a size 11, but a 12 felt so good I buy 13s,” he replied.

More eye rolling.

Gary is tall and a bit gruff, but that never bothered my kids. Maggie had him pegged as an infant, and explained Garyto me once when she was about five years old.

“Grandpa is just like roasting marshmallows,” she announced, much to my confusion.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“You know. They get all crunchy on the outside, but inside are gooey and soft,” she explained.

Right around that time, Maggie, Nick and I were staying with Gary and Sharon for a couple months while Eric was on a temporary duty assignment for the Navy. Maggie was gong through a phase of asking questions, which drove everyone nuts, including Gary.

He came home from work one day and barked, “Well, Margaret, are you going to come out in the shop with me?”

She eagerly agreed, and as they walked out the door I heard him say, “Just don’t ask too many questions.”

About a half hour later I was starting supper when she came walking into the kitchen looking sad.

“What’s the matter?” I asked. “I thought you were hanging out with Grandpa.”

“I was, but he said I had to come help you and Grandma,” Maggie replied, head hanging. “He said I asked too many questions.”

During supper, Gary asked why she looked so down, so she explained.

“I’ll tell you what. You come out in the shop with me again tomorrow,” he said. “Just don’t ask too many questions.”

I probably don’t need to tell you how well that turned out, but it was a conversation that was repeated almost nightly.

Yep, Gary is quite the guy. From lying on the floor each night to let a delighted infant rip and tug at his beard to keeping a little girl who was missing her daddy company to helping children everywhere with his involvement in some great organizations, Gary is one big heart wrapped in a slightly cranky exterior.

Just ask anyone. After all, whoever you ask will probably know him.

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