Every so often a surprise.

“My dad wants to know if you’ll come over and pick up his wallet,” Sue said.

“Over,” in this case, was the hospital, where John landed recently for a couple of days. He survived. He’s too stubborn not to have survived. Pioneer stock doesn’t quit easy.

The “surprise” part was that he wanted me to take possession of his wallet while he was laid up, if only for a night.

I understand he wanted me to deliver it to Bev, my mother-in-law (I was closer to the hospital than she), but men are funny about their wallets.

They always know where their wallet is, and near is better. If they don’t know, they want to know. If they don’t want to know, check their pulse and see if they’re still alive.

If their wallet isn’t where they think it is, it’s reason for concern. Want to see a grown man run around a house like a chicken with his head cut off? Have him misplace his wallet. He’ll do laps until he finds it.

Men are proprietary about their wallets. When we were kids and asked Dad for lunch money, he’d say, “Bring me my wallet."

“Bring me my wallet” did not mean look in my wallet; it meant "Fetch my wallet and I’ll open my wallet and remove the appropriate denomination.”

Rifling through another man’s wallet is taboo. That’s trespassing on his personal money.

“Sure, I’ll get your dad’s wallet,” I said to Sue, jumping at the chance.

He must have been hurting. Men don’t surrender their wallets to other men. Especially sons-in-law.

Sons-in-laws are pesky. They ask questions like: “I wonder how much the old man has in his wallet? You can learn a lot about a man when you know how much he’s packing.

Men are two ways about carrying money. Some prepare for emergencies. Others pray that emergencies don’t happen, go light and have a couple of singles. John was the first, his son-in-law, the second.

I drove to the hospital, signed in and walked to his room.

John was propped up in bed. He was alive. That was good because that meant soon I’d have possession of his wallet. That was like capturing his spirit body or, in the Old West, his horse.

He handed me the wallet. It was worn, thick and black. A perfect man wallet.

I felt superior. He was in bed and I had his wallet. I had him where I wanted him.

Better be nice to me. I have your money. Who knows where I’m going from here. The next time you see me, I may have a mustache and a blue Corvette.

What if you go into a coma? Don’t wake up for 10 years. The problem was, when he did, he’d know how much he had in the wallet to the decimal point.

“You know I usually charge a rental fee for keeping a man’s wallet,” I said. “This may cost you $20.”

He didn’t think it was as funny as I did. Maybe I overshot with the $20 and should have tried $10.

I could see he was torn. On the one hand he wanted me to keep his wallet. On the other, I was his son-in-law and the last thing in the world you want to do or should do, is give your son in-law your wallet.

We said goodbye and I went home. I never opened the wallet — it felt like breaking and entering — although I hoped he was worrying that I would take a peek.

John’s not dumb. He called the next day and said, Bev would be over to fetch the wallet. A night away from family is one thing, but for a man, one night away from his wallet is one night too many.

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