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Was I Wrong to Teach My Father-in-Law a Lesson After He Tried to Avoid Paying the Bill?

When Carmen’s father-in-law, Jerry, invites her and Leo out for dinner, the couple is excited to spend time with him. However, Jerry, known for his frugal habits, pretends to be generous with the invitation. Instead, he hands the bill over to Leo, claiming that he lost his wallet. When the couple realizes the truth, they decide to teach him a lesson.

Last weekend, my father-in-law, Jerry, invited my husband, Leo, and me to an upscale restaurant for dinner.

“We haven’t had a meal together in weeks,” Jerry said on the phone. “It’s time for us to just sit down and enjoy a good meal.”

“Should we pick you up, Dad?” Leo asked while shutting off his laptop.


“No,” Jerry said. “I’ll meet you there.”

“This is nice,” I told my husband. “We don’t do things like this very often. I think we should dress up and make a night of it.”

“I agree, honey,” Leo said. “Let’s just have a good time.”

The restaurant was exquisite, with soft lighting and a gentle hum of live jazz music in the background.

“He really chose a fancy place,” Leo said, taking my hand while we looked around for Jerry.

“Hey, you two! Over here!” Jerry called out, his face lit up with a broad smile.

“Hi, Dad,” Leo said, bending down to hug his father.

I pulled out my chair and we sat down, ready to just spend time with Jerry.

“Tell me about you two,” Jerry said, eyeing the menu. “What’s been happening with you? Are you still at that law firm, Carmen?”

“Yes, I’ve made partner, too!” I said excitedly. “But the official announcement will only come in the new year.”

Leo went on to talk about work and how he was looking for us to buy a house.

“Just in case we want to have kids, you know, Dad?” he said. “And what’s better than having a barbecue on a Sunday afternoon?”

“Oh, your mother used to love afternoons like that,” Jerry said, sipping his lemonade.

We ordered our meals, and Jerry told us about how he really wanted a trip to Hawaii.

“I just think that I need a change of scenery,” he said. “And all that sunshine should be good for me. It’s been lonely without your mother around to be adventurous with.”

I smiled at him sadly.

Since my mother-in-law’s passing almost two years ago, the weight of her absence was still felt very strongly.

Jerry barely did anything without constant prompting from Leo and me, so his wanting to take us to dinner was a big achievement in terms of his healing.

“But would you want to go alone?” Leo asked, finishing his meal with a long gulp of whiskey.

“No,” Jerry said. “Maybe with a tour group or something like that. It would be cheaper than doing it alone. And there should be discounts for seniors.”

“Can I interest you in dessert?” our waiter asked, bringing over three dessert menus.

“I’ll never say no to dessert,” I said, looking through the menu.

After that, my father-in-law went on about how much he was enjoying playing golf with his new friends.

“I love having time out and away from the house,” he said. “And golf is as slow or as fast as I want it to be. There are no expectations. And my knees don’t hurt at all.”

The dessert arrived, and Leo asked for the bill shortly after.

We both knew that there was a possibility that we would have to pay for the dinner, but we didn’t mind. Jerry was known for his penny-pinching ways.

But Jerry seemed to have it under control until he didn’t.

He took the bill and reached into his pocket for his wallet, but in doing so, his cheerful demeanor shifted dramatically.

He started patting his pockets, his expression growing increasingly distressed.

“I must have lost my wallet! I can’t believe this!” my father-in-law said, his voice trembling, eyes almost welling up with tears.

“It’s no big deal, Dad,” Leo reassured him. “We’ve got this.”

But then, something caught my eye the next morning.

I was sitting in bed, sipping tea as I scrolled through the photos from the previous night.

There, in one of the photos that we asked the waiter to take, was Jerry’s wallet, clearly sticking out of his back pocket.

My stomach churned with a mix of disbelief and amusement. It was a classic Jerry move.

I went to my husband, who was making toasted sandwiches, and showed him the photo.

“You’ve got to see this,” I said.

Leo chuckled, shaking his head. “Looks like Jerry pulled a fast one on us, honey.”

We sat down to eat our toasted sandwiches in silence, both thinking about whether we should bring it up with Jerry or not.

Eventually, we decided that it was time for a little payback.

“I think it’s needed. A lesson has to be learned,” I said.

The following weekend, we invited my father-in-law out to an even fancier restaurant.

“It’s really lavish, Dad,” Leo said on the phone. “So wear a suit if you’d like.”

“Doesn’t that just mean small portions of food and ridiculous prices?” he asked.

“It does,” Leo agreed. “But it’s also about the experience. Carmen has been wanting to go for a long time. And don’t worry about it, it’s on us.”

At the restaurant, we got into our comfortable routine of catching up on the week.

“I tried eating okra the other day!” Jerry exclaimed. “One of the ladies at the senior center brought a dish of fried okra and fried eggplant. It wasn’t bad, but I don’t know if I’d eat it again.”

I chuckled at Jerry. Despite how adventurous he tried to be when it came to food, he knew what he enjoyed and stuck to that.

Dinner flew by with us just chatting about everything and nothing.

And when the waiter brought the check, it was our turn to put on our best performances.

Leo patted his pocket with exaggerated concern, a frown forming on his face.

“Oh, darling,” he said. “I must have left my wallet at home! Carmen, please tell me that you have yours; I know you changed your bag.”

I feigned panic as I rummaged through my purse.

“Darn it,” I said. “I don’t have mine here either; I just assumed that you would have yours, so I didn’t double-check before we left home.”

“Dad, do you think you could cover this? We’ll pay you back, of course,” Leo said solemnly. “I’m sorry, Dad. Sometimes Carmen and I rush around too much, and we forget things.”

Jerry looked stunned, his eyes darting between us and the bill.

“Uh, well, yeah. I suppose I could,” he muttered, reaching reluctantly for his wallet.

The waiter, who Leo had briefed about our plan, stepped in.

“I’m sorry, sir,” the waiter said to Leo. “But we have a strict policy here. If the bill isn’t paid, we just call the police.”

Jerry’s face turned pale as he pulled the bill closer to him. He fumbled with his wallet, finally pulling out his credit card with trembling hands.

Leo and I exchanged smiles at each other, hoping that Jerry had realized he had been caught in his own game.

“You know,” my husband said as we walked out of the restaurant, “I think we should get some ice cream. Dad was right about the small portions.”

We drove to the local ice cream parlor in silence. I wondered if Jerry thought that he was going to pay for the ice cream, too.

“Come on, Dad, choose your flavors,” my husband said, placing our orders.

When we were ready to pay, Leo pulled his wallet out of his suit pocket.

“You have your wallet? You had it all along?” Jerry asked.

Leo nodded at his father.

“What you did last weekend wasn’t good, Jerry. Of course we were going to take over the bill. But it was the way you lied about it. I saw your wallet sticking out of your pocket when I looked at the photos the next morning. You had it and you lied,” I said.

“I’m sorry,” Jerry said, taking his bowl from me. “I shouldn’t have tried to avoid paying. And I promise it won’t happen again.”

Leo and I smiled at each other. It seemed like the lesson had been learned.

“We appreciate that,” I said. “Because we love spending time together as a family.”

What would you have done?

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