Most evenings around the Bonner household are fend for yourself nights when it comes to suppertime.

I guess that's just the way it is when couples become empty nesters — which we've been now for most of a dozen years — you both work long hours. There doesn't seem to be time nor the energy to prepare meals and sit down across the table to eat a meal.

That's changed this week. You see my father-in-law is visiting. It's been a pleasant change for us as it is every time he comes to stay a while.

It's probably not too pleasant on Dell though. He's recuperating from some minor surgery so that takes away a bit of his independence.

During his time with us, we've made time to prepare meals and sit at the table and just chat. He's added to the conversation. We've laughed and lamented together, told stories and shared memories.

Dell is a good one. He's 91, sharp as a tack as the old saying goes and totally independent. There's not much he still can't do for himself. When he's healthy, he still does most everything he did when I first met him going on 34 years ago.

Dell's a member of the greatest generation. He served in World War II supplying troops in the European theater from a base in Great Britian. 

He grew up in The Great Depression, worked hard all of his life, became a caregiver to his wife, Imogene, and still found time to raise cattle and tend to the pastures until just a couple of years ago.

Unlike many half his age, Dell still has get up and go. He wants to get cattle again if that finicky knee ever gets well. Heck, he mows the yard, uses a weed eater, picks up sticks and runs his errands, hot or cold, rain or shine. Like I said, he's independent.

I wondered how he does it. So, I asked.  He, like many in his generation and some medical experts, say it's breakfast. Isn't that almost exactly what your momma always told you? I can hear her now, "eat your breakfast. It's the most important meal of the day."

Dell rises early. He eats fried eggs, bacon, and toast or biscuits with honey each and every day. He's done it as long as I've known him.

"I can eat breakfast and I'm good to go all day," Dell told me earlier this week as I was cleaning off the table. "I don't need anything else but water the rest of the day."

This advice comes from a guy who does his exercises faithfully to strengthen that knee in hopes of having a replacement one day in the not so distant future. When he talks you can see it in his eyes — he's counting cattle and dreaming of trips to the sale each and every week. In other words, he is planning ahead and it involves work, not play.

Yes, Dell is a pleasure to have around. He can tell you the news of the day at night and his stories are worth hearing. He also brings us together to the table for some family time that eases the stress of the day.

Perhaps his best attribute is probably the example of perseverance he lives out each day. He doesn't tell you about it, he just keeps on keeping on. Or, to borrow a phrase, he's like a Timex watch — "he takes a licking and keeps on ticking."

We're fortunate to have Dell visiting even if it is while he convalesces.  I'm glad I got to know him over the years and am proud to have him as my father-in-law. While he's with us the nest isn't quite so empty.

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