I was going through some old pictures with the hope of getting rid of some of stuff in an effort to be a more minimalist. So far my efforts have been in vain. I found an old picture of my dad. It was a picture of how I remember him as I was growing up before I left the house to try my luck on my own. I remember that often he would not answer a question directly with a yes or no, but would give you what I call “nuggets of wisdom.”
As with most siblings, my brother and I got along as well the Hatfields and McCoys. A time that was particularly ripe for disagreements was when we were assigned a chore that we had to do together. Neither of us wanted to more than the other and some terrific fights broke out as to who was doing the most work and who was sandbagging it. When the fighting got too loud or ended in fisticuffs, Dad would have to intervene. When he was finished giving both of us a hearty a**chewing he would say “#!*&%#!! You’re too worried about who is going to more and who is going to get the most credit!”
I would like to say it stopped us from fighting, but that would be as likely as a snowstorm in July. But I remembered those words and found that a lot more gets done when working for a common goal if no one keeps score and no one cares who gets the credit.
When I was 18 and agonizing over my choices as to which college to attend, I knew that I was going to have to take out loans to finance my education. I was bemoaning the cost of one of the better schools and told Dad that I was worried about paying back all those school loans. “I didn’t know education was so darn expensive!” Dad barely lifted his eyes from his reading and said: “Not as expensive as ignorance.” I ended up taking out the loans, went with my first choice and never regretted it.
I remember whenever Dad worried about his son get a bit big for his britches and feeling pretty full of himself he would say: “Whenever you’re feeling indispensable or too damn important, stick your finger in a bucket of water and when you pull it see how big a hole you leave.”
I remember another time while I was still pretty young and volatile, that I complained to Dad because I was upset because another person got a promotion that I wanted for myself. I was complaining about how “lucky” the other guy was. The simple reply that I got from that was: “It sure is amazing that the guys that the guy who works the hardest have the most good luck,.” After I had cooled down suitable, I had to admit that the person who edged me out really did do the most work.
“Never make a decision with your fists clenched.” Hey, that one was pretty easy. Don’t make a decision when you’re angry. “You don’t ask a barber if you need a haircut,” was something he once told me when I had overpaid for a vacuum cleaner from a door to door salesman. The barbershop had nothing to do with vacuum cleaners but I figured it out and never bought a big item without sleeping on it first.
When I started dating and he was well acquainted with the wiles of the female sex and I was just coming into my boiling pot of hormones stage, he said: “When you are the in the heat of the moment, the body part that should be doing thinking isn’t the one getting the most blood.” Now that may not be worthy or Aristotle or Socrates, but it must have made an impression on me because I remembered it and used on my own son.
I guess what is most gratifying to me that even though I no longer have this man’s physical presence in my life, I find that he still reveals himself to me in the form of remembrance and those little “nuggets of wisdom.”