[Stuff]mydadsays, Father’s Day Edition

Looking forward to Father’s Day next Sunday, I’ve been thinking about my father who has been gone for two decades now, but whose influence I still feel in my life every day. I’ve tried to identify exactly why and how his character continues to effect me, and in that process I’ve recalled some of the things I remember him saying to me or others. I’ve decided to share some of those things here, and I invite you to share some of the things you remember about your dad in the comments. It can be wise, spiritual, sad, happy, endearing or funny.

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“Some people bring happiness wherever they go. Others bring happiness whenever they go.”

“You should always speak well of your enemies. After all, you made them.”

Sometime when a reckless driver passed us in the car, dad would say “Speed on, brother. Hell ain’t half-full yet.”

This is an excerpt from a letter to a missionary son, in his own handwriting:

“Your letter arrived right on time and all the news was welcome. Good to know your work is going along and that you are hanging in there tough…….I’ll get your money on its way next Friday. Glad to hear your suit is holding out, and your shoes, too. With Winter coming on, be sure to get what you need to stay warm and healthy, and if you need more of the green stuff, let me know. Take care of yourself and your companion, and keep working hard. We are so proud of you and love you. Love, Dad.”

When I was in tenth grade I was in A.P. Language Arts, and so I knew that the poetry of Edgar A. Guest was very outré and gauche, and cool people would not be caught dead reciting it in public. So you can imagine my mortification when dad was talking in church and began to recite “I’d Rather See a Sermon Than Hear One Any day”.

I’d rather see a sermon
than hear one any day.
I’d rather someone walk with me
than merely tell the way.

And on and on and on and on
da duh da duh da duh………

For I might misunderstand
all the lectures that you give.
But there’s no misunderstanding
how you act and how you live.

Looking back now, I am embarrassed at myself for being embarrassed. Dad’s preference for actions over words — for being a doer rather than a hearer — is perhaps the richest legacy he gave his children.

Dad’s taste in poetry doggerel ran all the way from Edgar A. Guest to Ogden Nash. When I was very little, I can remember him repeating this to all us kids when we were going somewhere in the car, and we thought it was uproariously funny. I also remember that my mother gave him The Look, with raised eyebrows, but then she laughed, too. And I am proud to report that this part of our family heritage has now also been passed along to the next generation.

A marvelous bird is the pelican.
His bill can hold more than his bellican.
He can take in his beak
enough food for a week,
and I don’t see how in the hellican.

So what about you? What kind of stuff does your dad say? Please share in the comments!

Comments

  1. Survivor says:

    I would just like to remind that not everyone has/had a good father, and that Father’s Day can be excruciating. Having most of the Bloggernacle decide to make it an entire week has felt like a huge shock to my system. I am happy for all of you who have great, wonderful, closest thing to perfect dads, and wonderful stories to share.

    I’m just asking you, especially on Sunday, to notice who isn’t there, who couldn’t make themselves come to listen about perfection, and just check in with them. Make sure they are okay, and if they aren’t okay, maybe give them some time and space to talk about the ba$tard they got for a father. There’s a reason why there is a jump in suicides by incest and abuse survivors around Father’s Day. Having spent all night with someone, listening to them spill out all there pain, then coming up with a safety plan, only to have the safety plan fail, is devastating to me personally, and more devastating to the teenage son she left behind. Her note simply said, “I can’t go on feeling like the only freak show without a father to love and adore.” I later found out that an hour before she wrote the note, someone called and asked her to come to a youth fireside (one of the speakers was sick) and talk about how her father had influenced her life for good.

    For her, for me, think about leaving the ninety and nine, and search out the One who is hurting.

  2. Great memories that you have, Mark.

    My siblings and I have a very complicated relationship with my father. Making the transition to adulthood, and seeing him through those eyes has been a grace-granting experience across the board. My father had a terrible and insanely abusive childhood, his mother signed him up for Vietnam before he was even 18, and he got married too young and had too many kids for his circumstances.

    tl;dr my father was not the best father at all. I can’t even bring myself to say he was a good father. There was some minor physical abuse when we were growing up, and massive verbal abuse but because of him our family broke a cycle of abuse in 2 generations and that needs to be respected at least on some level.

    My father will be 60 next month and for some reason this has brought his mortality into sharper focus for me. I’m trying my best now to soak up all the memories I can because then it will be too late.

    As far as things that my father has said, he isn’t real big on passing down wisdom. We are more of a fun-loving family and that is how we relate to each other. The humor is situational, so I won’t bore anyone with it. I’ll just share the two greatest things about my dad instead.

    When we were growing up, every Valentine’s Day my father would buy my mother a big box of chocolates and the 4 girls each little boxes (he actually still does this). It always made us feel really special and it is a tradition I would like for my own children. Secondly, my father has an insane work ethic–he frequently worked 2 and even sometimes 3 jobs for us to have food on the table and it is one of the things I respect most about him.

    I look a great deal (read:almost exactly) like my father and as I get older I find myself developing a lot of his quirky mannerisms. If I can ever turn out to be half the person he is then I will be pretty well-blessed indeed. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

  3. Thank you for this Mark. Although I, too, have had a somewhat difficult relationship with my father, your post reminded me of some of the fun that we had together. Mostly, your post evoked memories of how he smelt: tobacco and peppermint.

  4. When I was 9 or 10, I went with my dad to a very tiny airport in southern New Mexico to help him wash his sailplane. He was using soapy wet chamois cloths to do it. He tossed one on the ground and I took my sandals off and stepped on it. I liked the slimy feel so much that I kept dancing around on it. Then my dad gave me this gem of advice: “Careful. That thing’s slipperier than snot on a doorknob.” Thanks for the priceless mental image, dad.

  5. My father was a tragic soul and largely a failure as a father. On father’s day I mourn his lost life and honor the people who served in his place. (Of course I was not abused, which may make that change of focus easier.) I’m sorry for Survivor’s struggles and delighted for Mark’s (and others’) fond memories of their fathers.

  6. Wonderful image, a teenager cringing at his father’s choice of poetry. My oldest son is in that stage right now, although usually in regards to Robert Frost rather than Edgar Guest, and it’s kind of amusing. Perhaps teenagers feel in their souls that love and poetry are the province of the young.

    A couple of bits from my dad: in response to the statement, “I have a question,” my dad will always reply, “We all have questions,” and in response to complaints about fairness: “Life’s tough and then you die.”

  7. Asphodel says:

    Probably the most significant saying from my dad (which I think he got from his dad): You don’t have to want to. As in:
    “Let’s go–we’re raking leaves for Mrs. X.”
    “But I don’t waaaaaaaant to.”
    “You don’t have to want to.”
    I can’t say that always spurred me to action (especially as a teen), but over time it’s been instilled in me–there is good that needs to be done, whether or not you actually want to do it at the time.

  8. Angela C says:

    I remember similarly cringing because my dad thought those hats with beer cans in them and straws that go down to your mouth were absolutely hilarious. When I was about eleven, my dad sat me down and said “it’s time you learned to calculate a square root long hand.” When I was thirteen, he sat me down and said, “It’s time you understood how a nuclear reactor works.”

  9. Survivor, I’m so sorry for your pain. I feel the same way about Mother’s Day. I have been coming to terms slowly with it and attempting to love my mother again who is now old and slightly senile and much easier to get along with but it is so hard to forgive someone who likes to rewrite your history to suit her needs.

    Blessings.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    In the cringeworthy department, my dad thought of his garment top as just a tshirt. On a hot and humid summer evening he would walk around outside without wearing a shirt over his garment. The neighbors were all non-LDS (this was in Illinois), and I’m sure they perceived it the same way. But my Mormon friends new better, and I was mortified by the practice.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    *knew

  12. I came in late one night, (around three o’clock in the morning.) I was seventeen. I could see the lights on in the kitchen. I almost turned around and left for, what I thought would be for good. I knew I would have to come back sometime to get my stuff, and would have to face my dad at some point. I decided to go ahead and face him then and there. My dad had a bad temper and did not mind hitting someone.

    When I entered the house, the first thing my dad said was, “I am not mad.” The was the best thing he ever said to me. He then gave me the best advice he knew how to give. His dad gave this to him.

    He then told me it is okay to chase women, it is okay to drink and it is okay to gamble, just never mix any of them together. As in, it is okay to chase women, just never drink or gamble while you do. As I said, that was the best he knew, how to help advise me. I did not then, but I learned how to love him for doing the very best he could with what he had to work with. He never finished high school. Was not a dumb man, just uneducated. And, he was a very honest man.

  13. I’m blessed to have a really great father. Two quotes he hit me with that really stuck:
    1) “Never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity” (or incompetence, or ignorance, etc.) – we’ve all heard this one, but I first heard it from him, and it taught me that people rarely intend the harm they cause, so give them a break;
    2) “There’s enough suffering in the world already without you having to contribute to it” – he said it gently, but I’d been teasing my sister, and I don’t know if I’ve ever been so motivated to change.

  14. I’m kind of like smb, and have vacancies where others have memories with their father. Mercifully, there have been very good men who stepped in as surrogates and showed me kindness and fatherly love. I’m tremendously grateful.

  15. Peter LLC says:

    Fathers day was last Sunday on the continent. The second counsellor got up to announce the last speaker (who addressed the importance of the scrament) and closing song and tacked on a “by the way, happy fathers day.” And that was it.

  16. My dad died 19 years ago when he was only 51, but I think of him everyday. He wrote a book called “Science, Religion, and Mormon Cosmology,” and in his dedication to my sisters and me he wrote:

    “As you continue to study and reflect on matters intellectual, consider this book as an example that the life of the mind and heart of the spirit are complimentary. To be sure, honest and open inquiry is challenging; at times your conclusions may even be disturbing. But the Gospel requires that you always ask demanding questions of yourself. Remember, however, that the answers you obtain will nearly always be tentative. Therefore, never stop asking good questions.”

    These words influence my thinking everyday, especially as I age.

    Happy Fathers Day to all you great BCC dads out there!

  17. Being as all my kids are now adults, I’ll tell one on myself, that all my kids remember well. Driving in our VW Vanagon on the way to a vacation, we had stopped at Afton (or Thayne?) Wyoming at the cheese factory there, and bought some cheese curds. A few miles down the road, while the curds were being passed around in the back seats, I said “Blow some of those chunks my way.” They’ve never forgotten that.

    While I was fortunate to have a great Dad, and also a wonderful grandfather and father in law, I have known enough folks for whom these memories of parents are not all positive, and my heart goes out to Survivor and others whose experiences were bad. A good friend from college who reactivated in the church after marriage admitted that she could not call God “Father in Heaven” as her relationship to her own father brought only painful memories. And we should all take SMB and Tracy’s comments to heart, and look for opportunities to provide proxy parental help where we see a deficit.

  18. Antonio Parr says:

    Survivor:

    Heartfelt condolences for your childhood experiences.

    I think one of the purposes of Father’s Day celebrations is to inspire young men to want to be the kind of loving, caring, wise fathers that you and others never had, in order to increase the possibility that, in the future, there will be fewer children who experience the kind of heartache to which you allude.

    Peace of Christ to you.

  19. The best thing my father gave me in the way of philosophy was that it’s okay to see things differently and that people who disagree about things still can love and respect each other. I heard him say often, “I don’t know if I would say that,” whenever he disagreed with what someone said – and I heard it fairly regularly in church.

    He also said, more than once, that if he wanted to leave the Church over being offended and/or hurt, he could have left hundreds of times. He said:

    “This isn’t their Church; it’s my church.”

  20. My dad also was the best example I know of laying down his life for the woman he loved. I wrote about that when my niece died in 2007, and it is the best tribute I can give him on Father’s Day. His life was and is nothing like what he thought it would be 50 years ago – but he has come to peace with it, and I have learned more than I can articulate from his wiling sacrifice for my mom.

    “My Niece Died This Morning” (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2007/10/my-niece-died-this-morning.html)

  21. wreddyornot says:

    My father taught me, in word and in deed, to straighten and recycle used nails, both in the narrowest and in the broadest ways possible.

  22. Interestingly, wreddyornot, my father taught me the same thing about nails, but was a bit more circumspect regarding a related (human) ethos (unfortunately he was a Republican). He also taught me that a man should never trust a little woman, but that there’s nothing wrong with marrying for money – inspired counsel that has served me splendidly.

  23. Here’s the only “sex talk” my dad ever gave me. While driving me to soccer practice one unremarkable day, he kind of leans over and awkwardly blurts out:

    “Son, women aren’t pieces of meat you can get your hooks into.”

    At that point, I’d never even kissed a girl.

  24. Angela C says:

    Another frequent admonishment from my dad was something he would say whenever we were getting frustrated with something, like trying to open a jar or an ice cream carton. He would say, “You have to be smarter than the [insert inanimate object].” It sounds silly, but it really has influenced me to see frustrating things as puzzles to be solved, not just objects of frustration. It’s probably an attitude that has kept me in the church these many years.

  25. Sharee Hughes says:

    My father was an uneducated man who listened to talk radio all the time so thought he knew everything (he didn’t) and could argue until he was blue in the face. However, I remember my childhood fondly, with family fishing trips and picnics on the beach. I don’t remember him ever sharing anything I would consider “sayings from my dad” but he was always wiling to give me a blessing when I wanted one and would have my mother join in on the blessing.

  26. Violet Rogers says:

    It’s good to think of my father. He was not perfect but was a great inspiration to me. He showed by his actions he loved his family. He always wanted the best for us and was proud of any of our accomplishments. When I was little, he would take me and my friends to the circus every year. He loved Christmas and would always make it special for us. He loved God and wasn’t afraid to show it. He had great faith and I saw miracles in our family. It was my privilege to take care of him for his final years. He’s been gone for almost 3 years now and I can’t wait to see him again some day.

  27. Survivor says:

    Thank you to everyone who expressed such kindness to me. ANON, I am sorry that you have similar struggles with Mother’s Day, and proud of you for knowing when you need to take care of yourself.

    The stories of other imperfect fathers has been comforting for me, (not because I wish bad parenting on anyone) but because we don’t usually have forums where believing Mormons can admit to that reality. I know that this is not only about me, but in a week that has become increasingly difficult medically and emotionally.

    My biggest hope is that each incest or abuse survivor, for whom Father’s Day is a nightmare, will have several people who notice their needs and reaches out in a meaningful way.

  28. After commiserating with me over life’s sorrows–”You have to laugh to stop from crying.”
    To my brothers–”You’ll be a man before your mother.”
    After waking up from a nap with drool down the side of his face–”I almost fell asleep.”
    Whenever someone said some false rumor about anyone in our family, I wanted him to kick their hiney but he always went all Gandhi on us.–”Live such a life that no one will believe it if they know you.”
    My personal favorite and his most spoken phrase–”Onward & Upward!” Several years ago he moved ‘onward and upward’ and I miss him everyday…

    I was blessed to have a fabulous father who has compensated somewhat for having a whacked-out mom. I have never been able to relate to my friends saying “My mom’s my best friend and we can talk about anything and go shopping together.”, etc. On the flip side, I could never understand the majority of my friends who were scared of their dads or felt he was distant and not relatable. Our family was backwards it seems. I shudder to think of how my siblings and I would be without his kind voice of sanity & love.

    To the author, I wouldn’t be too hard on your dad & his poetry. My dad used to tell me how amazed he was at his kids who knew the scriptures far better than he did. He said when he was growing up, talks in church were only stories and poems and scriptures were just read in the home. Not until our era ( I was a kid in the ’70s & teen in the ’80s) did he say that using the scriptures in talks became the norm. Sure, they did it in General Conference but that wasn’t the practice locally. He would often quote poems to us and when I came across the book ’101 Famous Poems’ I recognized parts from about 100 of them that my dad used to quote quite regularly.

  29. Slight thread jack. Everyone in our church area–Midwestern U.S.–is talking about writing a life lesson to your children in 25 words or less (from some talk in conference where a P.O.W. had only those many words to write home to his family with.) I would say that every time I try to write my own 25 word manifesto, as I term it, every single word is some thing that my dad has told me.

  30. Some things should not be likened to ourselves as one-size-fits-all programs. Great things too broadly applied morph into trite, common practices that lose much of their original power.

  31. Leonard R says:

    Corrina:

    I saw your note and smiled. I bought your father’s book when I was 17 and loved it. The next year I started at BYU, where I met the woman I would marry four years later. And as it turned out, one of the friends she made that year was your sister. It was the first time I had met someone connected so closely to an author of a book that was meaningful to me. And I was saddened to learn that he had passed away not long before that. While I only have your father’s book and your sister to go on, you have a remarkable family.

    On the overall message of this post, my parents passed away when I was 22. But I was blessed with the best parents one could hope to have. Stuff my dad said includes.

    “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

    “Birds eat worms. It’s not fair, its just the way it is.”

    “I recommend we treat that suggestion with benign neglect.”

    and most importantly

    “Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.”

    None original to him, I’m sure (though maybe the bird one was…). But he was a happy soul who imparted a lot of wisdom. Most of it while working in the bee field. (He was a high school teacher and raised bees on the side.)

    As a teacher, the most memorable thing I remember was,

    “Some of you will do well in the class. Others will really struggle. Do your best, but remember that how well you do is NOT an indicator of your value as a human being.” (He taught physics and calculus.)

  32. As I left on my mission, my father told me, “You can do anything for 18 months.” Since then, while going through something difficult, I’ve often told myself, “I can do anything for (x amount of time)”, whether it was a few hours or a couple of years.

  33. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    When I left on my mission my father said “I love you, and I don’t want to see you again for 2 years.”

  34. Mark, thanks for the post. It sounds like you have a great father. Thanks for sharing some bits of him with us.

    Ray, thanks for linking to your T&S post about your father. It’s one of my very favorite posts ever written in the bloggernacle!

  35. Central Standard says:

    Besides ‘please pass the ketsup’, I remember having two discussions with my father. Before leaving for the senior prom, he said “Keep you nose clean.” The other time was when I told him I was going on a mission instead of going to college, He thought I was going to avoid the Viet Nam draft and would have preferred that I get in a year at junior college first.

  36. My childhood memories of my father are of a busy pharmacist/farmer for whom work was a sacrament. He was the bishop and had eight kids. When the farm failed and my mother suggested bankruptcy he replied “You might as well cut my balls off!” That’s the kind of guy he was. He’s much more mellow now, his famous temper almost gone. I take him out to lunch once a week and he tells me how the garden is doing and reminisces about his own parents.

  37. Corrina says:

    @ Leonard R: It’s actually me–your dw’s old roommate–I just don’t use my first name online. ;) I’m so excited to see you here on BCC! :) I remember giving you the stamp of approval when you told me you read his book. I also remember the passing of your parents, and it saddened me deeply–to lose both at the same time, nothing much harder than that. It’s especially hard as our own children have come along and thinking how much they would have been great grandparents, no?

    Your dad’s comments cracked me up! I will definitely use the bird/worm one on my kids. And the “benign neglect”–simply awesome. Hope we can reconnect in person in the next decade– hopefully sooner!

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