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Kent Bernhardt: Things my Dad said

Let’s face it. The older we get, the more we look and sound like our parents.

Over the years, I have developed the same sayings, mannerisms, and piercing glares I observed growing up fifty years ago. It will only get worse as I age.

We vowed as teens we would never act like this. We were going to be the cool parents, and would never say things like “When I was your age, I had to milk an entire herd of cows before walking ten miles in the snow to school each morning, even in the summer.”

While I’ve never used those exact words, I have caught myself on occasion uttering stories of similar hardships.

“Cable! Ha! We never had cable when I was a kid! We had to get by with only five channels! Four of them you could barely see! And they were all in black and white!”

I can still hear my father’s admonitions ringing in my head. They haunt me with their truth. And the sad part is I still need to hear them, because I still need the lessons he tried to teach me.

“You can pick up one piece of paper, or you can pick up fifty.”

I must’ve heard that one from dad a hundred times as I was pushing the lawn mower over our sprawling yard and would suddenly spy a lone piece of paper or cardboard in my direct path.

The wise angel sitting on my left shoulder would gently nudge me to pause, lean over, and retrieve the errant piece of paper before proceeding, therefore sparing myself the larger task of gathering the remnants of my laziness.

The reckless devil on my right shoulder convinced me far too often that the paper would miraculously dance along the top of the mower blade and fly unharmed into a portion of the yard already trimmed.

The devil won that argument far too often. My father would just shake his head as I paid the price for my poor judgement.

These days, I fight the same battle. Just last Saturday, a small portion of a pizza box glared at me from a section of lawn in the direct path of my mower.

This time, I counted only forty-two pieces I had to retrieve.

“You can pay them now, or pay them later.”

That was dad’s warning about what you would face if you didn’t keep your car’s oil changed regularly. You could pay a small amount of money now to have the auto serviced, or you could pay a large amount later for a new engine.

Again, his words ring true. To this day, I still use my own variation when talking to my daughter by phone.

“I love you – and change your oil.” You see, I replaced her engine once for a different reason, but it was still painful.

Then, there’s the one I heard most often: “You kids don’t realize that money doesn’t grow on trees.”

I did indeed realize that fact, but it didn’t stop me from fantasizing about it. Imagine the anticipation of spring with a yard full of currency-producing foliage. My only fear would be a sudden storm with lightning and high winds – or winter.

Again, I used my own version of that timeless classic when facing my daughter’s request for funds:

“Dad, I found a prom dress I like. It’s only three hundred and fifty dollars.”

“Fine. And which of the money trees in the back yard do you suggest I harvest to pay for that? Oh look, they’re all barren! Must’ve had a storm last night.”

Though dad passed away last year, I continue to enjoy my memories of his pearls of wisdom.

For drivers who are going too slowly: “It’s the pedal on the right!”

And for the merchant who refused to cut him a deal on a new appliance: “He’s so tight, he squeaks when he walks.”

There are many more floating around in my head, reminding me I still have a lot to learn.

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