Both of my parents died within 2 months of each other. So, I wanted to honor them by telling you what they taught me. Some of these lessons are great. Some are awful. But, they are what they are.
And I wanted to honor ME by being honest about words spoken that haunt me still. Maybe, although unlikely, openly acknowledging these things will help me bury the pain with my parents.
Dad Taught Me: I never said these were great lessons!
- Hard work is the essence of integrity.
- Be on time or go home (my brothers and I all have a compulsive need to arrive early).
- Be cheap so you can afford nursing care and still leave some money behind.
- Turn your deaf ear towards your wife and life goes better. Seriously, my father was deaf in his left ear all of his adult life. He sat on the mom’s right side so his deaf ear faced her direction.
- Willpower is key. My dad once decided to lose weight, so he ate green beans and only green beans for weeks. (I didn’t say he taught me healthy eating).
- The more you cry, the more you’re gonna get. Tears are for pussies. (I still HATE to cry. It kind of scares me.)
- Do for other people so they think highly of you.
- Don’t let your spouse keep you from doing the things you want. (My dad wanted so much to travel with Dave and me but he let my mom keep him tucked into a chair.)
- As long as it’s not illegal, let your kids choose their careers. (My dad refused to pay for school if I got a degree in education b/c he didn’t want me to be a teacher. I studied business, got a job and ten years later paid to get a degree in Education which I thoroughly loved and was gifted at.)
- Be careful what you say to your children because it hurts.
Mom Taught Me: I never said these were great lessons!
- Don’t say you’re going to do something and then don’t do it. (Note: she taught me this by saying she was going to do something and then NOT doing it (over & over again) – which drove me crazy).
- Do not let technology get ahead of you. My mother died not knowing how to use a cell phone or even the remote control. Neither of my parents had ever used an ATM card and my mom had no idea how to turn on the computer.
- Don’t complain b/c it pisses people off (another lesson learned b/c she did the opposite.)
- Cleanliness is more important than anything.
- Be seen and not heard. I must have driven her crazy. My older brothers are the quiet type. And then – me!
- Eat right and exercise so that if your health goes to shit, you can at least know you did all you could. (My mom so DID NOT do this.)
- Feed your need for “stuff” by going to Kohl’s one day and buying. Then, going back the next day to return. I didn’t learn this very well. First, I hate to go to any store and once I buy it I keep it.
- Buy a new comforter every few weeks just because. Kudos to my brother for being willing to take her on these excursions.
- Be submissive to your husband – or at least let him think you’re submissive. (My husband edits my blogs. I promise you he is laughing at this one.)
- It’s okay to have a favorite child and for everyone to know it (needless to say, that was not me).
- Let your spouse have hobbies and adventures without you if you don’t want to participate. Another one learned b/c she did the opposite.
- Based on what I found while packing their house: Buy as many shirts and pajamas and underwear as your budget will allow. (No joke, she had a least fifty shirts – many never worn – and three drawers of nothing but pajamas. My dad had enough underwear for every day. Goodwill was thrilled.)
- Be careful what you say to your children because it hurts.
Time for a Burial
- The first word I ever learned to spell was obnoxious (before I learned how to spell June or my last name).
- “Every time I’m proud of you, you turn around and let me down.”
- “You’re just like your aunt.” …. Five sentences later … “Your aunt is a bitch.”
- “You always manage to disappoint.”
- “You’re not even smart enough to work a vacuum cleaner” (I still hate to vacuum).
- Do unto others so they like you.
- Boundaries? What are boundaries?
- Don’t pick your hand up when you write cursive. (He taught me this in a very unusual manner – he stood over me and every time I picked up my hand, he smacked me). Similarly, know those states and capitals.
Many of the lessons I learned from my parents serve me well. All of us kids work hard and live up to our responsibilities. We all keep clean homes and take care of our belongings. I, at least, go on adventures with and without my husband. While I’m not cheap, I do have financial security. But, my dear children, I plan to spend my money on travel so don’t expect a big inheritance!
A Fond Memory
Why my brain likes to cough up the painful memories, I don’t know. There are some great memories too. For example:
In ninth grade, I was taking Algebra 1 with a teacher named Coach Grey. I was doing poorly and believed it was because I wasn’t an athlete. Coach Grey only answered questions if athletes asked. Non-athletes were red-headed step-children at best.
When I brought my first progress report home, I was scared to death b/c my parents took grades VERY SERIOUSLY. And excuses were not welcome. But, my dad believed I was good with numbers (as he was good with numbers) so he listened.
The next day, unbeknownst to me, he took off work (which he NEVER did) and went to the school. By the day’s end, I was in Mr. Stewart’s math class, an advanced class. I made straight A’s and went on to teach algebra to high school students. I overheard the counselor say, “Don’t mess with her Dad because when he wants it, he gets it.”
One more example:
When my first book came out, I suggested my parents not bother to buy it or read it. I didn’t want to hear that they hated it so it was safer that way. Well, my mom read it and said, “There were too many words on the page.” My dad didn’t say much. But when I went to clean out their house, I discovered they had bought ten copies.
I’m sure there are a lot more lessons in my fifty-four years with them. They’ll crop up as I do my version of grieving. But, today, sitting in the sun and enjoying my life, these are the lessons that shaped my life for the good and the bad.