When I was growing up Daddy used to drive me crazy with his corny aphorisms for every situation.
We didn’t have the money to eat at the fancier restaurants such as Shoney’s–yes, we were indeed that poor. Mama and Daddy would occasionally take us through the McDonald’s drive-through where the odds of getting a plain hamburger for finicky me were pretty slim. About half the time my “plain” hamburger came with the icky mustard and ketchup abomination they slathered on those unsuspecting burgers!
Mama would say, “Wipe it off with your napkin.” And Daddy would chime in with, “Anna, you’ve got to take the sour with the sweet.” I didn’t want to take the sour with the sweet! I wanted a plain hamburger on a plain bun without the nauseating condiments that made me want to throw up.
But making do was my family’s mantra. Don’t make waves. Don’t ask questions.
Doctors always knew best–even if we went to the quack doctor in our poor side of town who diagnosed my torn cartilage as water on the knee. I walked around on that swollen knee for months before the former nurse across the street said, “You’d better get that looked at by a knee specialist I know.” The orthopedic doc suggested surgery right away. Voila! I could walk.
My mantra was making it better. Whatever “it” was, I wanted to read about it, learn about it, ask questions about it, organize it, devise a better system for it, put a bow on it, and for sure not have disgusting condiments all over it. Let’s say my parents and I were not always the most smooth dance partners for a childhood pas de trois.
Daddy however was one to rail against the elements. With grim resolve, he’d say, “I’ve gotta go down and stoke the furnace.” From the pile of coal in our backyard, he’d take a goodly amount of coal in a bucket down to the furnace in our dirt-walled basement. If he was successful, the registers that brought heat into our house would spew forth warmth. If he was not successful, we were cold.
I’ve often said it, Daddy would have made a good king. He would have been a magnanimous monarch of a well-off country if there was a tidy bureaucracy to look out for all the details of his duchy. Justice and integrity would have ruled the day. But Daddy was not mechanical, he certainly could not fix anything, and he was so methodical with everything he attempted that he was left in the dust by the cut-corners, beer-and-pizza, salt-of-the earth men of his time and place.
But Daddy had his values, his aphorism, his theories, and his truths. Some of them were spot on, some less so. I find now I trot out more than a few of Daddy’s sayings to put the punctuation mark on life’s ups and downs.
We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Jealousy. It’s jealousy. That’s the root of all evil.
This is dogwood winter, next we’ll have blackberry winter, and then whippoorwill winter.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Better late than never.
Beggars can’t be choosers.
You win some, you lose some.
You can’t beat a good team twice.
You can’t take it with you.
We don’t want to wear out our welcome.
Give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.
Live and learn.
It’s as slow as Christmas.
That’s a pig in a poke.
You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Money isn’t everything.
Little things mean a lot.
Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Practice makes perfect.
Two heads are better than one.
That’s the pot calling the kettle black.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Don’t go out with your head wet.
Get home before dark.
Did we turn the stove off?
Daddy was especially fond of asking about the stove being off–a sign of his obsessive-compulsive disorder, along with his taking an hour to shave. We used to have a hee-haw, my sister and me, shaking our heads about Daddy taking an hour to shave. Bless his soul. I miss him so.
My Daddy, Roy Rotha Allen, died a year ago on December 2, 2016. I think of him often. My husband Kurt and I enjoy quoting Daddy’s sayings to each other. I usually preface one of these wisdoms with “as Daddy used to say . . . ” Kurt calls them Daddy’s aphorisms, his Rotha-isms, or his Rophorisms.
Despite Daddy’s 10th-grade education, his mother dying when he was only 4 months old, and his being raised in a home full of neglect, alcoholism, and abuse, Daddy was the parent who taught me to laugh and live life with open-armed passion and joy. He taught me not to be afraid of living life to the fullest, to talk openly, to question, and to love without reserve. He taught me these things because I shared more than a bit of his genetic makeup, and I watched him live. He loved me without qualification and without trying to make renovations, as Mama tended to. He was proud of me and everything I accomplished. He was proud of my education and the jobs I earned that allowed me to make a difference in the world.
Mama gave me my energy, drive, and hardworking, never-say-die work ethic. But Daddy gave me the sweet love that sustained my soul during the times in life when I was in serious harm’s way. He LOVED me. And because he loved me, I knew in my bones how to love others. Loving myself and accepting myself with all my imperfections has been hard; I am my own worst critic. But Daddy saw only my shiny-faced good points, and he made me glad to be alive.
He still does. And as long as I live, he will always be with me. He is still my sweet, sweet, adorable, dearest Daddy.
//Anna ~ 11/30/2017