It ain’t easy being a parent, and you do the best you can with what you got. I wasn’t the brightest kid in the litter, and my dad tried to teach me well. I thought some of his methods were a little goofy, just as I think my kids think I’m goofy too.
In his own way, my father tried to teach me and my brothers about how to look out for our own best interests, and to eat right, and to exercise. But his teaching method was to speak in the form of exaggerated maxims. They can be confusing, but they were memorable.
One day he saw me putting chocolate syrup on ice cream, and I buried it in so much Hershey’s that you had no idea there was even ice cream underneath. This led to maxim #1:
- If you put enough chocolate on dog poop, you’d probably eat it.
This was mostly meant to discourage my use of chocolate syrup, as opposed to helping me find a way to eat dog poop. I know this because he’d say the same thing when he saw me put chocolate in my milk.
What he didn’t know is that I put Hershey’s chocolate syrup in my chocolate milk, and then stirred in a scoop Nestle’s Quick. How I miss those days.
My brothers and I drank a lot of soda pop. Coke when we could get it, but usually Faygo or whatever was in the house. If we weren’t drinking milk with chocolate syrup in it, then we were pretty much drinking pop. This led to maxim #2:
- If you soaked baloney in soda pop, the baloney would dissolve.
He was convinced that the acidity in pop would eat flesh like one of those amoeba bacteria things that destroys your face and brain at the same time.
We tested that theory one summer afternoon, and poured some Coke over a slice of baloney in a bowl. We left it there all day while we watched game shows in the morning, and old movies in the afternoon. Around three o’clock, we checked, and the baloney was intact.
In a related experiment, if you put a slice of coke-soaked baloney between two pieces of rye bread, you have yourself a pretty tastey sandwich.
As kids, we spent a lot of time sitting around watching television. I was not a physically fit kid. I was a chubby, but happy kid. There was always a chocolate milk mustache on my lip, and pop stains on my shirt. This led to maxim #3:
- Everybody should be able to do a chin-up to save your own life.
He emphasized that life-saving part in an attempt to motivate me to get up from the couch, but it didn’t work. I couldn’t imagine the scenario involving a chin up. I mean, the television was there on the floor, and the refrigerator was right in front of me.
So he installed a chin-up bar in the kitchen doorway. I couldn’t go to the refrigerater for a slice of baloney without first passing beneath the chin-up bar. Every time he went by, he’d grab the bar and do a chin up, and say, “Look, kid, just do one.”
But I couldn’t even hang on the bar for one second. Not a second.
I was the youngest in the family — I was the baby — the CRY baby. Anyone touched me, I pretty much cried until my mother came to my rescue — with chocolate syrup and ice cream.
My brothers would punch me just to see me cry, and I would tell him that it hurt. This led to maxim #4:
- Anyone should be able to hold their hand in a flame for five seconds.
I think that one was really an expression of the frustration he felt being a fit, athletic man with three slugs for sons. He was looking for something, anything to motivate us. We may have been stupid kids, but we weren’t crazy, so we never took him up on that dare.
He was right about a few things, though.
- A Chin-up or Two…
I finally began to exercise and move around once I grew up. Now I can do that chin-up, and a push-up to go with it. I hope I don’t have to save my life with it, but it’s nice to know I can call upon it if needed.
- Water water everywhere…
I don’t drink soda pop anymore. I finally realized that it is not a good choice, and can do things to your pH balance. It turned out he was essentially correct — neither the pop or the baloney were good things to eat. My only regret is that Coke has already come out with a baloney flavored soda. It’s being test marketed in Slovakia, where baloney was originally intended to ward off the evil spirits of Vlad the Impaler. Oh, and I guess Pepsi has a version called Garlic Baloney Light to compete with it.
- The chocolate thing
He was definitely correct that I put chocolate on too many things. There’s only so much sugar a body can take, and then it becomes toxic, like listening to C-Span for more than an hour.
But I realize the lesson he was teaching was not so much about chocolate, or even dog poop; instead, it was about caring enough about someone that you’ll try, or say anything to improve their life, even if their too dumb to take care of themself.
Which brings me to his most important, but unspoken, maxim:
If you say something funny to someone you love, and say it because you care about them, they may remember you long after you are gone from this world.