OPINION COLUMNS

Parents say the darndest things

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, June 24, 2017
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It’s happened. I’ve officially become my parents.

I’ve tried to fight it as I’ve warped toward middle age. I even abandoned cargo shorts to slow the pace thanks to the ridicule of the Millennials in the office, but it’s not helped.

Richard Greene

I find myself constantly adding the colorful and head-scratching sayings my parents used in my youth to my daily dialogue.

Most of these sayings are not original or up-to-date.

An example that comes to mind is one of dad’s go-to lines, “I don’t care if you’re John D. Rockefeller…” He of course was referencing the Standard Oil magnate considered the richest person in modern history. I believe what dad meant was it doesn’t matter who you are.

Dad never really considered his audience when using the line. He even threw it in when going over the principles of bunting with fifth-graders at a baseball practice some 52 years after Rockefeller died. I just figured he was some great Yankee of my dad’s youth that was good at bunting. It wasn’t until I got to college that I understood who he was referring to.

Another dated reference was “more than Carter’s got pills.” As a kid, I didn’t know if this was about Jimmy Carter, the president when I was born, or perhaps former major league slugger Joe Carter. Until looking it up online for this column, I still didn’t know. It was actually a reference to liver pills distributed by Carter Products in the late 19th century. Dad never threw in “liver pills” when issuing the line, but my father-in-law does.

Because I was far from graceful and managed to destroy more than a few toys in my youth, my mother had a few regular ways to describe me. One common phrase was “you’re like a bull in a china closet.” I assume this meant that I was not careful and moved about haphazardly.

As you can guess, mom also told me not to assume anything because… Well, you can spell it out.

The other common phrase mom told me was “you could tear the horns off a jackass.” As a small child, I just figured donkeys had horns. I later realized they didn’t and what she really meant was that I could tear up anything, even something that didn’t exist.

Using that phrase in the office has produced a few puzzled looks.

Another go-to of mother’s when pointing out what she thought was an unwise purchase by a neighbor or relative was “they have more dollars than sense.” As a journalist, this has never really been an issue for me.

The one saying I find myself using the most is “six of one, half a dozen of the other.” My wife hates it when I say this and asks what I mean. It’s just a complicated way of saying it really doesn’t matter which one.

Though these sayings were confusing as a child, as an adult I feel they capture the unique and colorful personalities of my parents that are so endearing. And maybe becoming more like them is not such a bad thing – minus the fashion.

Richard Greene is the sports editor for the Messenger.

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