What He Said by
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Charles B. Steenburg

While he never said it so many words, Dad believed that the best wisdom is wisdom passed on to us by others.  As I grow older I appreciate more the inherent wisdom of that perspective.  Not that Dad was not himself a wise man.  But sometimes, it seems, one of the things that father knows best is that others know best.

"Do as you might have" . . . But the aunt in question rendered this simply as doozha mighta.

Some memorable instances were received family wisdom.  One or another aunt or great aunt.  No doubt he mentioned them by name but I do not remember:

“Do as you might have”.  The import: in many situations what you might do or not do is unlikely to make any difference at all, so do as you might have (done on your own.)  But the aunt in question rendered this simply as “Doozha mighta.”

“If you have to f*art and you’re sitting on an upholstered chair or cushion raise up so the smell doesn’t linger.”  If you think this actually works I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.

“If you are hungry and you have a dime in your pocket do not stint your stomach.”

Homespun wisdom at its finest, methinks.

But Dad’s all time favorite wisdom was from the prose poem Desiderata.  He could and did recite it at length from time to time with a high degree of accuracy.  But two passages stand out:

“Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.”   How true, especially these days.

“Be gentle with yourself.  You are a child of the universe.”  He oftentimes would omit the important predicate of the verse, “Beyond a wholesome discipline.” But harmless error.  The kernel of the wisdom is intact.

Dad died in 2004.  I miss him still.

Profile photo of Tom Steenburg Tom Steenburg
Retired attorney and investment management executive. I believe in life, liberty with accountability and the relentless pursuit of whimsy.


Characterizations: funny, well written

Comments

  1. Khati Hendry says:

    Thanks for passing on the passed-on wisdom! The doozha mighta was new to me, as was the f*rt advice—I’ll take it under consideration. I do like the reminder to be gentle on oneself, along with the rest of the Desiderata, and can see that his sharing it with you took hold.

  2. Marian says:

    Very nice story about wisdom, even though not strictly original, passed along from your father. I can tell from the photo that he was both sensitive and wise.

  3. Thanx for your story Tom and for your father’s wise words to “be gentle with yourself” with or without the wholesome discipline!

    I try to remember as I muddle through that our parents – and we as parents – did the best we could!

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    Thanks for passing along the “passed on” wisdom. Some good nuggets there, particularly from the Desiderata (as you noted). As Khati already remarked, being gentle on oneself can be hard to remember, but is always good advice! Thanks for reminding me.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    Love your father’s homespun wisdom. My favorites: “Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.” And, “Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe.” We sure need this wisdom these days.

  6. Suzy says:

    Thanks for all this family wisdom, Tom. I’m still trying to figure out what “do as you might have” actually means. You should do in the future what you might have done in the past? Isn’t it too late by then? I agree with everyone else who picked “be gentle with yourself” as a particularly good bit of advice to follow.

  7. I’ve been having a hard time remembering specific things my dad told me by way of advice or wise sayings (as distinct from teaching by example). Your essay full of fond remembrances has stimulated my own recollections., For that I thank you immensely.

    • You’re welcome Dale, and I hope you’ll add your recollections to this thread. I, too, initially thought I had nothing to offer but then I realize that it probably was because my dad’s sayings were so ingrained that they had been internalized. Good luck!

  8. Susan Bennet says:

    After hitting paragraph four I am writing this from my fainting couch. A conundrum: if I laugh at this, am I a Lady? If I stifle laughter, am I a Prude? Perhaps they are one and the same. While I am mulling this over, my L/P self is touched by your story and wishes you a Father’s Day ever filled with loving memories of your dad.

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