Parenting Personal Essays Relationships

Lessons from My Dad

My Dad and Me
My Dad and Me

My dad died yesterday. What to say? How to honor him? I spent a number of peaceful days before he died alone thinking about sixty years of complex history with him, and so many forgotten memories came to me. Those days last week were some of the best days I’ve spent in years. I list here some of the lessons I learned from a great man, Herbert Bartlett Merser, who lived a full life his way for eighty-six years.

Mack the Knife is the greatest song ever written.

“The difference between first and second, Christine, is winning and losing.”

There are people who can multiply four numbers times four other numbers in their heads. My dad (can you imagine?) was one of them.

If there is a lightning storm in Maine and you are five years old, if your dad pulls back the curtains to show you what lightning looks like, the lightning can’t strike you. Ever.

One unique man can pitch for the majors, go to Harvard University, race cars, and climb a difficult corporate ladder.

“Look at what people did for you, Christine, not at what they didn’t do for you.”

If you ask your dad for help with your homework, he might write out two additional pages of math problems to make sure you understand. Years later you will wonder if he did it to make sure you never asked for help again, or because he just wanted you to be the best you possibly could. Now that he is gone, I know it was the latter.

Golf is more than a game of athleticism. It’s a game of intelligence.

Spam (as in the kind that comes in a can) is a food group all its own.

If you are eleven years old and swimming for the Lake Erie Pepsi Cola Swim Team in your first meet, and there are thousands of people watching, you will hear, above them all, your father yelling for you to swim faster. And you will swim faster.

You can successfully be with one woman for forty-five years. Although she wasn’t my mom, she was the love of his life and he and she made it work. I never saw them fight.

“There is no reason to gossip, Christine. There are too many other things to do with your brain, and you are too smart to waste one single brain cell on things that have no purpose.”

When you are a few days away from the final journey to wherever, be sure to put your tie on to look your best. Always look your best.

I love you Dad.

5 replies on “Lessons from My Dad”

So sorry to hear of your Dad’s passing. Can tell how much you loved him from the story you tell. All good memories you will have for the rest of your days. He was a very good man.

Clearly all sorts of wonderful and poignant memories floated to the top this week.
You captured them eloquently.
What a lovely tribute to your Dad, Chris.
I smiled when I read it.
Thank you .

So beautifully written, Christine. Your father was one in a million and even now I have learned a couple of lessons from him. I am so sorry for your loss.


Christine – so sorry to hear of your loss – and so recently. My mother passed a year ago this month – and I had a similar experience with her of those last few weeks being especially poignant and healing for both of us. Blessings to you.

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