Dad’s sage advice


While growing up on Flamingo Street, I tended to listen to folks. I listened to Older Brother Richard and Big Brother James because if I didn’t, they’d punch me in the arm ‘till I did. Didn’t take long for me to decide that listening to whatever they had to say wasn’t going to be nearly as painful as a punch in the arm. So I listened, not only to them, but also to my parents.

I listened to my parents not out of fear of an arm punch, but rather for three other good reasons. First: We were supposed to. That’s what kids do. They were our parents. Second: They were older than me. Third: The golden ring. If we didn’t, Dad would pop us on the head with his gold Auburn ring.

Looking back to the time my three brothers, The Sister and I spent on that old familiar street not so far away, we all turned out to be good listeners. The listening ability of someone else was a different story.

Some of the sagest advice Dad bestowed on us during our childhood and well into our adult lives seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Let’s take a quick look at some of the things Dad said would be foolish to do, and then I’ll tell you which of us eventually disregarded that advice and did them anyway.

“You kids would be foolish to live at the beach. I never will again.”

Dad spent two tours in the Army, and during one, he was based in Florida. To him, Florida was filled with nothing but sand and swamp bugs, and both got into everything. After spending “two years in the swampy, muggy bug-infested hell,” he swore he’d never live in the state again, much less live anywhere near the beach.

Sure, we vacationed there, but the idea of actually moving to the Sunshine State never entered his mind. Not until his retirement, that is.

At age 50, Dad bought a beachfront condo and moved. He spent the next 40 years gazing out at the turquoise waters – 13 floors above all that white sand he so hated so many years ago.

“Animals belong outside. I’ll never have an inside dog, and you’d be foolish if you ever do.”

During those seven magical years on Flamingo, we had two outside-only dogs. Dad pitched a fit if he ever came home and found them inside the house. We’d hear the lecture on how dogs smell, shed everywhere, chew everything, scratch hardwood floors, and how you never really can get pee stains out of carpet. This information was drilled into our heads so much that, at age 60, I still have never had an inside dog. Looking back, that’s the decision I now regret.

A year after Dad moved to the beach, he got not one but two inside dogs: the cutest poodles you ever did see. One was white and the other one black. Why two? His answer? “Well, they have to have someone to play with now, don’t they?”

“You boys, never have a live-in girlfriend. You’d be foolish if you ever do.”

This advice Dad followed … all the way up to when he turn 84. That’s when he met a lady and asked her to move in. I think it was her love for him that gave him another five years. I’ll always be grateful to her for that.

Mostly I’ve followed Dad’s advice while living on Flamingo and later on in my adult life. I say “mostly” because there’s one piece of advice that I’m about to break, and it happens to be the one thing he warned us never to do above all others.

“If any of you kids ever get a pool, you’d be foolish. It’s nothing but a bottomless money pit disguised as a hole full of water in the backyard.”

Oddly, his Florida condo had not one but two pools and he swam in them everyday.

So yes, Dear Reader, The Wife and I are ignoring Dad’s sage advice and are about to become poolish people. The pool will be saltwater and heated.

Even though while living on Flamingo, Dad told us never to put anything on his roof (toys, rocks, sticks, Twin Brother Mark), I think even he’d make an exception for solar panels. Why go to the expense of a heated pool?

Two reasons. Can’t have our two little granddaughters, Little One and Sweet Caroline, dipping their toes in cold water, now can we?

Guess now since I’m going against the biggest piece of advice Dad ever gave us, the reevaluation of another is warranted. Just have to decide whether to go big or small.

The Wife wants an indoor dog – a Great Dane. She said it’d be a good couch dog. One look at my picture above and you’ll know why I want a Shar Pei. With all those wrinkles, we look just alike.

Who knows? Perhaps we’ll get both. After all, Dad did say two dogs keep each other company. Who am I to go against Dad’s sage advice?

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog:]