My dad’s sayings

I don’t know how dad got from the Aquinas of his youth to the philosophy summed up in one of his favorite sayings — “Everybody’s got to be somewhere” — but get there he did. Throughout my childhood, he said this frequently. To my mother looking up a phone number. To his friends, wondering where yet another someone was and what they were up to now.

“Like a greased pig”: this he said of everyone who moved out of his grasp, who got away, who refused to be held down or held back. Of children playing tag. Of Mom’s little Lhasa Apso, running away from her to do another crazy fur-flattening circle around the lawn, running for her life and the joy of it.

“New potatoes with their jackets on”: said about the eponymous side dish every time he saw Mom fishing them out of the pot of boiling water with her slotted spoon. She was not born to wield that spoon but did her best, the potatoes shiny and steaming in their dish, the cold butter on the plate.

“I made all my mistakes before I was forty”: said several times during my growing up, usually in or close to the bar room where I did my homework on a flat wooden card table every night. I was always very impressed. Decades later, when I was forty and taking many classes in calculus and finding out the value of learning from a mistake, I thought of his saying this, and started to feel a twinge of pity for him, long since gone by then.