12/20/2013 01:53 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2014

9 Life Lessons From Dad

Peggie Walsh

If you love the movie A Christmas Story like I do, you'll recall Ralphie's dad telling him, "You can't get a gun, you'll shoot your eye out." And in fact, at the end of the movie, he almost does.

Didn't we all hear some sort of repeated phrase or time-worn expression from our parents? Every time I pick up a pair of scissors, I hear an echo in my ear: Whatever you do, don't run! Although my Dad passed away last year, I can still hear his voice. It conjures up a series of Dad-isms, or since his name was "Hank," I affectionately call them "Hank-isms." Hank, my ever-wise father, had a saying for every stupid move I made. At least it felt that way. Instead of the "told-ya-so" routine, he would whip out a time-honored adage in the form of a soft-toned proverb. So now, I will share them with you.

1. "A lazy man's load."
For example, let's say I have to pick up my toys from the living room and carry them upstairs to my bedroom. So, I'd pile them up in my arms, way too much to carry in one load and inevitably drop one or two of them. Maybe I'd even break the leg off my favorite toy horse. My father would say: "That's what happens when you take a lazy man's load!" Eventually, he would just say, "lazy man's load" and I knew what he meant: take two trips.

2. "The price of knowledge is constant review."
If I were to translate this one into an expression I hear today, it would be: "Use it or lose it!" When he got older, I turned the tables on him with this one. Every time he wanted to scan something, I had to show him how! I didn't' have the heart to say "Use it or lose it," but inside. I was smiling. I love it when that happens.

3. "Ten minutes early is five minutes late."
I think this one came from the military. Don't know why, but for some reason, if you didn't show up early enough, you may not have gotten enough food or socks. Hank was a stickler for being on time. When I would actually show up on time, he was shocked.

4. "Do it right or don't do it at all!"
Along with this goes the expression "A half-ass-job!" I really can't call my Dad a perfectionist. He wasn't. But he expected a person to do the job they said they were going to do. His attitude was, if you can't do it, admit it and let someone else do it. And that's OK!

5. "Never a lender or borrower be."
I think this one came from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Ironically, he at least knew how to borrow from the best! Actually, there were many instances with friends or family where this advice came in quite handy.

6. "Actions speak louder than words."
My Dad was never the kind of man that lived by the adage, "Do what I say, not what I do." He always set a very good example for me. He lived by his own "values" and never wavered. He was a quiet man. He may not have said "I love you" too often, but his actions, his warm eyes, his concern, communicated the depth of his love.

7. "People should be a little afraid of you, it keeps the crazy ones away."
Even though he had a very gruff voice and stern look that made many people afraid of him, he was really a softie. The rough exterior was a façade for the sensitive person inside. But he felt if you looked a little stern around the edges, you won't get so easily trampled on. Still good advice.

8. "Take responsibility for your actions."
My Dad would gently guide me as to what he felt was the best direction to go in as far as education or career. However in the end, he would preface it by saying, "This is only my opinion, you need to do what you have to do. And you need to take responsibility for your decision." Hard to swallow when you're only 10!

9. "Only you can take responsibility for your life."
That was one of the biggest life lessons I learned from my Dad. I wanted to go to a specific college and my Dad had a friend on the Board that told him he could "pull strings" to get me accepted. My Dad said no way and then told me, "If I did that, you would never feel as if you earned it on your own. You would always doubt yourself, your talent and your ability."

At first I was mad, "Why won't my Dad do this for me? Doesn't he love me and believe in be?" But as I got older I realized he did because he loved me and believed in me. Eventually, I got accepted into an even better college.

Today, I think we do a disservice to our children when every kid makes the team and no one gets a failing grade... heck, even teams don't win or lose. Will they ever really know if they have any talent? That's sad.

"Keep your word"
If my dad said yes, it was yes. If he said no, it was no. If he said he would be somewhere at a specific time, he would be there. Every time. Every single time. And if someone broke their word to him, that was it. You only got one chance. I think this was because of the Army, where people depended on each other for their lives. I don't know, I only know I could depend on him, and he never let him down.

I know my Dad's "Hank-isms" were a reflection of his values. They are deep within me, making me a better person.

So, when I curl up on the couch and watch A Christmas Story and Ralphie almost shoots his eye out, I'll think, He should have listened to his father. I'm glad I did. Thanks Dad. Merry Christmas everyone!

If you have any parental expressions you liked to share, I'd love to hear them in the comments below.