He told the worst jokes and the best jokes. He couldn’t open a milk carton or an aspirin bottle. He was almost twice as old as I was when he died. Yet no barriers ever prevented us from talking, dancing, drinking, laughing together – two friends.
He taught me how to feel the tug of a fish on my line so we could fish in pre-dawn darkness on Big Muskego Lake in a wooden row boat we rented for a dollar. (We didn’t use bobbers.)
He taught me how to build an igloo and how to dance a jitterbug.
He taught me respect for the English language – lay versus lie, me versus I.
He taught me positive thinking. When I went door to door selling Girl Scout cookies or candy bars for school, he taught me to ask people, “Do you want two or three?” instead of “Do you want any?” He assured me the worst thing they could say was “no.”
He taught me the value of a dollar – “The money you spend today casts a shadow to the end of your life,” he’d remind me.
He taught me self-determination – “Life is what you make it.”
He taught me not to be phony and to recognize phoniness in people. “Be yourself,” he’d say again and again. (Maybe that’s why I was never a good actress.)
He chased away a lot of boyfriends (and I often breathed a sigh of relief). He made me angry, he made me proud.
He taught me to be honest – “The worst things you can do are to lie, cheat, and steal.” He taught me never to compromise my values – “Do what’s right because it’s right; you need no other reason.” And he taught me to speak up – “Stand up and be counted.”
He taught me how a man should treat his wife and children – with love, respect, and humor.
He was my father and my teacher. I learned a lot from him because I knew his mind was open to learn from me. I think about my three children and hope I can be such a teacher and friend.
“A good worker rises to the top like cream rises to the top of a bottle of milk.” – Ted Grenier, my dad
[This selection is an exerpt from my book Dessert First.]