Many dads get flummoxed when talking with their progeny about the birds and the bees. No such problem with the car and the keys, though.
That became abundantly clear as readers weighed in on the best, worst, silliest and "How-could-he-have-known-that?" advice that they had received from their paternal units. Cars were mentioned more often than sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll or even money.
"Dad had a 'ritual' phrase," said Jeri Byrne of Roseville, "that just reminded me to take care when driving, "Be good, be careful, I love you, don't bend or break the car.' It did get tweaked when the engine caught fire in my car. Now, even 20-plus years later, it's 'Be good, be careful, I love you, and don't bend, break or burn the car.'"
Steve Meloche got even more practical -- and just as lasting -- counsel from his dad, Leo: Get the most out of the vehicle you purchase.
"Dad taught us to avoid the rapid depreciation of a brand-new car by buying a slightly used one instead. He taught us to maintain and keep our cars clean," said Meloche, of Bloomington. "Dad's car is now 12 years old, and my car is nine years old. Both are fully paid for and in reasonable shape."
And while most of the driving tips included dollops of Midwestern common sense, Rebecca Longabaugh of Brooklyn Park received two bits of slightly droller guidance.
"One was 'Just because a driver has a turn signal light flashing does not mean they are turning; it only means the signal light works.'" she recalled. "The other was 'Never let your car's gas tank go below half full -- you never know when you might have to get out of town in a hurry.'"
For more admonitions, exhortations and observations from readers' dads, turn to Page E10.
Here are some other bits of fatherly advice that readers shared with us:Money matters
"My dad, LeVerne Foss, who passed away this last February at the age of 100, always told me, 'Never loan anyone money unless you are willing to give it to them.'"
ROSEMARY WISLOFSKY, BLOOMINGTON
"When I went off to college, my dad gave me $20. He told me to put it away for 'mad money.' He explained that someday I would be sick of having no money and at the end of my rope. Only then should I use the mad money to go shopping or order pizza or whatever would take the edge off. As soon as I was able, I was to replace the money so I had it for the next time I really needed it. ... I continued the tradition with my son when he went off to college last fall."
LAURIE STERN, CHASKA
"My father always insisted that he wished he could pay a million dollars in taxes. No matter what his explanation was, I just didn't get it. Now that I'm older and wiser, how I wish I could pay a million dollars in taxes!"
STEPHANIE YANT, ANDOVER
"For years my dad told me, 'There isn't any free lunch.' Then I got my first 'real' job at a luxury resort and, day one, they took me to the employee cafeteria. Not only was lunch free, but it was leftovers from the five-star dining room. After my initial meal of filet mignon, lobster tail and crème brûlée, I called my dad. I wanted to know what other lies I had fallen prey to over the years!"
MARY CLOSNER, NORTHFIELD, MINN.
"[Before a summer of studying in Mexico], my dad advised me to make sure I always carried enough cash to stay out of trouble with any corrupt police officer I might encounter. ... That's a lesson I've used many times since in travels all over the world."
RACHEL DETWILER, MINNEAPOLISAgeless wisdom
"My late father used to say, 'If kids weren't smarter than their parents, we'd still be living in caves.' I think of his wisdom (and consolation?) every time I ask my 8- and 12-year-olds to perform tech support on our mobile phones and iPods."
KRISTI MATTSON, STILLWATER
" 'Never get into an argument with a skunk.' In certain cases, trying to push your case or get some negative or hostile people to see things your way simply isn't going to happen. You are going to waste your time and probably end up frustrated, losing and 'smelling bad.'"
JANET BATES, EAGAN
"My dad was a pretty quiet guy, and I only remember him ever giving two pieces of advice. One was 'Never trust men with mustaches,' and the other was 'All lawyers are crooks.' Guess I wasn't a good listener: I married a guy with a mustache, and I became a lawyer. Sorry, Dad!"
DEANE ILLK, INVER GROVE HEIGHTS
"One of my favorites was a casual comment my father once made: 'Always live east of where you work.' When I see commuters driving toward me, squinting into the sun, morning and evening, I wonder why more people don't have this in mind."
ANNE C. ULMER, CANNON FALLS, MINN.
"My mother suffered a long illness and died while my brothers, sister and I were quite young. During and after this difficult time, my dad's mantra became: 'Have a little fun every day.' He and my mom had deferred travel and other things they wanted to do together, so Dad wanted to impress upon the four of us that you can't count on the future but must seek enjoyment in the present."
SUSAN JANE CHENEY, ST. PAUL
"One day your brothers and sisters will be your best friends."
STACY SEGAL, PLYMOUTHPaternal platitudes
"Happiness is a choice, not a consequence."
ED LIPPERT, EDEN PRAIRIE
"You can't plow a field by turning it over in your mind."
JUSTIN VORBACH, ST. LOUIS PARK
"When I was getting butterflies before a school play, my father told me: 'Nerves are the price you pay for being born a racehorse instead of a cow!'"
BRUCE MCCOY, GOLDEN VALLEY
"The best advice my dad gave me was 'Kill them with kindness!' This applies to all of those situations when you feel like you are not being treated fairly or someone has not been nice to you."
MARY OSBORNE, FARIBAULT, MINN.
"My dad always admonished us to be sure our brains were in gear before engaging our mouths. It's sound advice for everyone, particularly when dealing with difficult topics (or people)."
JUDITH ANDERSON, BLOOMINGTON
Finally, two readers, Kay Bowen of Bloomington and Rick Loney of Richfield, passed along this all-too-truism from their dear ol' dads: "Too soon old, too late smart."
Bill Ward • 612-673-7643