“Don’t kiss a girl without being prepared to give her your last name.”
My granny said that.
My father once said this: “If you so much as touch a cigarette, you might as well tear up half your paychecks from now on.”
My mother’s axiom, however, is my all-time favorite: “It’ll be be okay.”
It might sound like a simple phrase, but my mother said this often. Whenever things were running off the rails. Whenever a girl broke my heart. Whenever I lost my job. Whenever I cried.
Whenever I had a common cold I believed to actually be, in fact, tuberculosis. She said this—I needed her to say it.
She also said: “Cleaning your plate means ‘I love you, Mama.’”
And this is why I was an overweight child.
I could keep going all day.
“Don’t answer the phone when you got company over,” my Uncle John once said. “It’s just flat rude.”
This one is from my elderly friend, Mister Boots: “Smartphones have made stupid people.”
My grandfather said: “Anything worth doing is worth waiting until next week to do it.”
My mother once said: “Carry deodorant in your truck, for crying out loud. You smell like you’ve been roping billy goats.”
Said the man named Bill Bonners, in a nursing home, from his wheelchair: “I never wanted to be a husband, I really didn’t want that. But I just couldn’t breathe without her around me.”
He died four days after his wife passed.
And one childhood evening, I was on a porch with my friend’s father, Mister Allen James—who was whittling a stick—and he said:
“Boys, if you marry ‘up,’ you’ll have to attend a lotta parties you don’t wanna go to. Remember that.”
I never forgot it.
On the day of my father’s funeral, a preacher came through the visitation line and said: “No man ever truly dies. Not really.”
I’ve said this at a few funerals myself because I believe it.
Said the seventh-grade teacher named Miss Rhonda, who was passing around a basket for students to place cellphones into:
“Playing on your phone in public is like peeing on a telephone pole; unless it’s a life-or-death emergency, it should be done in private.”
From my pal’s father, Mister Jimmy: “When you’ve loved a good woman, poetry starts to make sense.”
From my father: “A man is ugliest when he’s jealous.”
My uncle said: “Don’t fall in love with her hair-color, eye-color, or figure. Fall in love with her mama, her brother, and her sisters.”
And this one: “When you’re older, you’ll realize that being right ain’t nearly as fun as you thought it would be.” Elderly Mister Tommy said that while we were fishing.
My father’s friend, Dale, once said: “Don’t ever make the mistake of being seventy-two. Nobody forgives you for that. Be seventy-three instead.”
Said my friend Louis: “I like cats better than dogs. Dogs don’t judge you, or hold things against you. A guy can be a real jerk and still be a dog guy. But if you’re not nice to a cat, he’ll burn your house down while you sleep.”
My aunt’s immortal words: “I can tolerate a lot of things, but ignorance ain’t one of them.”
And my friend, the hospital chaplain, who died last year:
“I never met a man who was dying that wasn’t at peace with it. There’s something mysterious that happens, I can’t explain it. That’s why I believe in Heaven. Most anyone in our field does.”
And my friend, the author, once told me: “To be a writer is to be a homeless man who can type really fast.”
My friend, Lyle, who watches ball games with me once said: “Don’t try to hit a home run, just sit down, eat a hotdog, and let someone else strike out.”
From my old boss, Mister Carl: “When you’re a kid, you just wanna be an adult so bad you can taste it. But when you’re an adult, you’re just so fat.”
A deacon in our old church once said to me: “Biloxi, Mississippi, was invented for Baptists by Episcopalians.”
My granddaddy once spoke to me about choosing friends: “Don’t ever go fishing with anyone who you wouldn’t let marry your sister.”
And this one’s from me:
I hope you never forget the people who made you into the person you are today. I hope their words always stick with you. And may I forever remember my mother’s gentle wisdom, no matter how bad life seems.
“It’ll be okay.”
Because I believe it will.