Penurious Dad

A Hard Lesson 

My father was very penurious. He had to be because having children eventually forced his entire surplus income into institutions of higher education instead of a retirement plan. But some of this behavior was rooted in the mentality spawned by the Great Depression. A great many of his contemporaries still have the same outlook on life.  Even though as a group they now own seventy five percent of America’s wealth, in the way they sometimes behave; one would think that they do not know where their next dime or their next meal is coming from,. He also became a proponent of what could best be referred to as “generic equivalent” buying patterns.

He would research something in Consumers Digest, decide what he might want, then predictably some friend would tell him that “X brand” was just as good or maybe that brand X was actually the same thing with a different label on it. Occasionally he would defy all common sense and not even buy the item new.

For example, he once bought some “knock off” golf clubs, ostensibly advertised to be identical Tommy Armours’, but made in China and selling for half the price. He tried to convince me to get them too but I decided to see how he made out first. This was a good thing for me, because when he tried them out, it sounded as though the ball was being hit with a hollow croquet mallet, and eventually all the heads broke off.  Any of these X brands he perused were never as good as the real thing usually causing more trouble with the items than it was ever worth; or to put it more bluntly, you always get what you pay for; then end up paying twice.

This buying mentality even extended to other more everyday mundane things such as coffee. He did an exhaustive personal search to find the best coffee on the market, but stopped when one of his patients told him it was Folgers; thus taking as gospel the word of some personally biased individual who was not even in the coffee business. Fifty years later he still drinks only Folgers, and although I tried him out on numerous alternate brands including grinding fresh beans for him, he simply will not switch brands.

Observing this behavior over the years has made me into the kind of shopper who goes straight for the commercially known, usually pricier, but also higher quality proprietary item.

He also had no sense of elapsed time when it came to replacing things being a quirk that took my mother a long time to catch onto. Once, for example when the washing machine broke down, he claimed it was almost brand new and told her to get it repaired, at which point my mother pulled it out from the wall to show him as proof of it’s relic status the stone age purchase date she had crayoned onto the back of it a decade before.

On another occasion he actually proved to himself that he needed a new car when one morning he hopped into his old red Mercury sedan to go to work and put his foot through the rusted out floorboard when attempting to depress the clutch pedal. Undeterred, he took my mother’s car to work that day, then several days later a used Oldsmobile 88 suddenly appeared in the driveway. He announced that it was his new vehicle. He explained that a friend had purchased the car inexpensively at an auction, but it took several years before we found out that the car was so cheap because it had been involved in a mob hit and that the owner’s brains had been blown out in the front seat. This deal did work out well to my father’s advantage because all of us either hoped that the perpetrators were not still cruising around looking for the man’s relatives, or alternatively just had such a squeamish feeling about being in the “death trap,” that as none of us then ever wanted to borrow it from him.

He had another habit of having my mother darn his socks and to reverse the frayed collars on his shirts to extend their life. Being an excellent seamstress she had no trouble doing these things.  So one day he came home with a large bag of Uncle Jimmy’s shirts and socks, having told Jim about the fabulous repair shop at home, then asked my mother to fix them all the same way she did his. Obviously Aunt Kay by this time was incapable of doing just about anything useful, so my father had simply volunteered my mother as a housewife seamstress surrogate.

My mother accepted the clothes bag without saying a word.

Since my father always got up extremely early in the morning to go to work while it was often still dark outside, he had trained himself to get dressed in the dark so as not to wake or disturb my mother. Several days after handing off Uncle Jim’s ragbag, on one very early morning, there was a loud thud accompanied by quite a loud series of curses as my father had for unknown reasons suddenly fallen to the bedroom floor in the dark of dawn. The commotion woke everyone up.

He wore boxer shorts for underwear, so my mother who had been silently furious at having to mend Uncle Jim’s clothes, had sown one of the legs shut on a pair of my father’s boxers to teach him a lesson. In the pitch black pre-dawn when he had tried to hop into them and only one leg went through, he had suddenly become the equivalent of a large Flamingo which resulted in his prompt fall to the ground.  My mother told him that she did not at all mind fixing his clothes, but anything having to do with helping out the notoriously obnoxious; OCD brother-in-law was strictly off limits.

What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

What is good for the Flamingo is not necessarily good for the goose.



Well, I’m fallin’

Free fallin’

You know I’m fallin’

Free fallin’

(Tom Petty)

Flamingo: © Animal Domain by Anee Foxworthy@


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