Sh*t My Dad Said

You will never know what your last words will be

Paul Greenberg


Courtesy Getty Images (via Medium contributor’s lisence)

As my readers know, my father, the psychiatrist Dr. Harvey Roy Greenberg, died in June of 2022. This has been much on my mind as I try to piece things together and get back to “regular” writing, whatever the hell that might be.

But here’s a big but. My father was the person who got me writing in the first place. He helped me publish my first paid piece of work in the New England edition of The Fisherman when I was 16 (Bones and Albies in the Vineyard Surf). And he read pretty much every word I wrote from then on. His words were much in league with my own.

“Everyone whose father is still alive take one step forward . . . Not so fast, Greenberg.”

Now, Harvey Greenberg was very funny and very quotable. He was also very fond of quoting (people, movies, joke punchlines, Shakespeare). So much so that the original author of the quote became beside the point. Harvey made those words his words.

With my father gone, I find myself repeating the things I was so tired of his repeating.

Such is the fate of the living left behind.

To get some of those words out of my head and perhaps make room for some new ones, here are a bunch of phrases my father said often. Some are original, others belonged to others. To tell you the truth I don’t know which are which any more.

  1. “People are dying today who never died before.”
  2. “He’s been way up, but now he’s coming down.”
  3. “Valorize my trope.”
  4. “If at first you don’t fricassee, fry, fry again.”
  5. “Rubber magnets” (as a technical explanation for how an inexplicably complicated piece of machinery works).
  6. “I think this is gonna burn off” (a hopeful comment made on the morning of a rainy day during a divorced dad vacation).
  7. “It’s all vanity and delusion” (drawn from Isaiah 41:29).
  8. “I am not a crook.”
  9. “You really are an asshole.”
  10. “The famous final scene” (applied to the relating of many films, some only famous to my father).



Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World