The common colloquialism commands “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

In my house growing up, we could have just said: “when dad gives you a lemon for breakfast, shut up and eat it.”

It’s become a sort of legendary story. It dates back to when I was still a pre-schooler and my older sister was getting ready for elementary school. Dad threw her breakfast bowl on the table stuffed with half a grapefruit and a spoon. She peeled one bite away from the rind and told Dad something was terribly wrong. And he told her to stop complaining and eat the grapefruit. It couldn’t be THAT bad.

It is important to give a little backstory on from where this “grapefruit” originated.

At the time, my dad was serving as a preacher in an Eastern Kentucky town full of blue hairs who liked to winter in a warmer climate. When many of them would start to re-emerge from their temperate safe spaces in the early weeks of March, they’d arrive at our doorstep with a brown paper sack stuffed with Floridian citrus. To this day, I’ve rarely seen fruits that rivaled these. They were big and streaked with color and could barely fit in the fruit basket near the refrigerator.

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So Dad gets a little slack for assuming the round orange-streaked rind contained grapefruit. It was oversized and showed all of the signs. But as it turns out, he fed his child a lemon for breakfast.

I like this story for a lot of reasons.

First, it’s had great mileage that “good ole Dad” has never quite lived down. Doesn’t matter how many eggs you microwave or bowls of cereal you slide across the slick surface of the kitchen counter, one “lemon as entrée” incident and you will be accountable for 30 years (and counting…)

Secondly, my dad’s overall excellence cast a mighty long shadow I was afraid I’d never live up to. But I’m close to a decade into the duties of dad-hood and so far the worst culinary insult I’ve inflicted is putting a bag of stale chips on the table. (That might have happened tonight.)

But mostly I love how this story ends. My sister eats the entire half of the fruit she has been given in blind trust. Later, Dad realizes the mistake. He apologizes profusely and then… life goes on.

While it serves as a great story to pull out at Thanksgiving get-togethers and a hilarious anecdote to fill a page or two here, my sis ate the lemon and lived to tell about it. She and Dad continue to have a healthy relationship and we all learned a valuable lesson about the powers of Florida sunshine.

Sometimes even the people you love will give you lemons – and sometimes you just have to open up and take a few bites.

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