August 10th, 2008
It’s funny how stories are passed. You hear a detail here, a detail there, and sometimes one aspect gets enlarged and becomes another story altogether. If you’ve heard a family story as a kid, often times the tale becomes just that: fireside folklore lacking even the faintest hint of truth.
Inspired by my post the other day and wanting to know the “real” story behind the stories my dad told us kids, I called him a few nights ago to ask for more details. He brushed me off, clearly not receptive to telling stories. I hung up, convinced more than ever that I’d grown up with a skilled and fantastical storyteller, who regaled us with fiction to lull us to sleep, but now, older and wiser, had no time for telling tales.
But, this morning my dad called and told me he was ready to tell me his stories. Older and wiser, indeed. Perhaps now he sees that his kids want to put our lives in some sort of context, know what’s true or not, wade through the details of our lives and pay it some testimony. I don’t know. What I can say is that I never get my dad like this: ready to tell every detail without fantasmogoria, pumping up, smoke and mirrors.
And so for about 45 minutes I listened in silence as my dad told me the real stories. And in the final analysis, I had some things wrong, other things very right. I’m humbled by what I wrote about “Bill,” because I made it a joke and it was very much not a joke. Real peoples’ lives were changed forever and it’s clear that my dad’s was one of them. My dad still keeps “Bill’s” suicide note, for one. And that is very real.
Meanwhile, I’m feeling a bit sublime. I realize my dad opened up to me this morning, and I’m going to hold onto that for a bit. Later, I’ll tell you some more stories.