Friday, June 17, 2016

My Dad: The Storyteller

My dad is a storyteller. 

He spins a yarn better than most and it's no surprise I became an English and Theatre teacher.  Life is all about telling stories. 

I am the first and only girl born to my parents. While they had been together for a while, by the time I came along, my dad was two weeks shy of 26. As first born, and planned, I suspect he thought, like all new parents that he knew what he was getting into but in reality raising children is a mammoth effort that never ends. 

As a little kid I knew my dad was sillier than most other dads.  He has an incredible imagination that fueled countless stories that took many shapes. He also read to me. He read from the chapter books of his childhood what now would be considered by many as too advanced for a 5 year old. My imagination flourished under my father's tutelage and in retrospect my drive as a writer comes from this influential practice.

Dad also made up stories. There was a serial: Ariel and the Bear, the story of a little girl and her friend Bear and their adventures. Most of the time they were bedtime stories.  However, one summer, I think it was my first summer at sleep-away Girl Scout Camp, my dad wrote out many of the stories and printed them out on the green and white striped paper (it was 1986) and sent one a day to me at camp. Mail call was a joyous time and I reveled in the letters from my dad and the stories of Ariel and Bear made me less homesick.

There were other instances over the years when stories were told. In 3rd grade he volunteered to come into my class and do storytelling with us. I remember being embarrassed, an already awkward year for me at school, and sitting in the front, legs crossed and tying his shoe laces together as a form of rebellion.

The summers we were able to go on a family vacation we often traveled to a rustic little cabin that sat on the water in the San Juans, just outside of Friday Harbor. There was no TV. We learned to play hearts and there were countless hours of card games around the old wooden table in the corner next to the wood burning stove. After cards, bedtime came. My brother and I slept in the living room on foam pads, alternating between the floor and the wood plank couch. This is where we were exposed to The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mystery novels. Dad would read aloud, doing all the voices and sometimes changing the story. I remember laughing until my stomach hurt some nights. Nights to be cherished indeed, that only live in memory now.

As I got older, it was clear that my father and I had that father-daughter thing. It's just how it was. In the summer, my dad and I would walk sometimes down to Guido's Pizza, a neighborhood institution, for iced beverage of some sort, then sit on the benches out front on the busy neighborhood street and make up stories about the passers-by.  I am sure I was in high school at this point, awkward, lonely. These moments with my dad, just us, were important and cherished even though they were silly at times and simply about getting to share the same time and space.

When I graduated from the University of Arizona, my dad flew down to Tucson to make the drive back with me, just a few days before Christmas (as a mid year graduate) and snow was expected in the Siskiyous so it was a fast drive up the West Coast.  Dad made me do the driving through Los Angeles, which I will always hold against him, but we also got to try In-N-Out (it's got nothing on Dick's!).  Like most great car trips the food is what you remember.  We got to share a couple great dinners along the way.  As I began to get sick on day two, my body finally giving up after the push to graduate, pack up two and a half years of living in Tucson and prepare to move back to Seattle, Dad took on the driving duties and got us home, ahead of the snow storm.

As I got older, so did Dad. My awareness of his humanity became more clear to me as I grew into adulthood. He was fallible. He was emotional. He had weaknesses. He was, in fact, human and not a super hero. The complexity of who he was and is continues to be revealed to me. I have seen his vulnerability and his bravery, I have seen his unwavering love for my Mom before all others.  She is his person. 

Dad's solo trip to NYC!
When I moved across the country 11 years ago things changed.  About a year in, I met Charlie.  In many ways he is a lot like my dad, something not lost of me.  I'm ok with being the cliche. A relationship between father and daughter changes when she gets married. Not in a bad way, just a shift.Our telling of stories came on the phone or if we were lucky enough to be in the same city, while on adventures together. Thankfully, my family doesn't hate NY and have come to visit a lot, and even vacationed with us on the North Fork one summer. 
Grandpa and Rose
There have been times when it's been difficult to be so far away from my parents, especially my dad. He was my anchor and his insight and advice has always been invaluable.  I suspect it was difficult for him to be so far away through all my sickness over the last two years.  The instinct to parent never fading. 
Yesterday, I called on my way home from the subway station to share some exciting news with my dad.  The 10 minute walk being the best window for catching up and quick check in.  It's always nice to hear his voice and how he shares his excitement with me.   We will continue to tell stories, to laugh and to get older.  I'm sure the clown nose will be in many of the pictures too.  This Father's Day I want to thank my dad for giving me the gift of story.  Love you, Dad.
"Hey, my lipstick matches your nose!"


  1. You are a wonder to behold. A story unfolding in a beautiful way.

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