I’m on vacation with my dad this next week or two. He’s led an amazing life and we are spending time, between pina coladas and trips to the mainland, working on his memoirs. He’s big into cruises and so we are spending time in the sun together.
As I write this it is still Thursday and the trip is still in the future. I am unsure how it will all shake out but I am fairly certain it will be an enjoyable time with my dad, laughing and talking and reliving a lifetime of memories. This in itself will probably turn into part of the story, part of the adventure.
For me, life has always been about stories. I do a great deal of public speaking and no one tends to remember the amazing insights I have trolled the internet and my library. Tell a good story, however, and people remember it forever. When I have occasion to listen to other speakers, or go to church, I am constantly surprised by how few good stories I hear. For some reason orators have a tendency to believe that I am there to glean information. While this may be true in principle, it is the stories I remember. Perhaps this is one of the reasons people tend to go to church less than they once did, the world has become about sound bytes and tweets and updates and the religious community is still convinced that forty-five minute monologues are sacred and unchangeable. And let’s be honest, most sermonizers I know are only moderately interesting or talented to begin with. There are not many Churchills, or Martin Luther Kings, or Campolos out there.
My father, however, has a lifetime of good stories. Stories too amusing or insightful to let die. In spite of appearing caucasian now, he was actually born a “poor black child”, literally. His mother had a kidney infection and he came out of the womb black as night. He grew up as an orphan, his father died soon after his birth, falling from a skyscraper a few days before he took a different job. His mother died when he was eleven and he wasn’t allowed to see her in the hospital for the six months before she passed because of some asinine policy. A nurse managed to sneak him in on one occasion only.
My dad quit high school to join the air force. After telling an officer to politely “go to hell” he was assured that he would never be promoted beyond corporal. He retired at the highest rank available, in charge of the ground forces at his european base, then the last man to turn out the lights when his last base closed. In the meantime he received the military equivalent of the Order Of Canada for a myriad of reasons. He did alright for an orphan high school drop-out. He is a hero to his grandchildren and pretty tops in my books as well.
I wonder, sometimes, what kind of legacy I will leave when I shuffle off this mortal plain. I hope they will be able to say of me, “at least he tried”.