Learning by listening to familiar stories, colorful people
In the 2003 movie Big Fish, a busy corporate business type is the son of a dying man. They meet up as the father, stricken with cancer, is experiencing his last days. The two have grown distant. The son feels that he doesn’t know his true dad.
True to his character, Edward Sr., on his death bed recounts stories of his past, unbelievable tall tales of big fish, a walking giant, twin sister performers, charismatic circus personalities, and a witch who can tell the future. Edward Jr. has heard these stories over and over, and as he hears them again, he feels like he just doesn’t get who is real dad.
We all have those dads or grandpas in our life. Over a cup of coffee, or just sitting on your front porch, quiet moments turn into conversations you feel you already had. One of my favorite high school teachers, whenever I catch up with him, begins a talk by saying “Do you remember the time…”
Most of us are probably too nice to say that we remember, or that we heard the story last week. We listen and hope that time passes by quickly. We chuckle and nod at the same point in the story like we did the last time we heard it. Meanwhile, someone is happily telling us something that is important to them.
I think that’s what we forget about those favorite grandpa stories. We forget that grandpas or nice neighbors are telling us something they think is important for us to know. Maybe we will learn something or maybe we will just be entertained. Either way, they want us to hear it.
Edward Jr. felt like his dad wasn’t being straight with him. How can a witch foretell the future? How can an ordinary person like his dad have met so many interesting people? What is real and what is fantasy?
I remember my grandpa telling me stories of his time as a Seabee in the Navy. They included tigers chasing him up palm trees, adventures in foreign lands and exotic places. Who knows, maybe they were all true. He died when I was 15 so I never had the blessing of sharing adult conversations with him.