Tell me a story
I was an English major, so I have a deep appreciation for stories. I was lucky enough to have an amazing teacher for my Beowulf class who taught us the value of story. In fact, we held a final class party off campus, so we could have alcohol (Christian college doncha know), and we were all required to tell a story. I told the epic story about the time a cow tried to kill me.
I tell stories, which you know if you’ve had to spend any time at all with me. You might have actually wished me to shut up in the break room. Keep wishing. My friend Chris used to say he didn’t like to read this blog because it felt like he was reading a diary, and I never knew if I should take that as a compliment or not. J said of my writing that I seemed “softer” and “more vulnerable” which I thought was funny since all I ever feel is vulnerable (or to quote Bruce Banner from The Avengers, “exposed, like a nerve” ).
Chris loved stories, and is, in fact, both the source and subject of many of my best. At the reception for his funeral I had the great pleasure and honor of meeting the daughters of the subject of one of my favorite stories that he used to tell.
Johnny (or JK as Chris’s sister Mary says he was really called), sat in one of the front pews in the Catholic church in Hermiston. Now, if you’ve never been to eastern Oregon, you’ve missed out, and I’m not being facetious. It’s gorgeous country – rolling hills and sagebrush, shades of dusty green and brown and a light that rivals Paris’. Farms and ranches and fights over water rights (yeah, that’s another story)…and.. Johnny.
As I was saying, he sat in one of the front pews at the church. At his funeral, Chris used to recount, people told the story of how, if the priest was perhaps going a bit long on the sermon (sorry, I don’t know what it’s called in a Catholic service) then Johnny would raise his arm and pointedly tap his watch.
That was the universal signal for, “This has been nice but we’ve got work to get to.” And the priest would wrap it up. Being a non-Catholic I’ve always looked at both priests and nuns with awe, so this story raised my eyebrows.
Imagine my surprise when I met Johnny’s daughters. Oh, at the time I didn’t realize they were his daughters, but in hindsight I should have known. (It was like spending time with a favorite author but only afterward realizing that you were in the presence of an idol.)
First off, while the mass was going on, and that being my first Catholic funeral mass, I just assumed it was supposed to be that dark and depressing what with the mentioning of hell and all.Oh no. That was notion was corrected first off when I sat down at the reception with V and M.F.. They set me straight – that was NOT what a funeral mass was supposed to be like. All the time I spent talking with them I didn’t realize that they were in fact the daughters of this legendary figure I’d heard repeated stories of, but they were legendary in their own way. After spending the afternoon with them I had an insight into why Chris was so respectful of women – because of the amazing women he was raised around.
And that’s it – one story bleeds into another, and another and another. The same way one friend introduces you to another, because that’s what stories are. The throw away tales of your life matter, they reveal who you are and what is important to you. They may or may not matter to anyone else or they may be carried along from person to person until the original source and subject are lost but the story remains. And that’s ok too.
What matters is the story.