To my knowledge, there is not a large cache of stories told in my extended family: my younger brother parents and I live in North Carolina while the rest of our family lives between Maryland, Wisconsin, Montana and California. We do not get to see them very often, and as a result are simply not close with much family other than ourselves. Thus, my brother and I have few stories to tell about the wild things our grandparents and beyond have supposedly done. We do have one developing character, however: our dad.
Our dad has lived quite an exciting life. He grew up poor in rural Maryland and at a young age decided he would make something of himself and get out. He was the first in his family to go to college, went on to dental school and eventually joined the Air Force to travel and get away. Those are the basic, affirmed facts my brother and I have gathered over the years. Funny thing is, our dad rarely ever tells us stories about the craziness he has encountered; they only come bursting out in a torrent of animated narrative when company is over. His friends, our friends, if anybody besides the four of us are sitting around, he will tell us a story we have never heard before. His stories are usually near death experiences, funny run-ins with locals in a foreign country he lived in or drunken shenanigans he and our mom got into in the military. These stories, almost hyperbolic, though we know they are true, help sharpen the blurry image of our dad’s ante-children life.
He has a story about his fishing boat getting frozen in the Alaskan Yukon River and almost freezing to death. He has another about it flipping in the same river and nearly drowning. Stories about bear hunting and being caught with an angry black bear charging at him; getting dooped into going out with a psychotic guide in Utah who had no idea what he was doing and nearly shot the entire group; leaving his Jeep with some locals on the banks of a river in the Philippians only to come back to it stripped completely to its frame; he and our mom drunk driving from police in Turkey; drinking with some random Frenchmen in a bar in Germany to be later invited back to their castle to stay for weeks. The stories go on and on and are unrelentingly detailed. They are equally unbelievable. My brother and I know they are true, though, because our dad is a truly modest soul. We look to our mom for confirmation, and she just looks and shrugs as if she’s astonished they have made it out of these situations alive.
I cannot figure out why these stories only come out in the presence of company. These people never ask for stories, and neither do my brother and I. We never ask to hear any when it is just us four either, I’m not sure why. It’s just something our family does.