(One thing I told myself when I started writing a blog was that I would never repost anything I wrote.  It would be better just to move on to writing new stuff and if I ever got to a point where I felt like reposting something, then it was probably time to hang up the pen or keyboard or chisel and rock.  Then this week happened.  In addition to the health difficulties with my wife that I mention below, my mother just had a knee replaced and requires a lot of attention from her kids.  We’ve got two sets of visitors passing through in the coming days, one of which is my son and daughter-in-law.  And I’m still employed at a job that they occasionally expect me to show up for.  Or at least I think I am.  (Did I remember to delete that e-mail about the boss?)  Amidst the chaos, this seemed like as good a week as any to repost something.  Anyway, this post from February 2014 is a good reminder of why keep writing this stuff.  And, yes, if you’re wondering, I’ve edited it a little.)

     Tell me a story.

Not long after Brenda and I got married, she started having problems with her back that would lay her up in bed for days or weeks (or, occasionally, months).  When you’re stuck abed for long periods of time, it can be mind-numbing, so we’ve tried a lot of things to ease the brain atrophy.  Thank God for audio books.  When she’s going through difficulties, even holding up a book to read can be agonizing.  The audio books make a huge difference.  But sometimes she needs human interaction along with her stories.  That’s where I come in, or at least, that’s the theory.

Tell me a story?

The first time she said this to me was only a few months after we were married.  She’d throw out the line in an exaggerated child-like voice, trying to make the request sound like something of a joke, but at its heart, the request was serious enough.  Tell me something that can stretch my mind and make the pain diminish for a while.

Tell me a story!

You’d think such a request would be right in my wheelhouse.  I’m from a long line of story tellers.  My grandfather on my mother’s side of the family was the best of the bunch.  When he would weave his tales, you would feel like you were at his side as he was living it anew.  His stories were always from his own life or from somebody that he knew.  He never made up a story, although I suspect many of them were highly embellished for artistic effect (something I would never do).  My grandfather was the best at it of anyone in my family, but he wasn’t unique.  Family members on both sides of the family could cast these spells.  My grandmother on my father’s side of the family was nearly as good.  I think it had something to do with their circumstances.  Both of my parents grew up in difficult, somewhat isolated surroundings in rural, western Missouri.  Life was hard and finding any kind of entertainment was a challenge.  Telling about the days events in an interesting way or describing happenings from the past were a way to expand the imagination beyond the dreary, daily struggles.  I suspect that this was, at one time, a whole nation of storytellers, although with each generation and with each technological advancement and new and brilliant shiny object that inundates our modern lives, the capacity to tell stories or the interest in listening to them has lessened.  This is not a criticism of our modern world.  I like the distractions, too.  It’s simply a recognition that each gain has a price and the capacity to tell a good story is a part of that cost.  I don’t tell stories as well as my grandparents or parents and the next generation likely won’t be quite as good as my generation is.

So, tell me a story!

Still, I’d picked up a few tricks from my ancestors.  Before we were married, I told Brenda a lot of stories and I suspect that’s one reason that she decided to marry me, much as I’d like to believe that it was because of my good looks and charming disposition.  So you’d think coming up with a story wouldn’t be all that hard when she asked, but I found that I couldn’t do it.  My mind would go blank and I’d struggle to even get a coherent sentence out of my mouth.  Part of the problem lay in repetition.  I’d already told her a lot of my stories.  Once you’ve heard for the tenth time the story about picking up the transvestite hitchhiker in California or about being rescued by an angel in Nepal, it’s just not that interesting in the eleventh telling.  It probably wasn’t that interesting the second time.

     Just tell me a story!

I started this blog because I enjoy writing, even though I’m not particularly good at it, and it’s a way to exercise whatever DNA I got that enjoys storytelling.  As is always the case with any project that’s worthwhile, in the intervening months it’s become something more than that.  It’s become a way to connect to my wife and keep her connected to a world that sometimes seems determined to keep her from engaging it.   Before I’d publish each post, I’d read it to Brenda.  She probably doesn’t have the most discerning palate for literary criticism, but she does seem to enjoy listening and she offers advice when needed.  I’m sure she hates the sports stuff, but she tolerates it.  It didn’t take too long for me to realize that this was the answer to my storytelling dilemma.  She doesn’t have to ask nearly as often now and that makes me happy.  So, the next time you read this blog and wonder what the heck I’m trying to accomplish, just remember that all I’m really doing is engaging in a very old family tradition.

I’m telling a story.