My dad – Master Storyteller

My father is a master tapestry weaver.  Not in the sense that he has a loom or anything, but in a story-telling and fact-bending way.   You never know if what my dad’s telling you is the truth, a lie, or a combination of the two.  It would be one thing if he were malicious about his untruths but he isn’t.  Dad’s simply incapable of admitting when he doesn’t know something and he can’t help embellish what he does know. 

 Ask dad what India’s major export is and he’s likely to answer “coffee beans” off the top of his head.  If his answer is challenged, he will come up with several other made up reasons why coffee beans is indeed the correct answer.  If he’s confronted with an atlas that refutes his answer, he will claim that coffee beans used to be India’s largest export until the British made them plant tea instead.  

According to dad, he was too busy in high school to study so my mom did his homework for him.  This is probably true.  However, the reason he was too busy, according to him, was because he was running his own gas station, which he owned.  When he was 17.  This is highly unlikely, yet it’s a story that he’s told so many times, he probably believes it’s true by now. 

Which leads me to a comment I made on MisterPeace‘s blog yesterday.  I made a comment that I believed to be true, only because it seemed so plausible to me.  It was a truth I’d told myself many times in the past, yet is not true at all. 

I claimed to have gone to the University of TX with Richard Linklater of Dazed & Confused fame. 

At least I didn’t claim that I knew him.  I absolutely did not know him, never met him, wouldn’t know him on the street if I hit him with my car.  Not only that, according to every internet search I did, Mr. Linklater never attended U.T at all.  It appears I have fallen into a classic “dad” embellishment of my life story.   I was mortified.  How could I have made such an error? 

Was I becoming my dad?

It’s one thing for a blustery old guy like my dad to spout off outrageous lies and half-truths.  People love him.  They absolutely love the guy.  He’s funny and full of life and embraces everything with great enthusiasm.  Everyone knows he’s full of shit, but they really don’t care all that much.  It’s part of his persona.  But it’s not a part of him I want for myself and there’s no way I could carry it off with the panache and extreme confidence he does. 

It probably doesn’t seem like such a big deal to most people, to have made an error about something you thought was true.  But it bothers me because I don’t want to develop the habit of prettying up and embellishing my life.  I don’t want people to roll their eyes behind my back, sure that my claims are another figment of my imagination or inflated ego.  Yes, people love my dad, but they also know him as master bullshitter.  And that’s not who I want to be. 

I love that big old guy.×334.jpgHe’s loving and smart and one of the funniest people I know.  And oh yes, he can he weave a tapestry of facts together to make something new and completely different.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


21 Responses to “My dad – Master Storyteller”

  1. 1 totaltransformation August 13, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    ” Ask dad what India’s major export is and he’s likely to answer “coffee beans” off the top of his head. If his answer is challenged, he will come up with several other made up reasons why coffee beans is indeed the correct answer. If he’s confronted with an atlas that refutes his answer, he will claim that coffee beans used to be India’s largest export until the British made them plant tea instead. ”

    A truly accomplish fibber, I highly admire such a skill. I can barely defend my fibs with a straight face.

    Ah yes, he is the king of the embellishment in our family. One can only strive to be as good as he is!

  2. 2 Anthony North August 14, 2007 at 3:47 am

    Good morning OB,
    He sounds like a fantastic guy. The world would be a poorer place without them. My own father could be like that.
    I’m still not sure whether I’m an aristocrat or not, but my father always swore that his grandfather was left on a doorstep with £100 as a baby.
    A kitchen maid was rumoured to have dunnit, but me thinks it might not be true.

    Anthony – that’s a great story. It’s actually refreshing to hear that other dads weave stories that seem questionable!

  3. 3 Deb August 14, 2007 at 4:55 am

    OB, your dad sounds like a trip. But your error is different in a lot of ways from the stories your dad would tell, and is what I’d call part of your “personal mythology.” I have some weird things I believed until recently about certain aspects of my life, things that didn’t hold up to really basic examinations, but which I honestly believed to be true at the time. We all have these in our lives; our brains are complicated and our memories are fickle. Our memories are, in fact, quite unreliable, which is one reason why your dad might very well believe a story he made up after so many years telling it.

    Interesting, isn’t it? So, don’t despair! Did you participate in a psychological study about memory? I bet if you think back you’ll remember that you did, and that’s where the false memory about the Dazed and Confused guy came from. 😉

    Deb – here’s where I think it came from: Linklater was (or maybe still) is based in Austin and started the Austin Film Society. He screened a friend of mine’s short film back in the 80’s. Then he made Slackers. Then he made D&C which starred the then-unknown Univ of TX students Matt McCounahey & Rene Zelwegger. However, I had already graduated by the time they were students. The whole thing got jumbled up in my mind.

    However, I have a strong memory of kissing a frog once (kidding). Seriously, I’ve done a bit of reading on false memories and boy, are they easy to implant. Thanks for the reassurance, Deb! For some reason that memory slipup really bothered me – so much so that I had to write about it!

  4. 4 Deb August 14, 2007 at 6:49 am

    Of course you remember kissing a frog! Where else do princes come from? Ken didn’t just appear out of nowhere! 😉

    Oh my goodness, you’re right! Now that you mention it, I DO remember something about a frog…

  5. 5 poseidonsmuse August 14, 2007 at 8:52 am

    Hi OB…That was an interesting post. I would have to say that I come from the school of “Practical Jokers” (as opposed to the school of “Master Bullshitters”!). However, I do recall my mom convincing my brother that electricity came from a type of berry shrub (a “current bush”). How demented is that?! She had him going for years…He used to run out to a certain type of bush with a power cord hoping to obtain power!

    Anyways, like you, I believe that false memories can be implanted in our brains…I’m sure the government has performed many a thought experiment…However, I’m really not sure how we form our own false memories (trauma, confusion, ageing, past lives….lol!?). I seem to recall an image of myself in a garden reminiscent of the archetypal Garden of Eden. I recall the tree, a snake…but was I actually “in” the Garden of Eden…probably not…Maybe I’m just a vacuum of Archetypal Imagery. Now tapestry weavers…they can certainly be interesting – despite your dad’s “memories”, I’m sure he’s the life of the party!

    Life of the Party describes him to a T. Maybe your Garden of Eden memory is a past life experience! Who knows?
    I told my grandneice the old “eating watermelon seeds will make a watermelon grow in your stomach” story the other day. Poor thing. She meticulously picked all the seeds out of each piece of melon, then examined them thoroughly for missed seeds before she’d eat them. I told her I was kidding, but she absolutely was not taking any chances after that! I loved your mom’s story about the current bush. I read a little ditty around Father’s day, when I guy related that his dad always told him and his brother that when the ice cream man plays the song on his truck, it means he’s out of ice cream! Hilarious.

  6. 6 urbanpixie August 14, 2007 at 10:41 am

    What a beautiful tribute to dear old Dad. It’s a wonderful reminder that even our little “flaws” can make us all the more lovable.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Glad you liked it, Pix. He’s a good-hearted guy that loves to be the center of attention!

  7. 7 brian o vretanos August 14, 2007 at 11:23 am

    I can relate completely to your feeling of horror that you’d made that perfectly unintentional mistake. I can cope with someone disliking me, but not the idea that they think I might try to decieve. Your experience would mortify me!

    Your dad sounds great. Can he be hired for parties or other occaisions?

    Oh Gawd, that would be feeding his already humongous ego too much! You know, Brian, you touch on a subject that I’m really careful about when I write – trying to tell the truth. It’s enough that we sit on the other side of screens, hidden from the world, but to spout half truths and lies can really come back to bite you in the ass. I really really don’t want anyone to doubt my sincerity here in blogland! It’s all about the trust. I’m glad you brought that up. Thanks!

  8. 8 prisonmike August 14, 2007 at 11:34 am

    If occasional truth stretching is the greatest of your Dad’s transgressions, you coulda done a lot worse – hear me now and believe me later. In the limited contact I’ve had with your Pater Familias, I’ve found him to be witty and charming – not in Noel Coward way – more of a Justin Wilson way.
    This reminds me of a story. (That’s one way people around you know you’re aging. By how often you repeat that sentence.)
    A doctor in a small town in Louisiana was nearing retirment and had arranged for a young man fresh out of medical school to take over his practice. Among the sage bits of advice old doc gave to the greenhorn was to never change your diagnosis. Once you’ve made a determination, stick with it. Otherwise, people will lose confidence in you and your practice will suffer.
    Young doctor’s first week in the practice saw a woman bring a small boy in for a stomach ailment. After examining the lad, young doctor confidently announced “This child has locked bowels.”
    “Locked bowels?” asked the mother. “But doctor, he’s had diarrhea for a solid week!”
    Without missing a beat, the doctor bellowed, “That’s what I mean – they’s locked in the on position!”

    Good one Mikie! How y’all are? You mean that Justin Wilson? I think dad would make a great comdey chef, actually. Loved the story. Tell Andi I’m going to try to call her tonight, after I play psychotherapist for my friend in TX. She’s already warned me to put my shingle out tonight.

  9. 9 Anthony North August 14, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Hi OB,
    The comments on false memory syndrome are interesting. I’ve come across it often in my research on the paranormal. Many cases of reincarnation and alien abduction arise from therapy.
    Of particular interest is the usual story of the therapist being a believer. Now, I’m not saying such memories are purposely placed, but that a form of ‘cultural contagion’ can occur.
    Such cultural input – stories, mythologies, in other words – have a remarkable power and easily get into the mind. It annoys me a bit when I hear of not enough data to prove false memories, when they could be happening all the time in this field.

    Oh yes, and the whole string of child rape and ritual abuse cases that occured during the 80’s are classic cases of false memory syndrome. At least many of them are and were proven to be due to faulty questioning tactics used by law enforcement and child psychologists. This is a very scary phenomenon when you consider that people’s reputations and careers are on the line when accusations such as these are falsely made (intentionally or non-intentionally). Very good point, Anthony.

  10. 10 V- August 14, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Good Ole Uncle Ed! He’s my favorite.
    I’m prone to exageration myself and damned TVH always calls me on it.

    Well, it seems to be a somewhat prevalent trend. I don’t feel so bad anymore. Of course I had that moment of horror, thinking “oh my God, I’m turning into my dad.”

  11. 11 writerchick August 14, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    I have a friend like that. You may have seen my entries about Zelda on the blog. This girl and your pop would get along great. There’s no malice in her and it really does no one any harm but she is full of it. To be sure.

    I wouldn’t worry about becoming the story weaver your dad is, for one thing you are aware that you made an error and you want to correct it. That right there says you probably aren’t likely to follow the same path. Don’t worry about it. Whenever you catch yourself in an embellishment just say you’re practicing make believe for a story you have in mind. 😉

    Ah, I got a chuckle out of that WC! I am quite familiar with your Zelda – the story about the bus washing was absolutely hilarious! She sounds like a force of nature, for sure. You know that’s the thing – there’s no malice whatsoever in dad’s Big Fish stories. He just likes to live large I guess and would probably get along famously w/Zelda!

  12. 12 purefnevyl August 14, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    Some of lifes greatest truths are weaved from nothing but pure bs. I think that it was first stated by Socrates or maybe Fred Murtz. I always get those two mixed up.

    Fred Murtz! By golly I think you’re right about that.

  13. 13 Red August 14, 2007 at 10:39 pm

    I think your dad and my dad totally knew each other in a past life, as you just described my dear ol’ Pops, too. He’s such a fibber, and can tell tales with the straightest face, and gullible me falls for them everytime. Even the most outrageous, off the wall, couldn’t be true stories, I fall for ’em. I believe them. Because it’s my DAD that’s telling them. I look up to him, I cherish him, even when he’s bullshitting me. Dads fucking rock.

    Yeah, you gotta love ’em, don’t you? Maybe the ability to tell outrageous lies is a prerequisite to being a good dad. Now THAT’s one way to look at it!

  14. 14 Bella August 15, 2007 at 12:12 am

    OB,I got such a chuckle out of this post. I don’t think you have to worry one bit about making an innocent mistake. Your dad sounds wonderful. Funny and wonderful!

    I have a friend who I work with that KNOWS everything. So, when I really need help with something, she is not the person that I go to though because I have to wonder if she really knows, or is she pulling this out of her arse. I’ve caught her in a few whoppers and now I find myself questioning everything she says. I wish she knew it was OK to NOT know everything — none of us do.

    I’ve noticed that the guys here at work have a hard time doing two things: Saying “no” and admitting they don’t know something. I’m the master of the stupid question, being too painfully aware that I don’t know stuff!

  15. 15 abarclay12 August 15, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    I love this post because it reminds me of my dad too. Some dads are great because they’re such bs’ers. It’s so perfect. I can ask my dad anything and he starts it with, “Honey, what you gotta understand is . . .” and then the authentic sounding b.s. starts. I love it.

    Your dad sounds great. I love that your mom did his homework in school.

    And don’t worry about “dad-ing out” and telling a few stories of your own. My father passed on his gift to me, and I’m sure yours did to you as well. You must use your powers for good.

    Yes! I shall only use my powers for good! I admit to exaggerating a few small details myself a time or two. Or three…

  16. 16 poseidonsmuse August 15, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    Isn’t that the truth Bella? Men have a hard time with that (saying “no”, not knowing the answer) and asking for directions (I guess that really belongs with “not knowing the answer”). I wonder why that is? Perhaps it has something to do with that male ego and the tendency towards alpha male-ness (I have alot of alpha males in my life…). Anyways, I think dads are allowed their little slice of “tall taledom” – the movie “Big Fish” is one of my favourites of all time…this story is the epitome of the tall tale…

    I love that movie! A good overview of all dads and their ability to pretty up the truth. Men seem to have a heightened sense of their placement in the group – well so do women for that matter. Admitting any kind of ignorance or asking a “dumb” question is a sure way to move down the pecking order in a group. I see it a lot at work – men who ask a lot of questions are considered weak. At least this has been my experience in my Great Experiment in the observation of men in their natural habitat.

  17. 17 ~m August 15, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    Your Dad sounds like a hoot.
    Sounds a bit like Jon Lovitz as “The Liar” on SNL.
    He doesn’t have a girlfriend named eh . . .mmmma…mmmma… Mmmmm …Morgan Fairchild, does he? 😉
    Yup, your Dad definitely sounds like one piece of work.
    How cool is that?

    Yes, I am now convinced that instead of the crazy old liar guy I thought he was, he’s really just a crazy old fun guy! And shockingly normal considering everyone else’s pop seems to be the same way. I loved Jon Lovitz doing the liar guy: “Yeah, that’s the ticket!”

  18. 18 RubyShooZ August 15, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    I’m smiling at the memory this has evoked in me of being at a very fancy restaurant and when the salad came, my dad pulled a rock out of his salad saying where did THIS come from? It was in my salad!

    He drilled a hole in that rock and put some string through it and wore it around his neck for many many years.

    Anytime I questioned his veracity of if that rock was really in his salad, he stuck to his story!

    The rock has been passed down – first to me, and now to one of my sons. Who knows? Maybe it did come in his salad? (I don’t think so but…….)

    Thanks for the memory.

    Glad I could put a smile on your face, Roobs. That’s hilarious! Sounds exactly like something my dad would do…oh there are some stories out there, aren’t there?

  19. 19 anandamide August 15, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    OB: I’ve told a whopper or two in my day…
    When I was in first grade I told everyone in my class I was born in Brazil. I stuck to that story for TWO YEARS and just made it bigger and grander as I went along (e.g. a scar on my arm was a piranha bite I picked up while swimming in the Amazon…). My teacher finally busted me in front of the whole class. Ouch.

    anandamide: Somehow I have no doubt this is true, you master story weaver! By the way, I’m looking forward to more of the LedZep tale… Mind if I blogroll you?

  20. 20 Simonne August 16, 2007 at 2:20 am

    But OB, we always turn into our parents, it’s inevitable!

    It’s bound to happen sooner or later! Now if I could just turn into my sweet, kind, unassuming old mum!

  21. 21 anandamide August 16, 2007 at 6:36 am

    please do, i’ll put you up on mine….

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