My grandfather was the storyteller in our family.
In plenty of ways, it was because he had so many life experiences, but I think it was mainly because of his brilliant memory. The tales he’d tell would last for long enough, but they were so richly detailed that they required as much time as they took. A simple story of cold weather on the family’s ranch in Montana would last around 15 minutes, laden with details of every step taken in the crunchy snow, recalling what boots he wore, and how long it took to get to school.
And, like the stereotypical older person, he’d likely told that story for the third or fourth time that month.
Last month, my uncle remarked that my grandfather could talk with a stranger for a good hour, and leave them walking away, feeling like the two of them were old friends. That skill worked perfectly while traveling out for a sales job, and made him one of the best salesmen in the state.
I’m not sure if every detail in his stories was right or not, and quite frankly it doesn’t matter. It reminded me of the book “Hunting with Hemingway,” where the niece of Ernest Hemingway goes through many of her father’s (Ernest’s brother) stories told to her as a child. In the end, it doesn’t matter if the stories are true – or in my case, if all the details are true. A story is meant to entertain and inspire.
My grandfather had the ability to do both of those.
That gift seems to run in the family, as my dad and uncles are great at piecing a story together. I’ve laughed at some of my dad’s youthful fun, and have marveled at how the world has since changed. The way he goes about telling a particular story is a craft, even though he may not realize it. Structuring, phrasing and length are all factors in making a story great.
But, it seems that gift of storytelling may end with them, if I don’t practice it. At this point, I’m lucky to just get names straight. As previously mentioned, the art of storytelling is a special ability that few are able to really master.
It just goes to show that the smaller things in life, even those repetitive stories, can make a difference.