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Of all the arts, I think storytelling is the most powerful; it can transport you to far away destinations and introduce characters that feature a wide range of personalities.
But best of all are the emotions that a great story produces.
My favorite storyteller is my grandfather. He is hands-down the best in my family.
Whether he tells about his father throwing bread rolls into a tuba during a band concert or the time a new elevator was installed in the coal mine where he worked and the miners, out of fear for the new-fangled contraption, hung a sign over it that said, “abandon all hope, ye who enter,” my ears perk up and my attention is instantly captured.
What makes my grandfather such a great storyteller? I think it’s partly because he is able to recall so many wonderful details that make up his life.
Even though he is in his late 80s, his memory remains amazingly sharp.
He still remembers, as a young man, working as a surveyor on the trains in the untamed areas of Alaska, the time the prostitute shot an impatient customer who was barging his way into the brothel.
What did she say in her defense? “She was defending her honor,” my grandfather explained.
More important than memory, are the feelings he shows while telling these stories.
He smiles remembering the time he parked his Cadillac, which was the size of a boat, on the side of a street and promptly told my mother without warning or instruction, to drive.
My mother took the wheel, not knowing the brake pedal from the gas pedal, and immediately drove into and ran over a parking meter.
He fondly remembers my grandmother inspecting the Christmas tree decorating process to make sure no similar ornaments hung together.
His warmth is infectious; his words help the listener to see the humor and magic in these stories.
It amazes me that my grandfather was in charge of a major mining company, and later a large corporation, served as an Air Force Navigator in World War II, and has circumnavigated this globe many – many – times. However, it is the small moments that he treasures.
His stories prove life is not always about the big things, but the little things.
The normal, everyday events that sometimes get mismarked as insignificant but are given the spotlight in my grandfather’s tales.
Listening to him reminds me that life, all of it, is special; and that’s the story of my grandfather’s life.