The Storyteller

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My Dad is a former teacher and historian of western civilization.  He is also an incredible storyteller and writer.

When I was a kid, I most certainly didn’t appreciate this.  We would wander all over the globe as a family going to museums, historical sites, and cultural centers.  Most of the time, I enjoyed puttering around these places, but in my teen years, I went through a period where I was under the impression that that if you saw one museum, you had seen them all.  I got weary of climbing up all those stairs to see old bell towers in obscure places.  This actually makes me sound like a spoiled brat.  I wasn’t spoiled so much as I was unaware and immature.  How many hundreds of times since then have I thought to myself how incredibly lucky I was to have these experiences as a child.  I have my parents to thank for instilling this love of travel in me.

As I got older, I began to appreciate my Dad’s knowledge and stories.  He has led and continues to lead a fascinating life.  He is a grassroots vagabond at heart.  From 1955-57, he hitchhiked around the globe and wrote a book about it.  He went to places one wouldn’t dream of going to in today’s world as a tourist-Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and many more countries.  My Dad has the charm and charisma to put anyone at ease.  He is also incredibly lucky.  In his travels, he would happen upon locals, peasants and princes, (no joke) and everyone took him in.  In return, he wrote about them in his book.  Many people he has met on his travels, he still keeps in touch with today.  It is astonishing.  My Dad has a knack for connecting with folks no matter the language.  Sometimes I think he speaks French better than me and he can only truly speak a few words here and there!  He is a true warm spirit with a gift for making people feel at ease.

I have been meaning to start writing for years now.  When I was eight, my Dad took a year-long sabbatical leave from his teaching job and my family and I trekked around the globe.  I remember vividly (and not too fondly, ha ha) one auberge where we stayed in downtown Cairo.  The door to our room did not have a door knob-you could see right through it into the hallway.  Talk about roughing it!  I didn’t keep a journal and I kick myself now for not doing so.  I kept a half-hearted journal in the Peace Corps and only recently have I decided that it is time.  So many memories to jot down, so many adventures to recount.  There are already so many thoughts and stories that have slipped away from my memory.  I am determined, for the sake of my family, especially my parents and my daughters, not to let it happen anymore.  My goal is, when this blog has run its course, to print it out into a book.  My first attempt of many, I have a feeling.

Three years ago this past November, my Dad had a minor heart procedure done in the UK that turned into a very serious, lengthy hospital stay.  We were living in Cairo at the time, and right after Christmas, I flew to England alone to see my Dad in the hospital.  At this point, it was extremely touch and go and we weren’t sure of his recovery.  My Mum was staying in an adjoining building to the hospital where severely ill patients were allowed their immediate family member to stay for weeks and months on end.  It was a lifesaver for my Mum who would have otherwise had to drive two hours from home each day to and from the hospital.  My father was really sick for the first couple days and then he started to improve.  He was still in a lot of pain and was very weak, but I sat with him day in and day out to give my Mum a break and to encourage his recovery.  After the first couple days, my Dad started to talk freely again and began to tell stories to me.  Stories that amazingly, I had not heard.  He had so many of them and they were, as usual, fascinating and entrancing.  Like the time he was called in to be interviewed on the Today Show in New York City.  In 1957.  Or the time that he slept in a bathtub in Copenhagen.  Or the first time he traveled to Europe on a boat back in 1952.  He was so young and naïve that he brought US postal stamps with him thinking that he could use them in Europe!  Or the story of how my parents met-it still amazes me that my Dad was able to woo my British-born mother on a safari in Kenya in 1963.  My Mum had been driving them in a LandRover and drove it straight into a ditch on their first date.  Dad ended up yelling at her and my poor Mum recovered only to be bitten by some sort of African bug and ended up in the hospital.  So my Dad, realizing his huge mistake and feeling terribly guilty, high-tailed it to the hospital to beg for forgiveness and at the same time, ward off any other suitors.  My Mum tells me that there was a British army captain who was trying to ask her out at the time.  My Dad showed up to see her first and the rest is history!   As usual, my Dad’s stories were poignant and highly amusing, and we found ourselves cracking up over and over.  We talked and talked over the course of that week.  I will never forget these moments and I am extraordinarily grateful for them.  And they came as a result of such a terrifying event.  Thankfully, they also, I believe, helped his recovery.

Unfortunately, my Dad hasn’t written another book since “Walk The Wide World”.  He has thought about writing other books-the beginnings of jazz, travel, real English ale, bird-watching-all of which are passions of his.  Sacha once said that it would be socially irresponsible if my father didn’t write another book and tell another tale.  I 100% agree.  That’s why I feel it’s my responsibility to write it for him.

 

Dad reading to Mia and Zoë

 

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8 responses »

  1. T – I got all teary eyed reading this one! What a nice tribute to your father … I hope he’s reading this somewhere in the UK!

  2. Tara,

    Loved this! You’ve inherited your Dad’s ability to tell a good story.

    One of my favorite memories of your dad is when my 1st grade class was studying Africa. He was in NY at the time and he came into my class with slides, drums and carvings and talked to the class. It was something special for me when Uncle Don was my show and tell!

    Do you remember going to Disneyland? Your poor parents came along and were good sports, but I’ll never forget your dad’s enjoyment when he discovered he could embarrass you by loudly singing throughout the park! Of course, you were about 12 so it didn’t take a lot to embarrass you.

    You’re blogs are wonderful. Thanks for sharing!
    Nancy

  3. What a tribute. Hope your daughters will have the same feeling about their mother and father.
    Take care, Thuyen, colleague of Holly at JPMorgan…

  4. Knowing your mum and dad since EA days this tale brought back many, many fine memories of them. Keep going — your writing is a lot of fun. kindest regards, phyllis

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