Dad Stories

My father is a storyteller. In case you’re wondering where I get it from.

I never tire of his retelling of little gems from celebrity sightings to vacation mishaps to clients from hell. (He’s also in advertising, in case you’re wondering where I get that from too.) An active life spent in and around New York City makes him like our family’s very own Metropolitan Diary. Our very own Overheard in New York. Only better. He’s got camp stories that make me howl with laughter, fraternity stories that make me blush, National Guard stories that make me realize that it’s a damn good thing the US Army never had the honor of his, um…service.

Yeah, my dad used to make up Jewish holidays so he could get out of latrine duty. Ever heard of T’Shibov? Well, neither had his captain.

My father is not like that cliché old grandpa character, the one who says, “Did I ever tell you about that guy with the thing…” but only because he knows very well that he’s told us about that guy with the thing. Hundreds of times.

But he also knows it doesn’t stop us from wanting to hear about that guy with the thing.

“You know my story about…” he begins with a grin. Then he inhales deeply, leans back as he stretches out his arms out, then relaces his fingers behind his head and begins.

“You know the LCD story, Liz…you were 5, in the Mexico airport on our way home from vacation. You wanted a piece of candy and we wouldn’t let you have it. So you walked right up to the counter and stared and stared at that candy and made these sad puppy dog eyes at the lady behind the counter until she just handed it to you.

That’s when we started calling you LCD: Little Convincing Daughter.”

I’ve derived plenty of my life lessons and values from his stories. I learned to be nice to people on the way up the ladder. I learned that what goes around comes around. I learned what a parent can be at his best.

“You know my line, right….I told your stepmother on our first date: I don’t live with my kids full time. But I’m still a full-time dad.”

His travel stories are some of the best. My father is an intrepid Lonely Planet kind of a traveler, exploring Thailand, Egypt, Costa Rica, the Galapagos, the way the locals do. Which isn’t to say he isn’t particular about things.

Hey, this time we only had to switch rooms at the hotel twice! Next time we’re going to ask for our third room, first.

His most riveting travel stories take place during long lunches at hidden restaurants where the proprietors speak not a word of English. Or on day trips with native tour guides who can get him access to places tourists wouldn’t even know to ask about.

“Your wife, she is beautiful,” the old Egyptian man said at the cafe.

“Two camels! I’ll sell her to you for two camels,” I joked. Amye giggled.

“But no! That would be an insult,” he said in all seriousness. “I give you 20,000.”

The celebrity stories are irresistible, of course. There was Jerry Lewis (douchebag!) making an appearance at my dad’s fraternity then refusing to pose for a single picture with the brothers. I believe his line was, “You think a star like me would pose with a pipsqueak like you?” There was Joe DiMaggio (awesome!) who my father worked with for a while, and who would discuss anything besides Marilyn Monroe. And then there was the time a super hot 1970s Hollywood icon and infamous womanizer, at the height of his celebrity, walked into a high-end restaurant with a date, stoned and holding a joint–and my father just so happened to be at a large table near the front door.

“Joint,” I said mouthing the words quietly when he caught my eye. I pointed towards his fingers. “Joint.”

Realizing his faux pas, he nodded, then quickly tucked the joint into his pocket.

Moments later he came by our table to say hi and whisper a word of thanks in my ear. “Good to see you!” he said shaking my hand, then waving to everyone else at the table. “Enjoy your dinners.”

“Oh my goodness! How do you know him?” you grandfather asked, impressed.

“Oh…I just know him,” I said.

This is like so many of my father’s anecdotes–fortuitous intersections between his life and pop culture or history. In some ways, my father is like Zelig, often in the right place–or wrong place–at just the right time. These are the kinds of stories that give me more perspective on the world and how sometimes our tiny lives fit into the puzzle.

So it’s the summer of 1964 and those two civil rights activists are missing in Mississippi. My National Guard troop is all sitting around discussing it, and this one guy from that very town pipes in quietly, “Sheriff did it.”
We all waved him off, thinking yeah, right. We chalked him up as some yokel. What did he know?

Again, still softly, “Sheriff did it. Everyone knows it.”

With that he walked away

Nate gives me a hard time when I start to retell a story for the fourth or fifth or the thirtieth time, like my father does. I don’t apologize for it. These tales are our family’s legacies. Telling them over and over is one way to assure that they don’t die with the storyteller.

Tonight I’m going to have a new story: The night we took my father out for his 65th birthday.

Happy birthday dad, I love you.

And if you don’t mind, I’m going to tell you that more than once.


43 thoughts on “Dad Stories”

  1. I love a good Dad story too. My dad isn’t wuite as well traveled as yours, but he is definitely a good story teller. And he gets funnier every time.I hope I am still saying that when hse is 80.

  2. Those are great stories! Stories and memories are part of what knits families together. Shared experiences, and shared stories. Cool!

  3. Fabulous stories. My mom is particularly good at them too. I could even listen to her movie plot summaries, they are so good.I linked to an old post of yours today when talking about not calling dads “the babysitter.”

  4. What a great way to help your dad’s stories touch a whole new group of listeners.Happy birthday to your dad!

  5. Cool. Now I’ve met your mom and I feel like I’ve met your dad too. Or at least I want to read his blog. Tell him to start a blog.

  6. Happy birthday to your pop. I also have a 65-year old Jewish Brooklynite for a dad. They don’t make ’em any better. Truly.

  7. Your dad sounds wonderful! I can’t say that I’m surprised. Your mom is wonderful too. And what a great tribute!

  8. Your father sounds fascinating!I keep nagging my father to write down his stories. I hope both of our fathers actually do start writing down these great tales someday.

  9. Thanks, Liz for your wonderful blog today. It is the best birthday present you could give to me. It made me cry. But I did want to tell you the story about the time we…oh, never mind, you have heard it at least thirty times. With love, Dad

  10. Sweet sweet love letter. Bossy loves her dad in the same way. In fact the fathers both look alike. Now: You gonna tell us which 1970s Hollywood Icon you’re talking about or do you want Bossy to burst a capillary?

  11. Bossy, it’s gotta be the one whose initials are WB, am I right, Liz?What a beautiful tribute to your dad.

  12. Did your dad have a legendary rack too? Just wondering where that came from? Hee Hee. Seriously, Happy Birthday to your Dad!

  13. My dad was a storyteller, a salesman, and fisherman. Lethal combo. Mom always said he never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

  14. That was a really nice tribute to your Dad and that picture is the greatest.Happy 65th Mom-101’s Dad!

  15. Ha, I just realized that I get my story telling abilities from my dad too. Although your dad’s are probably more entertaining. Happy 65th to your dad.

  16. I think I’m in love with your dad. He sounds like my kind of guy. Hope his birthday is worthy of retelling 20 times.And that heartthrob… If it is who I think it is, he should be thanking your father for saving his possible future political career. Unless it’s okay to inhale now.

  17. Happy Birthday to your Dad! My Dad does the same thing, but his stories are not nearly so interesting. Still…I don’t mind hearing them. They’re the folklore of my childhood.

  18. Awesome. Happy Birthday to your dad. My grandfather is an 83-year-old Oklahoma farmer, and he’s the same way. I can envision stories of riding a horse to a swamp to go hunting for food as a child and serving as a motorcycle MP in World War II as a young adult, almost as if I was there, thanks to him.I never tire of hearing those stories from him and others like your dad.

  19. A dad with a sense of humor and a gift for storytelling. Hmmm. Think it rubbed off on you much? Happy Birthday to your dad.

  20. What a beautiful birthday gift, your dad sounds amazing.(And just because I can’t help myself, Tisha B’Av, often pronounced T’Shibov by American Jews, is in fact a real holiday. It was just a few weeks ago and commemorates the destruction of both Temples and other tragedies throughout history. It’s actually a pretty serious fast day among the religious. It’s existence doesn’t make it any less of a reason not to clean latrines though. Heck, as far as I’m concerned a strangely shaped cloud in the sky or a bad song on the radio is a good enough reason…)

  21. Robin, I will pass that info on! Who knew. (Well, you did.) I think he thought it just sounded good.

  22. Your dad? Sounds awesome. Really, really awesome. But i would have expected no less.(Also? My mother was offered goats for me once, when I was a teenager. Apparently Goth is attractive to a certain kind of Moroccan goat-herder.)

  23. Happy Birthday to your dad. He sounds like a hoot, and the best kind of granddad.(My family tells an “LCD” story, though it involves a vending machine guy replenishing gumballs, and a very pitiful “noooooooo money….” from a very clever cute little Jenny.)

  24. Ah. You brought my own Dear Father back from the grave for me. Thank you. And a happy, happy birthday you yours.

  25. Happy Birthday to your dad, Liz. It’s wonderful that you have these amazing stories to pass along to your kids. Beautiful tribute.

  26. There’s nothing better than a dad with stories, especially the ones we know by heart. If you’re ever in need of dad/farmer stories, let me know — mine’s got a million!

  27. (I cheated though – I live in Israel and it’s an actual “stores close early” kind of holiday here. Growing up in the States I don’t think I knew about it until I was a teenager and had some religious friends.)

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