Friday, May 23, 2008


Someone commented on my blog that I'm a great storyteller. Funny that, because I always wanted to be a great storyteller. I grew up watching my maternal grandfather weave a good yarn. He would tell the same stories over and over, each time growing them a little more. Strangely, I don't remember the details of any of his stories, but I can still picture him gesticulating wildly and hear his animated voice in my head.

I think about what he could have done if he was able to write. My grandfather was illiterate. Couldn't read. Couldn't write. The only thing he'd learned to pen was his signature for signing cheques. And after the stroke, he was reduced to signing with an "x". I watched him struggle one day with this. It took, what seemed hours, to create those two lines.

I wonder what he could have created if he'd been able to write down his thoughts. He ended up an alcoholic later in life and I can't help but entertain the idea that it was his frustrated creativity that slowly drove him to drink. How does one release all that energy if he can't read or write? I can only imagine his frustration.

He was a passionate man, to say the least. He often put curses on people. Curses, my mother says, came true every time. She shudders each time she tells me about that. Maybe she became a jw to hide from his curses. It's as good a reason as any I can think of.

Grampy died back in 1988. I was 13 at the time. I watched the man disintegrate in the years before his death. After the stroke, he lost his speech and you could see the stories sitting behind his eyes. In hindsight, I wish I had written them down. It's sad when stories are lost forever.

tall penguin


Ged said...

You paint a lovely picture...

Story telling is often described as a gift from god. You don't have to be religious to understand what is meant by that. Before writing was widespread it was the only way of keeping the memories of important events alive. It was clearly a much valued ability.

I spent a lot of my formative years in Jamaica and various parts of Africa where stories are traditionally handed down through families, usually related to enthralled youngsters by the old folk. Even when I didn't know the language it still held my attention. It must have been that way everywhere at one time.

I often wonder if I'd have a better memory if I couldn't read or write. If you don't have to memorize stuff because you can write it down does your capacity diminish? I can't go shopping for five things these days without having to write a list. Or was I always like that - I forget.

tall penguin said...

"Story telling is often described as a gift from god."

I have no problem with the word god in this context. To me, it is the sublime nature within us that creates. And that is a god I don't mind worshipping.

I find storytelling fascinating. I fear that without my ability to write I could not express myself so well. I'm slowly learning to tell stories verbally. But writing is still my main method of conveyance.

"If you don't have to memorize stuff because you can write it down does your capacity diminish?"

Use it or lose it, I imagine. I think our minds have become crammed with so much useless information that there's little room left for the simple, mundane things like grocery lists. Not to mention the not so mundane things like the smile of a friend or the last words you said to your lover.

I think it comes down to being in the moment. I think that when you're present, it's easier to remember things, by virtue of your senses being more engaged. If you're distracted and somewhere else in your mind, what's happening now fades into the background.