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Story Gifts From My Father

On this Father’s Day in 2012, I want to dedicate this storytelling entry to my father, Harry Dooley.  Most of all, I want to thank him for the gift of lasting stories and the Art of telling them.

I wouldn’t say that it was my father’s Irish heritage that made him such a wonderful storyteller, although I’m sure that didn’t hurt.  There are people who seem to have a natural cadence to their voice, a combination of tone, register and manner of speaking that pulls you in to what they are saying.

My Dad had that.

I remember going off to work on the first day of having a “real” job.  (My stints in theater and freelance writing didn’t count.)  I had been hired as a Commercial Lines Underwriter by the Western Insurance Company, and that qualified me as a “professional” in the Dooley family.

Before I left, my Dad gave me a present in the form of a tie clasp shaped like a golden shovel with a lump of real coal on the blade.  Although I was embarking on a career with excellent growth possibilities, he told me that he wanted me to remember that our family came from the coal mines.  Any time that I thought myself better than someone else, I was to take a look at that tie clasp and recall my roots.

In the years since, I’ve worked for two other insurance companies and have risen to the management level.  We don’t wear ties anymore except for very special occasions…business casual being the fashion statement of the day.

But, I still have the clasp.  I still wear it from time to time.  And I still recall the stories that my Dad would tell me of the mining days when he was a young boy.

Thinking back about my Dad on his special day, I’m reminded of some of the other gifts that he gave me…the gifts of his stories.  They were told while gently rocking in an old porch swing that he had mounted on a swing set frame under shade trees in our back yard:

THE GOLF OUTING—Dad made up part of a foursome on that legendary Saturday morning.  Two of the other members were as inseparable as Laurel and Hardy…and they shared that duo’s penchant for getting themselves into the most incredible situations.  His detailing of the “golf cart accident” and the amazing events that followed had me literally doubled over with laughter (and I’m chuckling to myself now as I write about it).

THE HOUSE OF BLUE LIGHTS—I suppose every town has its “ghost house” for the kids who grew up in the neighborhood.  Roanoke, Virginia was no exception, and Dad held me transfixed with tales of the odd blue lights that could occasionally be seen on the porch and through the shattered windows of an abandoned three-story house.  This sparked my life-long interest (including some investigations) into the paranormal.

THE GHOST BRIDGE—Dad didn’t tell many ghost stories, but this one stuck with me.  It involved his riding his bike on a very early winter morning to deliver newspapers.  As he came near a railroad bridge, he saw someone very high up jump off and disappear into a snow bank far below.  He pedaled away as quickly as he could.  When he returned to the spot with friends, there was no sign of the snow bank being disturbed.  He learned later of a suicide that had occurred there years before.

BIBLE STORIES—Much of what I knew about the Holy Bible came from my Dad.  He didn’t preach.  He just found some of the stories so interesting, and he told them in a way that would make it seem as if they were unfolding right in front of me.  Moses and Joshua were his two favorites, and it almost felt as if I could feel the vibrations that spelled doom to the walls of Jericho.  Reading the stories was a poor substitute for my Dad, and I’ve yet to hear a minister retell them with the same sense of adventure and intrigue.

CLYDE, THE SLEEPWALKER—Dad’s older brother, Clyde, had a habit of arising during the night and walking around the house.  This almost brought tragic consequences when Clyde headed outside where the cool night air woke him up.  He came back to the house…to be faced with his father’s shotgun pointed at his face.  And that was just the start of the story.

Oh, there were many, many more stories.  Dad seemed to have one for almost every occasion.  And I know that they helped to mold me into the man that I am today.  For that, I am eternally grateful.

Thank you, Dad.

And thank you for reading.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Jul. 13th, 2012 07:20 am (UTC)
I have so many family stories whirling around in my head, and no idea of where to make a start at leaving them to posterity ...it would be a shame to loose them. I admire that you have preserved your Dad's stories...

I tend not to be a good speaker but feel more comfortable writing, so I guess that could be a start for me....just start writing them down...My Dad was an undertaker and funeral director as well as a paramedic before there was such a thing, so the stories are myriad...! and some so funny...!

Thanks for getting me to start thinking more seriously about this...Linda from Morton Farm.
gahannajd
Jul. 20th, 2012 04:58 pm (UTC)
Story Gifts From My Father
Hello, Linda:

Thank you so much for your comment. Writing is an excellent way to preserve stories. If you decide to practice oral storytelling, writing is also a fantastic method for determining the important elements you want to share. When we write stories, there is a natural tendency to self-edit, so we concentrate on the "important" or "worthwhile" parts that we want to share.

Enjoy your venture. It will be a wonderful journey!

Best Wishes,

Jim
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )