Story time!

Why don’t people tell their life stories anymore? Are we that consumed, as a society, in our own lives that we don’t care about what others have gone thru? Hell, maybe it’s not even a huge struggle, just real life. It seems like lately, people just give a two second synopsis of their lives, and it’s kind of disappointing to hear. Some of my best memories in life are sitting around the kitchen table, listening to my parents, my grandparents tell stories about their lives growing up. You get a glimpse into the reasons why they have their own quirks, their own patterns of behavior. I can think back in my life, and picture my mom putting making chicken & rice. I’ve watched her make it a hundred thousand times, and can picture her grabbing a spoon, scooping the cream of mushroom soup into the pan, pouring in the soy sauce, mixing it with the same wooden spoon she threatened us with when we were being little jerks. I can see my dad sitting at his desk in their bedroom, pre-remodel, fly tying. Using his middle finger to wrap the thread because the tip was cut off his index finger in a fan, so it’s become habit to protect the one and use the other. Oddly enough, I had the tip of mine smashed in a trailer hitch in high school, I believe around the same age dad lost his. I also use my middle finger on that hand to do things. Humans adapt, they overcome obstacles. It’s inherent, I believe, but you have to let it happen. Anyway, so I’m at the library today, and I see this older man looking at book titles, underlining them with his middle finger as he struggles to see them. I find myself wondering if the tip of his index finger is also missing, staring in the process. He notices me looking over, and says “hey, can yous tell me what’s this says? Ol’ whats her name forgot my damn glasses” *points at his wife* I immediately catch the accent, tell him the title, and ask him where he’s from. “From my mother!” he says. I asked him what part of New York City or New Jersey, and he full on belly-laughed. The librarian glared at me, you guys. He asked me how I knew…. Told him dad was born in Hoboken & I caught the accent. He stops, looks at me, and says “No. There’s no way he was actually born in Hoboken unless you know who the most famous person born there is.” I looked him right in the eye, didn’t miss a beat, and told him Frank Sinatra. He belly laughed again, and said “by damn, he really was born there!” Told him dad delivered newspapers to Frank Sinatra’s mother. He got a kick out of that, it opened up his whole life story, and I didn’t miss a word. He told me he was 7th generation born in NYC, about how his dad died when he was 16, and there was still 7 children living at home, but their big Catholic family of 100+ took care of each other. Lived in Queens, was telling me about how there was 110 bars in the 1 square mile borough around 1947, and about 30 grocery stores each no bigger than a bedroom. You had to walk a block to Al’s for vegetables, but another three blocks for canned goods. He enlisted in the Army during the Korean war, initially stationed at Ft Dix but was quickly sent overseas. Spent time at the DMZ, road the boat home, expected orders to Ft Lewis, but volunteered last minute for orders to Presidio, and stayed in the barracks under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. He told me about how he was sitting in his room, and noticed three chicks (then paused, and said “I don’t mean anything by that, it’s just what we called the girls back then) getting out of a car. He went down, introduced himself, and married one of them 7 months later. They lived in the same house in the suburbs of San Francisco for over 40 years, then when their kids grew up and moved to Washington, they joined them. He showed me pictures of their family he had rubber-banded to his money clip (again, the only other person I know to ever use a money clip is my dad), and I could see how they went from thru the fashion changes over the years. At this point his wife walked over, asked if he was bothering me with his chit chat. I told her absolutely not, I loved hearing their story. She told me they have been married 55 years, but if he didn’t get his act together they may not make it to 56, clearly joking. He complained about her forgetting his glasses, she told him if he wasn’t blind, he wouldn’t need them. The banter back & forth was comedic gold, but you could tell that if something happened to one, the other would be lost. I grabbed my stack of held books, and told them I had to get going. He looked up, and told me “You make sure yous take care of yourself, you hear?” and for whatever reason, it really stuck with me today. How often does someone really look you in the eye and tell you to take care of yourself? A random stranger? Hardly ever, is my guess. But for whatever reason, this man chose to share his life story with me today, and I am mulling it over in my head tonight. What if he hadn’t volunteered to stay in San Fran? What if she hadn’t been in that car? Clearly, they are soul mates. I believe in that. She walked away to check out her books, and he told me “I love that woman. She makes me crazy, but I love her.” That’s what it’s all about, friends. Easy is boring. Real love & life takes hard work. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, and sometimes it’s a beautiful story. Tell your story, whatever the outcome. Have some adventures, because life without adventure is boring. I left the library today realizing I know more about that man& his life than I do some of oldest friends! So, next time we get together, tell me YOUR story. Trust me, I want to hear it! And take care of yourself, you hear?

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