Let’s see now, we’ve done the intro posts, the St Patrick’s Day posts, the “look behind the curtain” posts, the Mental Health posts. What’s next? “Glamorous Life of a Rock Star”, perhaps? Nah. I don’t know anything about that. How Do I Nerd? Maybe next month. Hmmm. It’s Pride month, maybe…nope. That’s not a topic I can speak about authentically, being a straight cismale drummer and all. (Don’t judge me, I was born this way.) Religion? Politics? Perhaps another time, when I’m ready to burn the whole band down to the ground, and much of my social life along with it. What to write, what to write…huh. Okay. Strap in folks, the ride’s about to get bumpy.
Welcome, one and all, to Brian’s Stream of Consciousness Theater!
I’ve been playing a lot of D&D lately, both as a player and as a DM. It’s my favorite hobby, I think. Yeah, I paint miniatures and craft terrain and props to bring to the table, and that can help make for a more immersive game; it’s one thing to just say, “As you walk into the room, there’s a bookcase to your right” but quite a different thing to then put a miniature bookcase on the table to the right of the character. And I’ll admit, there’s a special/weird thrill that comes when a DM friend asks me “Hey, do you happen to have a big hill with a giant skull in the middle, with a tree growing out of the skull?” (Spoilers: I do.) But the trappings aren’t the point. Hell, the rules and the dice and the books aren’t the point. The story is the point, the story we’re all telling together, with the player characters in the starring roles, the DM shaping the narrative and adjudicating the rules and whatnot. It’s all about the story.
We’re made of stories, you see. The experiences that shaped us, the moments that taught us, the memories of laughter and tears that we hold on to, we share them with others. In doing so, we give away pieces of who we are, where we’ve been. And like lighting a candle from another candle, neither flame is diminished. Stories are perhaps the most human form of magic we can perform. I think that deep down, we all yearn to see others and be seen, to understand and to be understood. Those precious moments where people share their stories, giving away pieces of themselves and becoming more whole thereby, more alive, more real…just MORE.
My dad has been a storyteller for at least as long as I’ve known him, and likely longer. It’s his way of drawing people in, and I adopted the same habit long ago. He tells his tales to entertain, to educate, to offer comfort and support. I admire his skill with words, his ability to lead listeners along on a journey through his memories. I could listen to him just tell stories for hours. He’s getting on in years, now, and the stories he tells have changed a bit. He goes back to his time in the NYPD pretty frequently now; he was a cop for about a third of his life, and a cop in New York City is bound to see some pretty weird things. I wondered for a bit why he kept returning to those times, in his mind and in his words, until it finally dawned on me. He’s getting older, you see, and feeling it more and more with each passing year. He was diagnosed with a particularly pernicious form of dementia a couple of years back, and his mind and body are failing him. So he tells his stories to remind himself and the people around him of who he is, who he was, and the times when he felt strong. And in those moments, as he’s reliving those younger days through his words, he feels a little stronger again. He repeats himself sometimes, telling me the same story he told me last week. I don’t care. I’ll keep listening, and remember for him, keeping the parts of him he shares with me for all my life. Hopefully, I’ll get to share some of Dad’s stories with my grandson, when he’s old enough to understand and remember, so he can have a little piece of Dad too.
This didn’t go at all where I thought it might, but I suppose this was the story I needed to tell tonight. But let’s end on a lighter note, if we can. How about this? I make this offer to you, Dear Reader: Catch me at a show sometime, as we’re headed into a break or closing out the night. Ask me to tell you a story. Be prepared to tell me one of your own. Doesn’t matter if it’s happy, or sad, or even real. It just matters that it’s yours. We’ll listen to each other, and walk away with little bits of each other freely exchanged. Perhaps we’ll know each other better. Perhaps we’ll learn something new. Perhaps you’ll just come away from the experience thinking “Man, that is one weird dude.”