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    The Storyteller

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    By Kristy Kiernan

    Over the past year or so, many fine storytellers have passed away, including, but obviously not limited to: Janet Kagan, Julian Rathbone, Stephen Marlowe, Robin Moore, Edward D. Hoch, Norman Mailer, Carol Bly, Dan Fogelberg, Kurt Vonnegut, Sidney Sheldon, Dawn Thompson, Phyllis Whitney, Bob Smith.

    You might not have heard of that last one.

    Bob Smith.

    Robert E. Smith, Jr. (He didn’t like that Jr. part.)

    Son of Robert, who traveled small towns in the South to decorate their Main Streets for holiday parades and events. Marine who fought on Guadalcanal during WWII. Husband to Betty, then husband to Ruth. Father of two. Grandfather of two, plus two. Thirty year dedicated employee. Friend to many, frustration to some.

    To me, he was Granddaddy. My first storyteller, my second father. At times the great love of my life, at others a burden felt deeply, guiltily. My conscience. My supporter. My critic.

    Always, my storyteller.

    He walked in a room and people turned, beckoning fingers in the air: “Bob, hey Bob, tell the one about the fish/ Mexico/ that girl in the truck/ Nashville!” And he always did. And I watched, and listened, and learned.

    My storyteller taught me about pacing, and tone, and humor, and conflict, and about the power of insult and love at the same time. He laughed readily and well, at a confusing wealth of things; wit demanded from family, but Benny Hill tuned into on TV.

    Some stories came more easily than others with age, but the skill remained. The memory faltered, but the voice kept cadence.

    He lied to me frequently: his middle name was Elijah, the sky wasn’t blue but clear and I was seeing it through my blue eyes, the scar on his forehead was from a Japanese bayonet.

    The lies were pretty, valuable as currency in my developing writer world, he the wealthiest inhabitant.

    The stories, the lies and the truths, fell away in his final weeks, the voice lost in his final days. In his last 24 hours he reached out and spoke to Ruth, his wife, dead three years now. His final story to me? Lie? Truth? Does it matter? Did any of them?

    March 5, 2008, my storyteller left me. I am numb. I am lost. I say that I am okay. It was his time, I knew that, I am comfortable with that. 87 is a long time to live. I lie and lie and lie.

    My new book waits for me to write it. How is that possible? Does my story still exist? Does he? Is one possible without the other?

    I wish you peace, Robert E. Smith, Bob, Smitty, Major, Daddy, Granddaddy, all the pretty lies, all the truths, all my gratitude, all my grief.
    A story waits. I’ll be here when it comes, I’ll be here when you bring it.

    The Storyteller, 12/13/1925 – 03/05/2008.

    –Kristy Kiernan is the author of Catching Genius and Matters of Faith.

    11 Responses to “The Storyteller”

    1. What a great tribute to what was obviously a wonderful man. Thanks for sharing part of his life with us.

      by Carrie on March 28th, 2008 at 12:41 am

    2. “It was his time, I knew that, I am comfortable with that. 87 is a long time to live. I lie and lie and lie.”

      That line just punches me right in the heart.

      by J.D. Rhoades on March 28th, 2008 at 6:30 am

    3. JD and I have been on the same wavelength for a couple of days.

      Very touching.

      by Will Bereswill on March 28th, 2008 at 7:19 am

    4. Oh, Kristy, this is just lovely.

      And that line took my breath away.

      by judy larsen on March 28th, 2008 at 7:44 am

    5. Oh Kristy,
      Words won’t help. You’ve shattered me today.
      I lost my grandfather years ago and still miss him. Strength to you.

      by JT Ellison on March 28th, 2008 at 8:24 am

    6. :hugs: Thank you, Kristy. I lost my storyteller almost 6 years ago, and it still tears me up when I think about it. Mine was my dad and although he’s gone, he’ll always be with me. Just like Bob will always be with you.

      by B.E. Sanderson on March 28th, 2008 at 8:41 am

    7. Kristy, you already know what I think about this post. Thanks for writing it.

      And it is ALWAYS a pleasure to have you here. Or there. Or anywhere…..

      by Tasha Alexander on March 28th, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    8. I adore all of you people! And thank you so much. I warned T she might lose readers to depression over this, but she was determined, so do please come back next Friday when I am sure a more lighthearted post will shimmer…

      by Kristy Kiernan on March 28th, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    9. Okay, must share this story. I was a bit verklempt this morning over this post, and I’ve been thinking about my own Granddaddy all morning. I said a litle prayer after I read this, just to tell him hi.

      Then I went to the Frist Center, our lovely art museum, to see the Monet to Dali exhibit. In the second room, there were five sculptures by Rodin, including the Thinker. My Gran had a replica of the Thinker on his bookshelf, and I remember coming to the house when I was a kid and thinking it was the real thing, and being awestruck at how MY granddaddy had pulled that off. He never disabused me of the notion.

      I don’t know where it is now. A lot of things disappeared over the years. But I could hardly contain myself at the Frist when I saw the sculpture. It was like he was saying hi back.

      Thanks, Kristy, for helping me remember today.

      by JT Ellison on March 28th, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    10. What a beautiful post. My father passed away two years ago and was a storyteller as well. I thought that after he was gone there would be no more stories, but I kept writing, knowing that if I stopped his gift would, too. Your grandfather would want you to continue, since your work is a manifestation of his talent in some ways. And he’s lucky he had such a wonderful granddaughter!

      by Michelle Moran on March 30th, 2008 at 9:28 am

    11. J.T. - that’s just really very cool. Thank you for telling me about it. I hope to get a hello at some point too, and I hope I’ll recognize it, as you did, when it comes.

      Thanks, Michelle, I know I’ll get there. I feel oddly superstitious about it, but I know that’s temporary and I assume, and hope, that it will morph into deeper motivation and acceptance of my goals as authentic and worthy.

      by Kristy Kiernan on March 30th, 2008 at 10:35 am

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