Story Telling


Today while I sat waiting to see my oncologist, room full of patients, I got into a conversation with the man next to me. Bald head, cane and surgical mask, he was obviously in the middle of treatment. He looked to be maybe 50 and told me his story. We chatted and compared notes and I learned that seven years ago, he'd suffered a major stroke and woke up a month later in the hospital. After sheer determination, through therapy he relearned how to walk and talk. Because of his stroke, he lost his job. Six years later, he was diagnosed with cancer of the sinuses. I really felt for him and asked him if he was keeping a journal, and he is not, but he really wanted to share his story. I thought about what would happen to his story when he's gone and I guess I wanted to write it for him, this nameless cancer patient who I'll probably never see again.

So many of us record our stories, our lives, in our blogs for everyone to read (or not). I thought about how an illness or accident can take us and change us so completely. One day we're walking around, minding our own business, the next we're confronting our own mortality and weaknesses.

We all have our stories. But then, I also thought, some stories really need to go into the vault, never to be heard again. I'm not talking about those traumatic events that best be forgotten, I'm speaking of stories that just aren't worth repeating. An example of a vault story candidate is one my mother-in-law told us as we were driving her home last night. (And I don't mean to pick on her, but she seems to have a few that really need to be locked up, never to see the light of day.)

The topic of our conversation had turned to apples. I'm picky about apples and want them crisp and delicious. Why eat mushy, mealy apples if you don't have to? So she told the story about a friend of hers growing up who wished she could have one perfect apple. Just once. Her friend's family always kept a barrel full of apples, and when the kids wanted an apple to eat, they'd have to reach in and pick out one that had gone bad so it wouldn't spoil the rest of the apples. The kids would have to eat the bad apples first. Then, by the time they'd eaten the bad apples, the rest had also gone bad. Because of this bad apple rule, they'd perpetually eat bad apples. (Sounds like a cheesy parable, doesn't it? The Parable of the Bad Apples.)

Husband and I both listened to this story and had the same response: why in the world would you eat the bad apples first? Wouldn't you take the bad apples out and eat the good ones? You could then eat the bad apples last (if you felt so compelled to). Her response? "You kids are just spoiled these days." All I can say is, to the vault, Alice... Straight to the vault.

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