Old Man Stories
Today I saw the movie Big Fish. This is a fairly good movie directed by Tim Burton, and I tend to like the works of that fellow. The tale is one of a son coming to grips with the improbable nature of his father's life. The details are interesting so I will leave them for you to discover at the theater or on DVD. That's not what I'm writing about.
The drive home with my girlfriend involved discussion and something disturbing occurred to me. The father in the movie often tells stories about things that have happened in his life and there are some around him who do not appreciate the stories. The disturbing thing is the fear that I am becoming that man.
We all know people like that. The fellow has seen more adventurous days and now has only tales to share. Once you've heard the tales a couple of times you have had your fill. After that point the stories get to be annoying. We tend to avoid those guys. Worse, we tend to pity those guys. We feel bad for them because the best parts of their lives are long past and there is nothing left for them.
Do I do that? Do I tell too many tales of notable things from my youth? Have my stories grown more interesting in my memory? Have my jokes reached the end of their lives and started to stink with death? I hope not.
It is difficult to be objective on these matters. My girlfriend joked that I was well past that point and then, seeing that it did really concern me, she retracted and said I wasn't there yet. Which should I believe? How much was I being humored?
This requires a plan. First, stop telling stories about my life unless the situation warrants it. That'll keep me from becoming repetitive and obnoxious (in that way at least).
Secondly, I plan to write the more interesting points. This will let me get it off my chest. So too it will give me a sense, regardless of how false, that my life will be remembered beyond my time. It will also keep me too busy to ramble endlessly about my youth. Third, and infinitely more important, I will endeavor to live in a manner so that I create more tales that are better than the tales of my earlier years. I don't want my best years to have been in the past. I want my days to get better with every dawn.
Here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa there is a school called Kirkwood Community College. This is the third largest post-secondary educational institution in Iowa and is one of the largest community colleges in the United States. The primary building at this school is called Linn Hall. Just inside the front doors of this building stands a bronze statue.
The statue is a likeness of Governor Samuel Kirkwood. Governor Kirkwood was the governor of Iowa back during the American Civil War. He was also a strong proponent of education. That statue is has quite an effect on the third part of my plan. If I live my life to have better days in the future, it is my hope to do such things that the people of my state feel it is proper to waste that much bronze to remember me a century after I'm gone.
It seems like it might be a bit ambitious to have such a goal. It is. I'm not even sure that it matters if it actually happens. More important is the effort. I have to make the effort to live a more interesting life.
Now all I have to do is get into the tabloids.