Monday, April 27, 2009

Tale Tellers

A recent father's report on his 9-year-old shooting his first turkey is odd in how much he presumes he knows about what his son thinks — as well as apparently thinking he knows what the turkeys were thinking as well. It seems unlikely that when the son tells the story he will be quite as focused on the buying stuff aspect of the story or that he will remember quite as much of his dad forcing him to shoot.

Conversely, how different would be the story told by the father who died a few days after taking his son to one last basketball game than the way it is framed by his son. No doubt dad was happy, but you have to believe his sense of regret at what he would miss, as well as the racking physical pain at a time of joy would change the tenor of the story as well.

Part of what makes the father-child relationship so complex is how each person can claim the story as their own. For instance, when Anoushka Shankar discusses touring with her Sitar-master father Ravi, the less attractive aspects of him ignoring her half sister (singer Nora Jones) are turned into a story of how she embraces her entire family. If the father were to tell the same tale, he would probably agree on the joy he gets from being on tour with his daughter, but any details he might include about his "other" daughter would likely be painted in tones of self- justification or as a story of discovered-love.

The takeaway, I suppose, is that the truth of the father-child relationship all depends on who tells the tale.

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