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Friday, May 24, 2013

The Stories We Tell

I love listening to people tell stories about the things they have experienced in their lives. I especially love it when those stories taken place years before, even more so when they take place before I was born.

Maybe it's my Eastern European/ Russian heritage, but there's nothing I love more than a good tale.

My dad always has some to tell. Most of them I've heard a few times, if you know what I mean. But I love them. And he tells them so well, in a very funny, self-deprecating way. My favorites are from his time in the military. 

My dad served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, on an air craft carrier. I'm not sure his rank, but he mostly spent his time in the communications room aboard the fleet's lead ship. He would spend hours just sorting incoming and outgoing messages on this tickertape machine that constantly spewed out paper. (I don't know the technical jargon, bear with me.) Anyway, it was a lot of paper and in a bid to keep it from overrunning the room, the guys used to stuff it into bags to take down to the ship's furnaces.

So, one day (after a 14 hour day that came after five 12 hour night shifts) he and another sailor gathered the bags at the end of their shift and brought them down to the bowels of the ship to burn them. My dad opened the huge furnace and threw in the first bag, grabbed the long iron pole, poked it further in and slammed the door. His co-worker (Yeah, I don't know the lingo, okay?) stood around in a half doze, waiting for the bag to burn so they could go crawl into their bunks for a much needed rest. They repeated this process a few times, until they got to the last bag. After shoving it into the furnace and waiting impatiently for it to incinerate, my dad opened the door to make sure it didn't need to be broken up some.

The blast that occured when he opened the furnace door to check on that last bag was so intense it lifted him off his feet and threw him backward. He slammed into the wall behind him and slid down to land in a slump on the floor, stunned. After a moment, he realized his fellow sailor was standing over him, shouting and making gestures, but all my dad could hear was a ringing in his ears. He reached up to remove his glasses, which were now coated in ash and grime, only to discover most of his eyebrows had gotten singed off. Those glasses, miraculously unbroken, probably saved his eyes from flying debris. It took him a few minutes to gain his feet but he was okay, other than a bit stunned and bruised.

What the heck would cause such a blast, you ask?

Well, apparently someone (my dad says he has his suspicions) had mistaken the bag of tickertape for the trash and thrown their empty can of Cheese Whiz into it. When the can was tossed into the superheated, enclosed furnace, the pressure within the can began to build. Somehow, my dad opening the door to check on the burning paper triggered the can to blow. Maybe it had just reached that point, or maybe it was the cool air rushing in. Who knows? He was really lucky that most of the shards of metal from the can never made out of the furnace, although he said his body was outlined in ash on the wall behind him.

My dad likes to said he came close to death in the Vietnam War. He just leaves out the bit where it was by Cheese Whiz can.

How about you? Do you have any great stories from the past? Or anecdotes you love to hear from friends or family?

21 comments:

  1. LOL, Olivia! I thought for sure the story was going to end with one of the bags was his clothes going to the laundry and he had nothing else to wear. So like a girl, right, to think it was about clothes. ;)

    My grandmother had an aunt who used to push kids in a pond. "Hey, look at this fish!" she'd say to an unsuspecting kid. Then when the kid got close enough, she'd push 'em in the pond. I don't know why I find that so funny. I guess because it's hard to imagine an old lady doing this. What kind of warped mind, right? (My sister pointed out a few years ago, that we never heard how old she was when she did this. But I think my grandmother's AUNT - had to be old right? At least that's the way I tell it.)

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    1. How many of us can see a cackling Ava doing this as an old lady? That's the real question here. :-)

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    2. LMAO! I would *never* do such a thing to kids, Deb!

      There are some adults I wouldn't mind pushing in a pond though. They know who they are. ;)

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    3. Deb,
      See it? Heck, I'm looking forward to it. ;}

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    4. I LOVE it, lol! What fun she must have been, and I bet all the adults were like, "Oh, and don't forget to bring little Timmy extra clothes, because you know who will be there!" ;D

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  2. If your father has really told this story as many times as you say he has, then how is it you don't know ALL the proper terms? LOL. When my father tells a story (which is ALL the time), he tells it so many times that it isn't long before everyone can recite it word for word with him...and yet he still tells it anyway. :)

    (He was on a Navy aircraft carrier during Vietnam, too. He was an aircraft mechanic. I wonder if he remembers an exploding bag of paper in the furnace...)

    One of my favorite stories, however, is one that is ABOUT him, not one that he tells. This was back during my teen years, when my parents had divorced and I wasn't speaking to my father. LOL. Anything that put him in a bad light, I was all about latching onto. He was in a phase where he was trying to quit smoking, but he couldn't seem to keep himself from putting something in his mouth in the same manner as he would do with a cigarette. He'd tried candy, pens, all manner of things. But at this point, he was using toothpicks.

    So he was at work with a toothpick hanging out of his mouth one day when he sneezed. Then, a minute later, he realized that his toothpick was gone. He didn't think too much about it until many hours later, when he started getting crazy stomach pains. In all his brilliance, he was certain that he must have sneezed the toothpick down and not known it. Because, you know, when you sneeze, those winds are going hundreds of miles an hour. (Wrong direction, Dad, but whatever.) So, he rushed himself off to the ER and had them take x-rays to find his toothpick. I'm sure none of you are surprised to learn that they didn't find anything. LOL.

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    1. Omgosh, that's funny. I'm gullible like that too, I probably would have done the same thing, hahaha!

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  3. My Grandpa was in many famous battles in WWII and we love to hear his stories. One that always fascinated me as a kid was how they stopped an enemy supply train. It was winter and their own supplies were scarce. The train was full of canned fruit cocktail and that was all they had to eat for almost 2 weeks. He still has never touched it again!

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    1. Yikes. I bet they were relieved to find that train...until they realized just what it meant! Poor guys! ;)

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    2. LOL. I'm not sure what part of fruit cocktail is worse, but I'm putting my vote in for the hairy grapes. ;D

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  4. LOL. I always KNEW Cheese Whiz was deadly. I just never thought of it exploding!

    I love to hear stories from the past. This is one of the things I love about working in hospice. I also love to listen to my mom and aunt telling stories from when they were little. There are only 2 years difference between them, and my aunt is the baby in the family. There's one story where my mom - who was no wider than a string bean most of her life - ended up fighting the playground bully, thanks to my aunt. The bully told my aunt to get off the swings and my sassy aunt told her she didn't have to and if she didn't leave my aunt alone her big sister was going to beat up the bully. It ended with my mom running for her life and trying to get under the merry-go-round where the bully couldn't fit, but the bully grabbed her legs and pulled her out. I don't know why, but that story makes me laugh. :D

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    1. Now I'm picturing your mom as Anne of Green Gables for some reason, lol....

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  5. Great story! I also love to hear my family's tales, although my memory is so bad that I don't often remember them. My husband's family tells the same stories over and over and over and over, so I can probably recite theirs better than anything from my own heritage.

    Except my family is all very musically-based (except, um, me, I guess), so a lot of our stories revolve around music. One of the favorites is about my great-great-great-great (maybe another great- in there) grandfather, who fought in the Civil War and marched with Sherman. Apparently he picked up a fiddle from a soldier who had died and managed to get it all the way home with him to Iowa. That fiddle was passed down through the generations, although I admit I have no idea where it is now. Wish I did!

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    1. Ack! Find that violin, lady! How amazing would that be to have? Thanks for dropping by!

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  6. I know I shouldn't laugh because your dad could have been seriously hurt, but finding out it was Cheese Whiz does make me giggle. I love listening to my family tell stories I just can't think of any at the moment (need coffee!!!).

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    1. Oh, Jane, it IS funny. My dad is legally blind, so he was NEVER going to see a battlefield. This gives him some street cred, by his way of thinking, lol!

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  7. My Papa was a general's assistant during WWII, and traveled extensively because of it. At one point during this period of time, my kind, quiet, wafer-thin grandfather managed to get in a knife fight in Cairo. A KNIFE FIGHT IN CAIRO! So. Awesome. (She says, knowing it turned out alright, lol)

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    1. That IS awesome, haha! Just like Indiana Jones. ;D

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  8. Omgosh, we were talking about old family stories this afternoon! One was about my great-grandfather who had been drinking (during prohibition, heh!) and was weaving his way back home. He took a shortcut through a graveyard near his house, and his pant leg got caught by a bramble.

    he started screaming about a ghost had got him, then proceeded to shoot in the general direction of the "ghost" before hightailing it home. My great-grandmother found the brambles stuck in his pants the next day. ;)

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  9. I love this story about your dad! It actually reminded me of my Papa Louie and all the stories I used to hear from him about his World War II days. I remember how he used to take out his uniform from the back of the closet, lay it out, and relive some memories which in hindsight, with a grown-ups knowledge, I realize must have been very difficult. And yet he wanted to. Anyway, I digress...but you reminded me of my Papa's favorite story. He was stationed in England during the war and the now Queen of England, used to come and 'work' alongside the men. Not just visit, he said, but that she wasn't just handshaking but moving amongst the men and lending a hand where she could. What's crazy is that I never asked what he meant. I never found out exactly what the Queen was doing and now it's a missed moment that I can't get back.

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