The Confabulator’s Daughter

Grammy gave me a great new word when John and I had dinner with her and Grampy last Saturday. “Confabulate.” She used it fondly to describe what my father does when he tells stories. She was also delighted to introduce me to a word I didn’t really know, and explained to me that it’s a term for a psychological condition in which one makes things up to fill in the gaps in their memory as they recount a story. I don’t think either of us would attribute Dad’s story-telling to a psychological glitch, but it can’t be denied: Dad loves to tell stories that, while grounded in reality, have a certain flavor of the profoundly unlikely.


I vividly remember Memorial Day of 1997. I was homeschooled at the time, but in the band at the junior high. (Mom had been worried, with good reason, that I was becoming too antisocial.) Mom and I stayed home from the annual camp trip that weekend because, due to my band involvement, I had to march in the Oakland parade. I wasn’t looking forward to the marching, but when I woke up on Monday morning, I decided that marching would be infinitely preferable to feeling the way I felt. I will spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that I have never before and never since had the flu quite so severely. It was horrific.


Attendance at the parade was, for many good reasons, non-optional, so when I finally returned to band on Wednesday or Thursday, I needed a sick note. Unfortunately, I happened to be the first child to get sick since we had acquired a new computer, complete with ClipArt. Dad, when asked to dash off a note for me because Mom was already at work (I think), went straight to the computer and proceeded to design a terrible tale of woe and illness for me to give to my band teacher, complete with a cartoon of a green-faced kid leaning over a paper bag.


The “Silly Sick Notes” became my father’s claim to fame in the halls of MSAD #47, as for the next nine years he delighted in coming up with ever crazier and ever less plausible tales (and limericks) for my sisters and I to take to the school office. It was good motivation to not miss school, actually—the secretaries would display his crazy cards on the bulletin board. And when Mrs. G said she would miss having me around when I graduated, I’m pretty sure what she really meant was that she would miss the laugh she got out of Dad’s notes.


Confabulate may not quite technically describe what my father does in his tales, but it captures the essence. Aside from the sick notes, many of you know his tongue-in-cheek tales writing as “Nanook of the North.” I won’t try to do them credit here, but for those familiar with them, I will just say: case in point.


My father is a fantastic storyteller, in both senses of the word. Mom, Grammy, and probably all of my sisters will groan to hear it, but I have been delighted to find that, as I grow up, my sense for storytelling has evidenced certain things in common with my old dad’s wild tales. I am glad to be the confabulator’s daughter.


Happy Birtle Turtle, Daddy-O!

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