Like most kids, I lied a lot. But I had standards. Lies weren''t for fun, they were reserved for making people happy, getting out of trouble or ensuring that justice was done. And I was quite skilled. My grandmother said my ability for “story telling” as she called it, was genetic, passed on from my very gifted father.
From a young age, it was clear to me that my father, while undeniably charismatic, was flawed. Dad was witty, smart, seriously good looking, and with a magnetic presence that attracted everyone. He was a gifted storyteller, who could weave a narrative that kept his audiences entertained and left them wanting more. Sadly, he also drank, never enough to completely ruin ours lives, but enough to make it rough.
Once when I was ten, while on my weekly trip to retrieve Dad from the town bar, his gift was on full display. Dad was telling a story and, as he spoke, his eyes punctuated every word. It was a whopper lie and I knew it, but everyone was laughing and it seemed so harmless. The regulars slapped Dad on the back as he finished and a pretty young woman approached - even I knew she was flirting with him - and whispered, “c’mon that can’t be true.” Dad smiled, his steel blue eyes twinkling, “God’s honest truth,” he said while making the sign of the cross - and we weren’t Catholic. He caught a glimpse of me rolling my eyes, smiled and winked as if to say it was our secret.
I guess it takes a good liar to know one, and Dad often called me the human lie-detector and would order me out when he had to tell Mom where he had been or what he done with his paycheck. It was my mother’s face that taught me just how much lies can hurt.
Decades later, as my Dad lay dying from lung cancer, I sat holding his hand while he slept, and wondered what I would do without him. He hadn’t been the best father, at times I hated him, hated that I was like him in any way. But I still loved him. Suddenly as if he read my mind, he opened his eyes, motioned for me to come close, and softly asked “am I going to beat this thing, sweetie?” As I stared back, my love for this skilled liar took over and a girl with a genetic gift for storytelling did what came naturally, “you’re going to be just fine Dad, God’s honest truth.” As I made the sign of the cross, he smiled and winked at me.