The Dad Life

This is the dad life. If only I could encapsulate 68 years of my father in a video like that. I could maybe cram the 27 years I knew him into a video that skips a rock over the surface of his life. But truly, I don’t have much more than that. Lets be real about those first 8 years or so, I didn’t really know him in the sense of a friend or neighbor. I knew him in the sense of I woke up, ate, played, and stayed out of trouble. 

Otherwise, I don’t know much about anything before that. He told me many stories of his growing up years, but he left out the hard parts and accentuated the good parts. Some people might say he exaggerated the good parts. I would agree with that. Which isn’t that rare, we all do that to some extent. I couldn’t prove the stories he told were outright lies though. 

I couldn’t really prove much more than what I can remember and what other people corroborate. Which isn’t surprising. The more I learn about my dad the more he is a bit of a puzzle to me. The things I can prove are things like my grandpa Jack Patrick Manning being a cartoonist. 

But I can’t prove that he was a cartoonist at Hannah Barbara as much as my dad said he was or that he drew cartoons for training videos for the Navy during WWII. My dad told me all sorts of different thing about himself.

My dad was in the Navy. 

Was he really a pilot? Did he do barrel rolls in helicopters like he said he did? What about the stories he told about his time in Vietnam? Can I prove those? Do I want to do the work of proving/disproving? How do his stories interplay with him being dishonorably discharged from the Navy?

My dad raced race cars.

How about his stories about racing against Darrel Waltrip and Dale Earnhart?

My dad knew the Beach Boys.

Then there are stories about how my dad sang the high part of Barbara Ann for the Beach Boys…

You could see how I might start to become skeptical and cringe when my friends teased that my dad probably knew George Washington and signed the Declaration of Independence. But I am cringing because I know there is more truth to their teasing than maybe there is to his stories. 

You see, the more I talked to my half siblings, the more it became apparent that my dad lived a rather remarkable life. I’m sure there were mundane moments. But truly, his life was remarkable. He built homesteads and settled his family into the wild wilderness of Montana. Providing for his family off the land. 

But he never settled for reality. He always had his extra he had to add to the story. 

His life was a good story he never settled for. He always wanted more than what was real.

I now struggle with this too. I want more than what is real and I want to exaggerate my stories.

I can’t let myself do that though. Reality is where I wake up and go to sleep every day.

Reality is where my wife and my friends are. 

Reality is where my community is.

Where do your stories come from? Where do you live? Do you tell your friends, children, and family about the true version of you and who you’ve been?