The Greatest Story I’ve Never Told
Some time back a fellow nurse told me how much she had enjoyed reading my cookbook. The “Lagniappe” section intrigued her and she expressed how she especially liked the stories and poetry that I’d written myself. She said, “I’d like to write a book one day. I think I’d like to write a novel. I really think you should write a novel.” To this I replied, “I wouldn’t even begin to know where to start to do that. Besides, you have to know big words like ‘collaboration’ and ‘figuratively’. I don’t use big words.”
Laughing she said, “Just write your life story. You have had a very interesting life. You’re funny and just based on what I know about you, I think they could make a great movie from your life story. So that’s what you need to do.” She had decided right then and there what I needed to do.
“So you think I should write my autobiography?,” I asked. And my friend says, “Well, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to write my autobiography first, then write a novel.” I got quiet for a minute then put on my best serious face and asked her, “Don’t you think you’re a little arrogant to think that anyone would want to read about you? What makes you so sure that you are interesting enough that anyone would buy a book just to read about you? And just what if you write the book, then find out that you aren’t who you thought you were all of your life?”
Well that’s where things got interesting. As I expected, she looked up at me with a strange look on her face. Maybe more than one strange look. First she looked at me as if I’d just knocked her feet out from under her. Then she looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. Then came the very predictable question….“And just what is that supposed to mean?”
“What does what mean?” I asked with a half smirk on my face.
“The last part, ‘what if you write it and then find out you aren’t who you thought you were?’ Just what the hell does that mean?”
At this moment I had to make a decision. Do I just laugh and leave her hanging? Or do I tell the greatest story I’ve never told? By then the nurses’ station was full of people… silent people… silent nurses. “What a rare event. I have an audience of silent nurses”, I thought. For some crazy reason I decided to tell the story for the first time ever to a room full of people. A story I’d kept so secure that not even my mother or husband had ever heard it. For some reason it seemed like the perfect time to share this story that I’d kept buried deep inside. It was time.
So I sat down, put down my pen, and crossed my arms. A comfortable position I suppose. This is a rare occurrence for those who don’t know me. Rare for most any nurse I guess. But for some reason I didn’t care that I had things to do or that anyone else had things to do. I had their ears and their interest and it was time to spill it. So I started the greatest story I’ve never told.
“You all know me. Or at least you think you do. But there are things about me that no one knows and up until about 10 years ago, I didn’t even know myself. One day, I was at home minding my own business, cleaning my house, dancing to the music, taking a minute here and there to pet the dog… when the phone rang. ‘Blocked caller’ came up on the caller ID but for some reason I felt like answering it anyway. I thought, ‘This could be interesting. I’m feeling a little sarcastic today so I think I can get rid of this one pretty quick if they’re selling something.’ So I answered it and this man on the other line asks, ‘Is this Jean?’ ‘Yep, sure is. What can I do you for?’
Silence… dead silence for what seemed like eternity but I was willing to wait him out. Then he says with a very serious tone, voice quivering, ‘This is your father.’
So I laughed and said, ‘Nope. Not unless you’ve been called back from the dead or reincarnated ‘cause my father died a few years ago.’
‘Yeah, I was expecting you to say that. I know you grew up thinking he was your father but he wasn’t. I’m your father.’
Still a non-believer and a little annoyed but curious I said, ‘Go on.’
‘In December of 1968 I met a beautiful woman named Nancy. She was the most gracious and kind person I’d ever met in my life and I would have married her. I loved that woman but she was already married… to the man you grew up knowing as your father. From what I knew of him he was a mean man and didn’t respect your mother. I apologize if this offends you, but…’ ‘No, you’re right on target with all that. Continue,’ I said still sounding annoyed and skeptical. ‘So he got drunk one night and left your mother for another woman. I was there for her. I comforted her I guess you could say. Do you understand where I’m going with this?’
‘Yeah, I hear you but I don’t believe you. Anyway if I did believe any of this, why would you do this to me at this stage of my life? I’m too old for this crap!’
‘Well, I never could have any children of my own. My wife died about 3 years ago and I just couldn’t stop thinking about you. I knew about you from the beginning but not because your Mama told me. A mutual friend told me. You see, I was a truck driver and I didn’t live there. I passed through every week for several months. But our short- lived romance ended because my job ended. I wanted to stay around and make a life with her but her husband came back and based on what I knew about him I’m sure it was out of fear that she stayed with him and told me to leave. Anyway, I’m sure she let him believe you were his own child because she had to. Otherwise, he’d have killed her. She never knew that I knew about you but she had told one person and that person told me that you were mine. I thought it was best to stay away and not cause any trouble so that’s what I did. I kept up with you through the years with the help of this friend. A few times I lost track of you. You’ve been a busy woman.’
That’s when I had to say, ‘Hold up now. How could you be so sure that I was yours and not his? And why am I supposed to believe all of this… and why would I want to… and again I ask you why do you want to do this to me at this time of my life? I’m damn near 40 years old and you want to tell me now that I’m not who I thought I was for 40 years? How dare you!’
‘Well, Jean. I’m sick and ….’
‘Blah, blah, blah… Isn’t that what they always say? This is a made for T.V movie! It could be a Lifetime movie for God’s sake. Why am I even listening to this crap? Don’t you think it’s just a little selfish of you to throw all of that on me? If you were any kind of man you wouldn’t want to change my life just to fulfill your dying wish! I guess you want a kidney or my bone marrow or something!’ I was fuming mad, confused, and disgusted by this point. What kind of man would do this? He wasn’t any better than the father I already had.
‘Now wait just a damn minute. You didn’t let me finish. I want to tell you something important. I am sick… with a disease that is inherited and usually doesn’t manifest until later in life and I thought you might want to know about it just in case you get sick. I went through 2 years of hell before they could diagnose me and I wouldn’t want you to go through the hell I went through! If you don’t believe me I can just mail you a copy of my medical records. I know you’re a nurse. You can figure it all out for yourself!’
Well after that little raging episode I thought, ‘Maybe he is my father after all. He sounds just like me when I’m mad.’
‘What else you got? I mean, what else do you know about me?’ I was getting curious at this point.
‘I know everything about you.’ And he proceeds to tell me my life story better than I could have told it myself.
By this time, the nurses’ station has pretty much shut down and everyone who entered the door sat down and tuned in. I’d stop and back up the story and give them the short version then pick back up where I left off. They were all intrigued and wanted to hear the end of the story.
‘Well, I’ll need some kind of proof that you’re my father, uh, I mean.. sperm donor. Just because you know all about me doesn’t mean we have the same genetics. Are you willing to do a DNA test? Don’t get your hopes up about us being pals either now ya’ hear?’
‘I can do better than that. I have a box full of proof that I will be putting in the mail to you today. When you get that box, you won’t need a DNA test. Will you call me when you get it?’
‘Sure I will. By the way, what is your name Mr. Father of the year?,’ I asked with more than a hint of sarcasm in my voice.
‘You’ll find out when you get the box. My name, address, and phone number will be inside the box. Hell, I’ll even send you a picture of your dear old dad. We do favor a little I think’
‘Okay… Yeah... Whatever. I’ll be looking for the box.’
The days turned into a week and then another and another until I finally decided that the whole thing was a prank and I never told anyone. And then one day it arrived... the big box from nowhere, USA from the man who calls himself my father. It didn’t weigh as much as I thought it should based on the size of the box or the size of his tall tales. I brought it in the house and sat it on my bar and stared at it for what seemed like hours thinking that life as I had known it for 40 years would change if I just opened it. My history was being re-written. My autobiography would be changed forever.
‘Oh well, here goes everything. I couldn’t be any worse’, I thought as I grabbed a knife and ripped her open. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There it was before me. This was what I’d been waiting months for? Oh my God!
A collective “What was it?” rang out as the sound of the phone and the call bell ringing in the background broke the silence in the nurses’ station.
And that’s when I told them, “A big bunch of baloney just like I’ve been feeding you! As far as I know, my mother never cheated on my father. My grandmother used to tell me I was ‘telling stories’ when I lied or stretched the truth or just made up some cockamamie bull like this. That’s why this is the ‘greatest story I’ve never told’! Now get back to work suckers!”