Father shows the story beyond the words

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2007

While home this past weekend, inspired by my niece&8217;s dance recital, my family began pulling out tapes of my childhood days on the stage. Among the collection was one of my all-time favorite clips from my toddler days &8212; me with no more hair than a Kewpie doll snuggled down in my father&8217;s lap. (He, of course, sported more thick, brown hair than he knew what to do with, a fact he often laments these days as it grays and thins.)

In the video, a book spread across our laps, we turn each page, content to bellow animal noises to match the illustrations instead of reading the actual story. He moos; I gargle. He meows; I gargle at a slightly higher pitch. I guess it&8217;s all that practice, but, to this day, my dad remains an excellent animal imitator.

Since I&8217;ve become a writer, we don&8217;t always have a lot to share concerning my work. Obsession with grammar and a love of literature came mostly from my bookworm mother. Dad will tell you his favorite writings, including his one and only poetic masterpiece, were scrawled on the bathroom stalls of his high school.

He is very proud of me, but I know somewhere among talk of leads and sentence structure, his head spins a little, as mine does when his expert car talk ventures too far into carburetors and leaky gaskets.

Still, I know Dad is a key part of who I am as a writer. Whether he meant to or not, he taught me that sometimes, you have to ignore the words. Sometimes the story is in the picture. And sometimes penciling &8220;woof, woof&8221; is just not as effective as knowing what it feels like to let the noise escape your mouth.

Years of studying may have told me everything about grammar and syntax and how to write well. But my dad&8217;s the one that showed me how to forget the words and just tell the story