Kage Baker adored her father. He deserved it, too – George Baker was an extraordinary man. I was privileged to know him for most of my life, even though he did tell me once that eating black licorice would surely kill me … but Dads are prone to saying things like that, about their kids’ (or foster kids’) compulsive behaviours. They think it’s funny.
My own father, whom I nonetheless loved dearly, told me much worse things. I’m still sorting out which ones were true and which ones were productions of his vast, eclectic knowledge, and his very loose connection to reality. Daddy believed everything he said, when he said it. Once he said it, he seemed to have felt that the truth of any matter was on its own and could thereafter fend for itself. Small wonder I ended up living with, and then becoming, a writer. It’s only a wonder that I ended up able to tell fact from fiction at all.
Though, actually, I can’t really be certain just how tight my own connection to reality is. I’ve been an historical re-enactor since age 20; not only spending days on end in other times and countries, but imbibing an awful lot of alcohol while I did it. And I’ve been reading science fiction since I was 6 years old.
At age 7, I woke my Da up in the middle of the night to tell him I could see the moon rotating – which I feared must foretell the end of the world, since the Moon is in a tidal orbit, always showing the same face to the Earth. It is typical of Daddy that he did not tell me I was nuts and to go back to sleep – he entertained the idea long enough to get out the binoculars and carry me out into the yard, where he showed me that what I had taken for a changing moonscape was actually thin clouds obscuring the Moon as they passed in front of it.
As a teenager, I convinced Kage that possums were New World animals and opossums were Old World animals. When ATM cards were brand spanking new (I am old, Dear Readers) I convinced a bank clerk that an ATM card was a check cashing card: their branch had no ATMs yet, but I was 300 miles from home and needed money … and it was my money, after all. I am notorious for telling friends demented “facts” with such an honest demeanor that some habitually look up anything I tell them, just to be sure; others will no longer believe any even slightly peculiar statement … which is a shame, because usually I am telling the truth. And, in my defense, at least I know when I’m lying. I don’t think Daddy did.
This is, after all, the same man who regularly during my childhood won extensions from bill collectors by reporting that I, or Kimberly, had tragically died. You get used to it after awhile, accepting condolences while not blowing the gaff for your father … and for all I know, this contributed directly to my skill at theatrical improvisation. Does that count as epigenetics? Might, I guess.
So, I rather suspect that my father passed down to me the genes of a fabulist. Luckily, I can tell reality from dream – most of the time – and so have managed to rein in this tendency to run off at the mouth and over the borders of Elfland … except in occasional emergencies, or for grins and giggles in a friendly atmosphere (sorry, Stacey!) I do assure you, Dear Readers, that I have always told you the truth. Except for when I haven’t. But I clearly label those times and wait anxiously to see if you like them, so you’re safe.
Daddy, I love you. I miss you. I miss your free-wheeling passage through my life. Happy Father’s Day.
This is my Da at age 20 or so. He’s the slick-looking young man on the left, with a resemblance to Dean Winchester. The curly-haired one on the right is my favourite uncle, Da’s brother Bob. And the woodchuck in front is their youngest brother, my uncle Charles, who most unexpectedly grew up to be a master archer …