Photo of two men leaning against a boat

My father-in-law, Bill Rarick, with my husband, leaning against their boat before a fishing trip. Circa 1991

I was once at a conference where the attendees were asked to turn to a stranger sitting next to them and tell them a story that’s told and retold in their family about a family member. I turned to Lisa Watson and told her the following story.

Before heading into surgery for testicular cancer my father-in-law said to the nurse, “I sure wish I would have bought that boat.”

“What boat’s that?” the nurse asked politely.

“The one I looked at last weekend.”


“Because I won’t have the balls to do it tomorrow.”

Lisa Watson and I had a good laugh, and when the speaker asked audience members to tell the story that had been told to them, she recounted my father-in-law’s story. There was a brief pause before the room exploded in laughter.

The point of the exercise is that a two-minute story communicates so much more than reciting facts. And it’s memorable. I could have told you, “My father-in-law was one of the funniest men I’ve ever known, even when life threw him curves,” but you wouldn’t remember me or my father-in-law; nor would you know as much about him as you do from the story.

And we both know you’ll retell the story and remember it for a very long time.

5 Responses

  1. Ah ha ha ha ha ha! Man I wish I had been in the Studio Theater for that one! Really great to me you yesterday! Thank you for all your tweeting at the conference! I’ll shoot you an email, since I never got you one of my cards.


  2. It was great meeting you, Bethany. I look forward to hearing from you.

    OMG, Lisa! I could hardly believe you stood up and told the story! My father-in-law would be so proud. (He would, really!)

    It was fun hanging out and getting to know you better yesterday.

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