Grandpa and Sinbad the Sailor

My dad never tired of telling adventure stories to his grandkids

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By Susan Konig


My kids had plenty of reasons to love their grandpa. For starters, he was always sending gifts and “monies” for school supplies and field trips. These were no small contributions to him being dubbed a “fun PopPop,” and my kids called him as much in the homemade cards they’d write him for Father’s Day.

But my dad had also earned his title thanks to one of his favorite “grandpa duties”: telling stories to the kids. He’d pull a tidbit from a classic book he loved, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates or the tales of Sinbad the Sailor, and he’d sit them down and act it out.

One popular tale involved Sinbad getting shipwrecked in a strange land where he comes across an old man wearing a cloth, which my dad described as a diaper. This always got the kids giggling.

Sinbad asks the old man to lead him to water and civilization, and the seemingly feeble man agrees, but only if Sinbad carries him on his shoulders. Even though Sinbad is weak from hunger and thirst, he lifts the old man onto his shoulders and heads off.

After a while, Sinbad suggests they stop to rest, but the old man tightens his surprisingly powerful thighs around Sinbad’s neck, nearly choking him. Sinbad moves on and when they come to fresh water, the old man will not let Sinbad drink.

Sinbad thinks he will die if he doesn’t get away from this mysteriously powerful old man in a diaper. Then he spots fruit hanging from the trees that he knows will make the man sleepy with its potent nectar. Here, Sinbad employs a little reverse psychology: “Oh, I wish I had some of that delicious juice of the nub nub tree.” (Here my dad would forget some of the details and start making up names and other plot points.)

“Oh yeah?” says the old man in the diaper. “Well, you can’t have any. I can reach up and get all I want, and you just keep walking or I will choke you again.” My dad would cackle fiendishly for added dramatic effect.

So the old man grabs fruit after fruit and greedily devours the nectar. But Sinbad is patient and waits for the man to get groggy and finally fall off his shoulders.

The ending of the story would vary with each telling, but either way, Sinbad escapes and finds the nearby city in this strange land, where he amazes all with his tale of the old man in the diaper.

“Why, no one ever escapes the old man of the sea,” Sinbad is told by the citizens. “He’s killed hundreds of sailors. You are a hero.”

Then they introduce him to the king, who gives Sinbad half his land and his prettiest daughter.

By this point, our children were usually sitting there with their mouths hanging open at this marvelous turn of events. My dad would sit back, take a sip of his coffee, and look very satisfied.

The kids never got tired of hearing that story. My dad never tired of telling it. I hope, since my dad passed away suddenly this year, they will never forget it.

Happy Father’s Day, Pops.  CD

Susan Konig

Susan Konig is the author of I Wear the Maternity Pants in This Family (2007) and Why Animals Sleep So Close to the Road and Other Lies I Tell My Children (2006). Visit Konig's Web site at susankonig.com, and on Facebook at facebook.com/susankonig