the tale of the missing finger

“Did I ever tell you the story of how I lost my finger?”

As a child, these words from my grandfather would always make me prick up my ears. He hadn’t lost a whole finger, just the top section of one of them, but it was enough to add an air of mystery to him, and I – and  his other grandchildren – would listen with rapt attention to the tales he told.

My grandparents walking in the alps.

My grandparents walking in the alps – is some sort of finger-chopping drama about to unfold?

Because there wasn’t just one tale, there were many; each one with its own exciting highs and (finger) crushing lows. There was the one where, walking in the alps, he had saved a cable car of people from plunging to their doom by putting his finger into the mechanism, bringing it to a halt moments before it plunged its terrified occupants off a cliff. Another version involved him stopping a dam from bursting (which would have drowned a village full of children) by putting his finger in it, and having it bitten off by a passing shark. Other stories had him stopping a runaway train, encountering a toothy ghost in a haunted house, and inventing a new flavour of ice cream when his finger got caught in the mechanism of one that only produced vanilla (eurgh!)

Of course, we kids knew that not all of these stories could be true. In fact we guessed – even then – that none of them were and that the perils and heroics were purely for our benefit. But that didn’t matter and took nothing from the thrill of his stories, especially with a real missing bit of finger as a prop!

My grandfather’s tales are one of my favourite childhood memories, so when we visited my grandparents last weekend it was with genuine pleasure that I watched him (aged ninety-one) tell my boys ‘the tale of how I lost my finger’.  The sight of their awed expressions and hearing their excited giggles and gasps took me right back to my own childhood and I felt very lucky to be able to share in this moment between a great-grandfather and his great-grandsons.

I love stories in all their forms but there’s something about this passing of tales face-to-face between generations of family members that feels like storytelling at its purest. I hope that by sharing these stories with my sons we can continue this family tradition down the generations for many, many years to come.

And as for how my grandfather really lost his finger? I honestly have no idea… and that’s exactly how I like it.

10 thoughts on “the tale of the missing finger

  1. MummyTries

    This is so funny! My step-dad had half a finger missing, and would regale us with stories of it being bitten off by lions in the jungle and such… the truth was actually rather grim to be honest but those stories were entertaining when we were young! #magicmoments

    1. Maddy Post author

      Yes, I think it’s best not to know the truth – a lion attack sounds much more exciting than any factual version could be!

    1. Maddy Post author

      It’s lovely to listen to stories from grandparents isn’t it? Parents too of course, but i think grandparents add an extra layer of excitement to any tale! Thanks for commenting Hannah.

  2. Wicked World of Lucas

    What a fab Granddad you had and such funny tales. I love the fact that you still don’t want to know exactly how he lost his finger but what lovely memories you have. One of my favourite posts on #magicmoments

  3. Merlinda Little (@pixiedusk)

    My grandfather would tell me stories too as a child. I would just listen in awe of those stories. And yes true or not its the way of telling them that counts and the fact that he gave me & my cousins some of his time =) #magicmoments

  4. Nicola Young

    Sounds like he should have been a children’s author. Are you not tempted to turn his stories in to a book yourself?

  5. Maddy Post author

    Oooh, good idea! If I could find an illustrator to work with it could make and excellent kids book… or even without pictures… you’ve got me thinking now. Thanks Nicola!


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