The Storyteller

As the sun began to set on the longest day of the summer, Kevin Brooks, PhD ’99, surveyed the small crowd that had gathered in a tiny Cambridge art gallery to hear him tell stories. A seasoned performer, he needed no microphone as he launched into a tale about starting classes to become a water safety instructor two years ago, not long after he turned 50. In MIT’s brightly lit Olympic-size pool, he’d been assailed by doubt, he recalled. “With my orange earplugs, I felt like an alien trying to remember the strokes,” he said. But he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his mother, who’d been a social worker, swimming teacher, and lifeguard at Philadelphia’s mid-city YWCA.

Later, when he called his mother to tell her he’d been certified, she remarked vaguely, “Why, that’s nice, dear.” His first swim teacher had begun a slide into dementia. As Brooks wrapped up his story and the applause died down, a silver-haired gentleman in the audience said simply: “Now, that is storytelling.”

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