re: Books and dad

Here’s to Dad … my dad, the lover of books who thankfully shared a “book” gene with me. Thanks, Dad … you couldn’t have given me a greater gift. Well, there was that Barbie van I really wanted when I was six …

Other people talk about their life as a journey. I look at mine as chapters. I’m one of the lucky ones whose life story includes Dad … and he’s played all kinds of roles, from hero to villain (think teenager), to friend, cheerleader, and sage.

Ironically, there is no chapter where Dad read bedtime stories every night as a little girl. Still, we both have vivid memories of reading as children. He remembers those “little orange biographies” he read when, stricken with polio as a child, he was living in a hospital ward. Amazingly (at least to me) he talks more about the books than he does about the polio and iron lung! As for me, I remember more than a few nights solving mysteries with Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown. Even now, there are characters and stories that keep me reading well past lights-out. I still think there must be some “bedtime story” time in there somewhere, because the only classes I EVER fell asleep in were my father’s AP European History classes. I’d sit in the back, ready to absorb the lessons, and within 20 minutes I’d fall asleep. It had to be the soothing nature of his voice.

My memories of connecting with Dad about books goes back to the summer of my third-grade year, when we spent the summer in Monmouth, Oregon. He was attending the then Oregon College of Education. Dad worked on his masters. I worked through the life of Helen Keller, lots of mysteries, and the summer reading club at the Monmouth Public Library.

As I got older, our conversations about books grew, and I learned the art of margin notes! As I began to identify my reading preferences, he’d recommend books or authors. Like Dad, I love history … he prefers fascinating studies (Will Durant, David McCullough … the folks who go back to the source material). I love historical biography and “stories” like Undaunted Courage. We don’t trade books as often as we used to, but there is always at least one book on the gift list … something he’s found in his wanderings that he thinks the recipient will love.

This year Dad will be 68, and he still has big reading plans. He is working through a lot of the original documents and narrative histories of the US colonial era, and keeps a set of YA and non-fiction titles in his repertoire, too. Dad plans to volunteer with the local Lighthouse for the Blind chapter to read books onto tape. Mom says he just reorganized the “library.” The only rooms in their house without permanent book collections are the bathrooms and kitchen. This year’s Christmas present to himself was a new set of wall-to-wall bookshelves in the spare bedroom/music room (Dad also plays classical guitar).

Some fathers thank the world for Title IX and the chance for their daughters to play competitive sports at a high level. My Dad thanks the world for Barbara Tuchman, Ariel Durant, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and others. Dad loves all history, and one of his passions is women historians. He’s got plans (and note cards) for a book about their unique contributions to the study of history at a time when women were not considered “credible” in the field. Yeah, Dad!

What the next chapter brings, I don’t know. There’s no story I’ve ever read that gives me a character that touches my heart and soul like Dad. So for now, I’ll just keep reading, looking forward to the conversation on the next page.

Happy Fathers Day, Dad.