It’s Father’s Day, so I wanted to post something about my Dad…and reading (of course!).
Born in Clearfield Pennsylvania in 1935, lost his mother when he was 9, became something of a hellion and was “asked” to leave school at age 14. He and my Mom married in 1955 (even though he claimed that he had joined the U.S. Marine Corps the previous year to get away from her?). Got his high school diploma in 1969 and went on to finish degrees in business and computer engineering. He had a hard, tempestuous, but ultimately happy life. He passed away in 2006, but somewhere in those 71 years he developed a great love for reading, and passed it to me.
That love was voracious. He always had a book with him, just in case the opportunity to read a few pages came up. Usually it was a paperback that he picked up somewhere. And he had a particular style of reading a book. I can see him now, sitting, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, book in one hand with the cover rolled back. That’s also how I knew which books were his, the cover had been rolled back for so long and so tightly that it would never lie flat, so creased that the cover art was almost indiscernible.
He’s the one who introduced me to a world of books at the library (Discovering My Need to Read), but until I was a teenager it never struck me that he was a “reader” like me. How could he read? He worked every day, he came home, he ate dinner, he watched the news, he told me to move out of the way of the TV, he went to bed. When did he have time to read? Then one day he was sitting on the porch with a book. And not just any book, he was reading The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. I was reading The Killer Angels! That’s when it dawned on me that there was more to my Dad than just being my Dad. We talked about the book, discovering that not only did we have a mutual love for reading, we both loved history. We were soon dragging my Mom along to Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln’s cabin, forts in Wyoming, and gold mining towns in California. But I digress, the story of history can wait, back to reading.
As an adult I moved to New York City and found a world of bookstores! My Dad never made it there to visit, but every Saturday I would walk from the Upper East Side down to the Strand Bookstore to scour the shelves for he and I. Then I would walk uptown, hitting as many bookstores as I could along the way. I always found something for one or both of us. We didn’t always agree on books, but we both had a habit of reading a book and finding that the author had written something previously, or they had been written years previously and copies were not easy to come by, but we were obsessed with finding them. This meant that I would sometimes go to great lengths to get the ones we wanted. The early 90’s, in the days before the internet, this necessitated networking with booksellers, and calling or writing to a bookstore to find a copy of Sharpe’s Rifles by Bernard Cornwell, The Fortune of War by Patrick O’Brian, or The Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon, sometimes frustrating, but very gratifying when you found what you were looking for.
Oh, and fast, he would read a book straight through, only stopping for the necessities of life. It’s funny though, he never kept a book, always passed it on, usually just leaving it wherever he was when he finished reading it, then moving on to the next one, releasing it into the wild, a primitive form of BookCrossing.
So, there you have it. Dad loved a good book, and a few bad ones too. He was always ready to read next one, to find a new author, or a new genre. I’m not sure if an interest in reading is genetic, but I do know that my Dad made reading special for me, and so…I got my love from him.
So, who turned you into a reader…or whatever it is you are passionate about? Happy Father’s Day!!!