In honor of your birthday week, I went to a local bookstore a few days ago to sit quietly and think about you. Bookstores always make me think of you. They conjure up images of you in your den, where you loved to spend your free time, surrounded by thousands of books; books on shelves and in piles all around you. Your love and deep appreciation of books was infectious, though it didn’t quite catch on for me until my senior year of high school. For a few years during my youth I snubbed my nose at books as some sort of tweaked tween act of rebellion. The kind of rebellious act I am dreading from my kids. But I guess it couldn’t have been worse. I guess it could have been alcohol or boys. Oh, wait…whatever. Anyway, I owe my love of all things literary to you. Thanks for that, Dad.
I wonder how you would feel about the latest fad of electronic reading devices. I don’t think you would like them, because part of the charm of reading a book is holding it’s crisp pages between your fingertips. Smelling the lumber it stemmed from. Feeling the author’s emotions bleed through the text and into your own soul. For the same reasons, you were against email. It took away the personal touch of face-to-face communication. You found emails cold and unfeeling. I know how disappointed you would be in the universal move away from hand-written cards, Dad.
I think about the innumerable books I bought you for every birthday and special holiday leading up to your death. Were you annoyed that I wasn’t clever enough to come up with something unique? Or were you thankful for yet another hard-bound piece of history or prose that I carefully hand picked for you out of love? I hope it was the latter. I will go with the latter. I always felt safe getting you a book since I think they made you feel safe in a way. Yep, you in your brown leather chair, watching a show on BBC or listening to the classical radio station, surrounded by books. That is the my favorite image of you in my mind. A tableau of sorts, that I keep with me, to make me feel safe.
Today, you would have been 79 years old. Damn.
I hope you are having a celestial celebration of sorts, with books and Dixieland and some vodka, straight up. On earth, in my heart, I am celebrating with you.
Happy Birthday, Dad!