But there’s also another, sadder reason. My dad died six months ago today, nine months after being diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer. I’ve heard that it takes 3-6 months to get used to a major life change. If that’s true, or I guess, even if it’s not, I don’t really know yet the ways that this has changed me. But regardless, I wanted to share something about him today. And it seems both nice and appropriate to talk about my memories of my dad and reading.
Both of my parents really did everything they could to encourage the three of us to read. There were always books around and there are lots of stories of us (especially me, I think) demanding that the nearest adult read this one aloud. My first clear memory of books and reading is of sitting on my dad’s lap in our apartment in Indianapolis. We had been reading Wind in the Willows, but it was really a little too old for me (I would have been almost five) and I hadn’t been enjoying it very much.*
And so we sat together and my dad held the book so I could see the pictures, and he started reading Little House in the Big Woods. In some ways, this is my favorite memory of him: me, warm and comfortable while he read to me about Laura and Mary and their Pa, who had a beard too.
My dad had very specific and particular interests, which he read widely in. His copies of books are full of notes: underlining, stars, vehement approval, very vehement disapproval. He loved Church history, and books by Wendell Berry, anything nautical, especially Patrick O’Brian. But most especially what I remember is the sense that both he and my mother gave me: if you love something, you read about it. There are many things that he gave me which I’m grateful for, but that is at the top of the list.
* I swear, this early experience made me not love Wind in the Willows as much as I want to. I enjoy it, I even treasure it, but it’s not one of the formative books of my childhood the way it is for some people.