Yesterday was Father’s Day and although I haven’t seen my Dad since February thanks to the threat of COVID-19, I spent some time talking with him. I spent some time thinking about him.
There’s an entire book (or two) in me featuring him as the main character, but that’s writing for another day. Today I’m thinking about my Dad and the gift of reading.
Around 18 years ago when I was in graduate school, I casually mentioned a book to him that was an assigned reading called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. It’s the story of a man and his son who travel across the country on a motorcycle. It’s an examination of life and how we live it, and according to a review on Amazon, it’s “one of the most important and influential books written in the past half-century.”
My Dad is a retired electrical engineer who has always enjoyed tinkering with things. Naturally, I thought he might enjoy a conversation about the book. I even suggested that he read it, even though most of his reading consisted of the newspaper and Reader’s Digest.
Nevertheless, he read it. In fact, he devoured it. Then he couldn’t stop talking about it and he was hungry for more. At that moment, at the age of 63, my Dad became a book lover!
My Mom had instilled this same love in me that she and I shared, but now Dad was part of “the club.” She had to make room on her bookshelves for his growing collection. To date, this admittedly methodical reader has read more than 100 books and counting! He mostly reads non-fiction, and says that the more challenging it is to read, the more he likes it. He even keeps a reading journal.
Reflecting on this special awakening in our shared history brought me to reflect on my own relationship with books. Over the last decade or so, I have felt like an imposter. To be clear, I LOVE books! I love to smell books, touch books, and yes, BUY books. I have boxes of them that my groaning husband has moved from dorms, and apartments, and offices, and too many houses to count. Besides the fact that they are ridiculously heavy, his groaning comes from asking me the same, tired question – “Are you really ever going to read all of these?”
Well YES, obviously! As if!
But then I’ve packed and unpacked those same books, over and over, many with bindings still untouched. I’ve had to accept that I may never read them all because I’m hardly reading at all. Somewhere between becoming a mother and becoming an almost empty nester, I’ve lost my devotion to reading that was once an unyielding passion.
Yes, I’ve continued to sprinkle reading throughout the years of ballgames (so many ballgames), deadlines, church commitments, family commitments, career pursuits, and just the everyday demands of adulting. And I’ve enjoyed many memorable books over the years. But if I’m honest with myself, I’ve consumed far more stories on my Netflix watchlist than from my must read list.
Over the weeks of quarantine, something stirred within me to start intentional reading and writing again. I suppose it’s because life slowed down long enough for me to live in the discomfort of that longing. I could finally define that missing piece of me that has been vying for my attention for years. I rediscovered a connection to story that yes, can be enjoyed on the screen, but is often much more personal and transformative on the page.
And so began the process of dusting off the books.
With bookstores and libraries closed, I used my mailbox as a book trading hub with book loving friends. For months now, I’ve been reading fiction, non-fiction, and personal and spiritual journeys. I’ve found blogs that challenge and engage me. I’ve resurrected this blog and pledged to keep writing. The words don’t always flow easily, but they come easier each time I open the vault. It’s like I’ve reunited with an old friend who was patiently waiting for me to return.
I guess you could say I’ve been reunited with words.
I’m retraining myself to favor paragraphs and punctuation over the glowing, bubbling screen. Occasionally the two intersect, and when they do, it can still be an inspiring and magical place.
Today, I am simply thankful that I found and rescued that weird little reading girl who took up residence in her bedroom closet with her books. I am thankful for those books. I am thankful for writers. And I am thankful for readers – readers like my Dad.
The novice who became the expert.
The inspired who became my muse.
Thanks Dad. I hope the stories never end.
Dad’s Top Ten Reading List (so far…)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig
The Tracker – Tom Brown, Jr.
The Day the Universe Changed – James Burke
Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step – Edward de Bono
Beachheads: Alabama to Anzio, 45th Division – Charles M. Kirkpatrick
Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand
Four Religions of Asia – Herbert Stroup
God Against the Gods – Jonathon Kirsch
Escape: A Memoir – Carolyn Jessop
Think Like a Fish – Tom Mann & Tom Carter
Blogs that fellow Bibliophiles might enjoy:
A Life in Books
Leanne W. Smith – A treasured friend and talented author
Gathering Around Books – Another talented friend with so much to offer
BUY books and support writers and the wonderful world where new words can take us!
BUY books from your local and independent bookstores!
Find a bookstore near you
6 thoughts on “A tale of love and loss and books”
A lovely post, that you for sharing xxx
Thank you so much!
I think you should add your top book picks to the list as well!
I may just do that! I’m thinking about reviewing my Top Ten and posting once I narrow it down, SO hard!
Dear Emily: Thanks for getting me started on some really good books that added value to my life after retirement. I’m a slow reader and I don’t read for long periods of time so that leads to a low number of books read; but I treasure what I’ve read, even the ones that I didn’t especially like. I loved Persig. He wrote another book “Lila” that I should have included on my list. His books are layered, a personal story on top of a philosophy.
You’re welcome Dad! I’m so proud of you, it’s never too late in life to do something new.