My father never read to me.
In all defense, I should tell you that my mother never did, either. I was raised in a different era, where there were precious few hovering parents, or parents who felt they had to handhold a child much past their toddlerhood.
Parenting was done with a cigarette in one hand and finger pointed solidly toward the door, telling us to go outside and play – and reminding us to be home when the streetlights came on.
My mother wasn’t much of a reader. She was too busy seeing to three kids and a house and a husband who never so much as poured his own cup of coffee when she was around. When she did read, it was the bible, or a book about the bible, or a book about people who wanted to tell you about the bible.
Dad, on the other hand, read all the time. He’d get home from work around 4pm when he worked the day shift, and after a short nap, the evening news and dinner, he spent the rest of the evening comfortably tuning us out on the corner of the couch.
He never once flinched away or deflected me when I asked him what he was reading. He was a great lover of history and war books, spy thrillers and military tomes. Some of it was not my cup of tea, but the rest…oh the rest. I’d pick up his books after he put them down, after they’d been relegated to the cabinet in the end table near the couch, and I’d sneak them into my room and read and read and read. I’d do the same with my brother’s stash of Doc Savage and Ray Bradbury books as well.
Every family vacation featured a trip to the bookstore so Dad could buy a few books to read on the trip, and when I asked, he bought for me, too, even when Mom said I shouldn’t be reading that book at this age.
She meant well, but Dad understood. He understood that to read is to learn, and to learn is to fire an insatiable curiosity about the world around you. Once you reach a certain age determined by level of understanding, there should be no closed books.
My father is an intelligent man. A man of words and keen insight. He and I don’t see eye to eye on politics and probably never will, but I can see how much he loves the debate when we discuss it. He loves the battle of words and ideas, and considers any man who embraces his ignorance to be a fool.
Especially when he can reach for a book.
My father taught me all that, by quietly reading on the corner of the couch, and by defending me to my mother when she demanded that I get up and do whatever chore I’d been neglecting as I sat curled up at the other end of the couch from Dad.
“Let her finish the chapter,” he’d say, not even looking up from his own book.
Those words have held me in good stead. Whenever I find my life interrupted by chaos or calamity, I hear him saying calmly, “Let her finish the chapter.”
And so I do, in my own way. And with all the information I can find to help me write the story.
This one’s for you, Dad. Thanks for everything.