The Light Has Gone Out
Last Monday morning, July 9, at 8:00 am my father died. The funeral was Saturday and I spoke. This is how I started:
A Hero of Majestic Proportions
When we call someone a hero, what do we mean? It depends, I suppose, in part what we have been taught, what we have learned through our own experiences, and what we value in our lives.
For me, and I believe for many of you, it means someone who has lived what seems so rare these days, an exemplary rather than an extraordinary life. What is the difference? According to a dictionary, extraordinary means “going beyond what is usual, regular, or customary” or “exceptional to a very marked extent.” The—forgive me—extraordinary word, exemplary, means “serving as a pattern” or “deserving imitation because of excellence” or “serving as an example.”
When I think of Dad I think of the latter word and its meanings.
Dad was, among other things, a man who despite working two jobs to support his family had enough time to read to me and, when I was a little older, to listen to me read to him. For more than seventy-five years, he read himself, mostly legal thrillers or legal memoirs but with plenty of classical literature—Two Years Before the Mast was one of his favorite books—and quality Civil War fiction mixed in.
We may not have shared too much of the same tastes in books, but what we did share was a passion for the written word, for the worlds that our books created for us. We bonded over books.
But there were frustrations too. It made me crazy that he never read a book written by a woman and he said he never would. He came of age at a time when men were the authors and he didn’t think women could write as well. Despite numerous attempts I could never get him to understand that he was missing some great writers and books such as Barbara Tuchman, someone I know he would have loved had he been able to overcome his prejudice. But he couldn’t. Or wouldn’t.
And now he never will. I will never again be able to ask him what he is reading, or to be asked by him about what I am reading. The man who gave so much of himself to others, including, to me, his love of reading, is no more on this earth. My light has dimmed a little, but he did serve “as a pattern,” and so to Dad and to all of you I lift a book in your honor.
Upcoming Book Festivals and Fairs:
Location: Harlem, New York
Location: Allentown, Pennsylvania
Location: Cowan, Tennessee
What I am Reading This Week:
The Pub House:
For sports fans, a book with the provocative title of You Stink! Major League Baseball’s Terrible Teams and Pathetic Players offers “a satiric look at the jeer-ful side of our national pastime.” In other words, this book looks at the memorable story of defeat with franchise origins, detailed statistics, player profiles, photographs, and a collection of essays in a “Hall of Shame” that memorializes some of the worst moments on a ball field.
Shanty Irish is a “novelistic memoir” by Jim Tully, an American writer who enjoyed critical acclaim and commercial success in the 1920s and ’30s. Combining hilarious and heartbreaking memories of growing up poor in a small Ohio town this book, described as being “soaked in mud and whiskey” shares what life was like for his Irish-American family in the late nineteenth century.
Imaging Books & Reading:
Until next week, read well, read often and read on!