Sharing a Book
My father used to tell the story of the time when one of his close buddies in AA called him up at 3:00 am one Saturday morning. Jerry had just gotten out of the hospital that day and needed desperately to talk to someone in the program. He called Dad: “How about a game of golf?” My mother, recognizing instantly that it was not golf Jerry needed, told Dad to go for it, so Jerry arrived at the house shortly thereafter. They took off for a golf course in Valencia, a southern California town less than a half-hour drive away from my parents’ home.
Not surprisingly, the course was not yet open. So Jerry asked Dad if he would mind driving to Bakersfield, a town about another two hours inland, and they could play golf there. They did. The problem came when they couldn’t find the course and couldn’t find anyone to ask where it was in relation to where they were. After driving in ever widening circles for a while they came across a police station. “George, you go in and ask them,” said Jerry.
So Dad did. What he hadn’t realized was that his golf shoes—the ones with steel spikes designed to dig into the grass course—were not suitable for linoleum floors. So as he pulled open the double doors, his feet gave way and he fell in a heap on his back. The sergeant manning the front desk watched my father struggle to his feet and step, this time very carefully, over to the desk. “Can I help you, sir?” Having gotten his directions, Dad turned to go out and … again fell. This time, the sergeant leaned over the desk and said, “Sir, you don’t look like you are drunk so this time I am going to let you go . . .”
Jerry and I had met several times during Dad’s prolonged illness, but it wasn’t until a couple of weeks after his death that I got his phone number and called Jerry. I explained that Dad had given me his books a couple of years before and that while I had given some away I had kept his most precious: the legal thriller, memoirs, and biographies he loved, some WWII and Civil War novels and nonfiction, and a few odds and ends, one of which was The Grasshopper Trap. It was while I was looking over my shelves that I came across this again and wondered if Jerry—to whom this adventure and memory was so important—would like the book. He did. In fact, he choked up when I asked him. So did I. At first there was some regret at having offered it up, but when I put the book in the mail last week I felt more joy than sadness sweep over me. This was a book imbued with meaning between three people: Dad who had bought the book and read it several times, me to whom it had been given, and Jerry to whom the subject—golf games, one early morning one in particular—represented far more than chasing a small white ball over grass.
People often talk of sharing books, of giving books, or of lending books. These transactions are often imbued with meaning between the lender and the recipient. So it is with Dad, Jerry, and me. The intimate connections of AA, of family both traditional and program, of father and daughter book lovers, of the willingness to be there when needed, and of the love that binds the three of us—even with one gone—is deeply embedded in the pages of that book regardless of whose library it currently graces.
Upcoming Book Festivals and Fairs:
Location: Decatur, Georgia
What I am Reading This Week:
The Pub House:
Imaging Books & Reading:
Until next week, read well, read often and read on!