My Father’s Library

Lyrics, And The Importance Thereof.

So here’s the story about how lyrics I’ve known for over 30 years brought me to happy tears tonight.

You first need to know that my wife, Leanne, is a fabulous artist. She makes amazing jewelry, and she had the courage to strike out on her own several years ago. Since then, the economy has performed its usual fol-de-rol, and as such she’s decided to take on a side job at a grocery chain.

Her shift this morning was 6 AM – 2 PM, and she left the house before I was out of bed. As such, when I came home at 4:30 (PM), she was cocooned in a blanket on the sofa. While I am often out of bed before she is, it’s rare that I have a chance to see her sleeping and at peace; which brought this song to mind.

My late father Craig Ewert loved Jethro Tull, and I inherited that love when he shared it with me. Several old friends have told me they think of me when they hear Ian Anderson sing, and that makes me happy.

I kinda wanted to send Leanne this song, after watching her sleep this afternoon. But I’ve been burned by lyrics before, so I decided to double-check. And my mind, it was blown.

This song was recorded before I was born, and I’ve been mis-hearing the lyrics forever. In my head, they always went like this:

What a reason for waiting
And dreaming of dreams
So here’s hoping you’ll fail
In impossible schemes

A very Scots warning against over-reaching yourself. A very reasonable note that you won’t always succeed, that it’s all right to aim lower than you could, that nobody could blame you for settling. That really, in the end, you’re always going to fail.

But tonight, before sending them to my sleeping beauty, I looked up the lyrics on Google Play.

What a reason for waiting
And dreaming of dreams
So here’s hoping you’ve faith
In impossible schemes

I’m still in tears, frankly, over this confusion. That for thirty or more years, I’ve held back. And that I’m not too old yet for faith.

Thank you, Ian. Thank you, the long-gone Mr. Tull. Thank you to the Blades. Thank you to Leanne for this gift, and thank you to my father, who bequeathed me with cynicism and hope in equal measures.

Right. It’s a work night. No more tears, but thirty years of memories to unpack.

My Father’s Library

When I was a boy, there was one thing I coveted above all else in the world; and that was my father’s library.

His den was lined with dark cork, where he could push-pin notes, sketches, or the completed crossword puzzles he loved. Along one wall, however, was a floor-to-ceiling bookcase which had no empty spaces.

The closest to his desk were the comic books, from his childhood: Uncle Scrooge Adventures being his favorite. Next came a shelf of history and mathematical texts, game theory and strategy.

The remainder was science fiction and fantasy, stretching from the 1930s to the 1980s.

I learned to read through his comic books, destroying them in the process. He didn’t mind. They were there, he said, to be enjoyed and read; not to be kept inviolate.

I moved on to the fantasy in kindergarten. We bonded not just as father and son, but as readers and fanboys.

I learned to pronounce words like “squamous,” learned the purpose and function of an iron maiden, learned what light speed and wormholes were at my father’s knee.

I made him swear that, when he died, the library would be mine.

He was a loving father, and when he moved from my childhood home back into his childhood home, he brought along every book except the comics.

When he moved to Scotland, he left them behind in a storage bin.

When he died, the books were mine.

I would have preferred he lived. The books were, however, some consolation.



LordofLight(Zelazny)Today, the books are out of the storage bin. The science fiction, fantasy, and histories have been collecting dust in my den for a year or so.

Catching sight of his ashes while cleaning this weekend, his words returned to me: They are there to be enjoyed and read. Not to be kept inviolate.

That has to be balanced with my need for space, though. So the cartons have been carried into the attic, except a handful of books.

It also has to be balanced with my need to read more current fiction. Most of the genre work I read is from over thirty years ago, with a few notable exceptions.

I don’t intend to actually review these books – who needs a review of something published in 1953?

Instead, I want to share what they bring to me, what I take away from knowing this was important, once, to the man who was most important to me.

I’m starting with the hardcover first edition of Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light.

As ALS was stealing his lung capacity, Dad altered his email signature to reflect one of its quotes:

“None sing hymns to breath; but O! To be without it …”

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