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.
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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