Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#314 In which our hero writes his annual letter to his father.

It’s Father’s Day. And has been for 23 minutes.

I have often lamented that it is horribly unfair that you died before getting to meet my wife or my kids. You would have loved The Scientist, of this I have no doubt. And you would have loved my kids; not just because they were your grandchildren, but because they are (mostly) polite and well behaved. And after so many years as a teacher and principal, this is something that I know you looked for and expected in kids.

It’s terrible and unfair that you died when you did but, to be honest, your absence in my life isn’t as acute, as painful as it used to be. I’ve grieved and moved on, I guess. After nearly 20 years, I don’t think much about it any more.

That is, until I do.

I went to pick up the girls from daycare last week, and this is where I found Lily:

When I asked her why she was reading under a table, she told me that it was comfortable there. And quieter. I’m not sure I believe her… I don’t think it was either more comfortable or quieter; what I believe is that whenever she has a good book in her hands, nothing else matters.

Lily is a reader. There is no denying it. The kid simply consumes books. In the past I’ve actually not believed her when she told me how much she read. She’d bring home two fairly large chapter books from the school library, and tell me that she had already read both during recess. It seemed like far too much for a 9-year-old, so I flipped through the books, randomly picking out passages and quizzing Lily on what happened.

Without fail, she told me what happened. She had honestly read them. I’ll never doubt her reading prowess again.

She reads everything, but seems to lean toward the geeky side (I’ll take credit for that) and brings home books about monsters and dragons and robots. But she also likes mysteries and comic books and reference books about spiders and animals and more. Lily will also read the back of cereal boxes and pretty much whatever she can get her hands on.

She’s a reader. Like you.

I honestly cannot remember a time when you were not reading something. You had your favorite topics, WWII and Abraham Lincoln, but you read so many other things. National Geographic, of course, and other magazines. You often shared my comic books. But more than anything else, when I think of you reading I think of you with a Reader’s Digest Condensed Novel in your hand.

Every other month a fat hardback book would come in the mail. Each contained four complete novels, each “condensed” (i.e., abridged) for length.

I think about those now, and the entire idea seems crazy. Why would you choose to read a novel that’s had parts of it edited out? You’re not getting the author’s complete vision of their novel! Why would an author ever agree to that? I’m sure the answer has something to do with money.

But the editing aside, it strikes me as odd that you’d want to be surprised by four novels that could be by any author, of any genre. Wouldn’t you rather pick and choose your favorite authors or your favorite types of books?

The answer, clearly, is no. Because you didn’t really care what you were reading, as long as you were reading.

Now that my little nerd is devouring books at an amazing clip, I have something new to lament about your death: all the books you won’t be able to recommend to her, and all the time you two would have spent discussing books. But, I suppose that as long as she continues to love reading like she does, that a little part of your spirit is still alive.

I miss you, dad.



EDITED TO ADD: I looked up the Reader’s Digest Condensed Novels to discover that they were discontinued in 1997. However, it seems that only the name “Condensed Novels” was discontinued… you can still subscribe and get four books in one every other month under the name Reader’s Digest Select Editions  -- I think. I just spent the last 10 minutes trying to find information in the Internet about how much it costs and I’ve found nothing. If Reader’s Digest is still printing these things, they sure don’t make it easy to subscribe.