14 June 2008

Father's Day

More and more as I've gotten older I've found myself increasingly seeking out and rummaging through bookstores. I've never been sure as to why I find such pleasure in bookstores, but the more I think about it, the more I'm sure it's because of my father. I've never known a lot about my dad, and it wasn't until the past few years that I've become close to him in any way. We never did any of that stereotypical father/son stuff like playing catch and him showing me how to hit a baseball; I have three older brothers who took care of that. Only two nuggets of advice from him come immediately to mind. First, he told me that smoking is the most awful thing a person can do to his body, and that I should never ever start. This one came after I'd been smoking for a few years. (I should say though, that though I didn't recognize it then, his approach to the rhetorical situation was fantastic, and I can't imagine I could've realized that then, before all those writing center/writing pedagogy classes and meetings I've been through; he told me a story about how when he tried smoking as a kid, he couldn't concentrate on anything, especially not hitting a baseball. It just messed up his hand-eye coordination. He told me this when I was in high school, when the one thing I did most of the time and enjoyed most of all was playing baseball, which I did a lot. That's just good parenting). Second, he told me I should always open the door for a lady. "Just do it, because you're supposed to," he'd said. Again, good parenting.

Anyways, back to the book thing. My dad is kind of an awkward person. Ever since I got too big for him to play-wrestle with, I started to notice his awkwardness. He doesn't seem to know what to do with himself when we're out in public most of the time, and he'll get lost in his own world, pacing back and forth no matter where he is. (This kills my mom. She absolutely cannot stand this). There are two places, however, where my dad seems always at peace*: in his designated chair in my parents' living room and in bookstores. 99.9% of the time he's in his chair, he's accompanied by a beer and a book. When we moved from Hawaii to Washington, I discovered Barnes and Noble (no, there were no B&Ns on Oahu then), and my dad could get lost in there for hours. Sometimes I'd go run around with my mom while he was alone in there, other times I'd stay in the bookstore and shop for myself. Shopping for anything with my dad was impossible, but he could never say no to buying me books. ("Sorry son, I don't want you to read!") I think it made him kind of proud to see me reading, even if what I was reading was garbage (and it was - for awhile I read crazy science fiction about ghosts ruling the world and stuff like that, with no allegory for anything).

Now, I can't go into a bookstore and not think of my father. I don't think he's the reason I became an English major or want to become a writer, but for me there will always be a connection between my father and the general idea of books.

*I have to write this, because it is necessary. I absolutely love the way my dad has aged. He has absolutely eased into the role of the grandpa. Now that he has grandkids, (and my cousin's daughter) to be around, he has become a giant kid. Sure, he still has awkward moments, but not with the kids around. Children LOVE my dad, probably because he can be a grown-up child without trying. I hope I can manage that as I get older (Rachel does a fantastic job of helping me maintain a childlike joy while becoming somewhat of a grownup, plus she appreciates her beer and books as well so she gets along famously with my father. How awesome is that?)

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