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A Father’s Day

One of the most wonderful things I am able to share with my father is the joy of reading.

That sounds like such a simple thing, and it is.

Yet it is also profoundly satisfying.

Almost conspiratorial, as if we are the only ones in the world who experience the thrill of becoming swept up in a book and are unable to put it down.

It wasn’t always that way.

As a child, I don’t remember seeing my father read many books.

Oh, I recall seeing him read the newspaper on a daily basis. And Time, the weekly news magazine.

But lounging around the house with a paperback copy of the latest thriller? Rarely.

Usually in summer, on our annual vacation to the lake or the beach.

I don’t recall ever pondering whether my father liked to read or not. As a child, it simply wasn’t on my radar screen (although I was a voracious reader).

I just knew that he was incredibly busy: at work, at church, at home.

The spring I was ten and my sister twelve, our family made the two-hour drive to a larger city in western New York state to attend my father’s graduation as he received a Masters Degree in engineering. He and a colleague from work had taken night courses for years, putting in what must have been many hours of time and effort to earn this achievement.

I don’t actually recall him being absent all those evenings, seeing him poring over text books or working on assignments. I just know that he must have done all those things in order to earn a graduate degree while working full-time and raising a family.

I wish I could tell you that the memory of his graduation is seared in my mind because of his accomplishment, but the truth is that being allowed to miss school that day (an entire day!) was the what was foremost in my adolescent mind.

I remember visiting my parents’ undergraduate college friends for a couple hours before the graduation ceremony. I barely remember the house or street, both being typical early 1970’s suburbia.

What stands out in my mind is their thirteen-year-old daughter wearing her Catholic school uniform, the white blouse and plaid skirt of which were covered with signatures from her classmates. It had been the last morning of school, and tradition dictated that you signed each other’s uniform to signal friendship and the completion of yet another nondescript school year.

We didn’t wear uniforms, nor did we attend a Catholic school, so it all seemed very exotic to me.

I vaguely recall the university campus, strolling along pathways among green lawns and towering trees. My parents remarked on the anti-war graffiti etched on one hulking, grey building; it was during the Vietnam era.

I remember wondering what would happen to the student who had been audacious enough to spraypaint anti-government slogans against the war on campus buildings. Grounded in their room, surely. No television privileges, of couse. Perhaps even suspended from classes for a few days? Those were the worst punishments my ten-year-old mind could come up with at the time.

It’s strange that I don’t recall the actual graduation ceremony, although it must have been several hours long. I can’t imagine that I would have been particularly patient throughout it, but I sensed how important this occasion was so I suppose I was on my best behavior. Perhaps I had a book with me to help pass the time.

Nowadays my father is much older. Me too, if truth be told. He and my mother retired years ago to sunny Florida, and he still enjoys getting out for an occasional round of golf. His hearing isn’t quite what it used to be, so he only watches television when he can turn the volume up quite loudly.

What he does enjoy doing is becoming lost in a book. Usually something historical, biographies of American presidents being top of the list.

It is something we share now, my father and me. Turning the pages, caught up in the story, just as others have done for many hundreds of years. I can’t think of anything better.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

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