I was raised by a much older than average father. He was born in 1920; most of my friend’s fathers were born in the 1950s. He introduced me to so many different things—endless NPR and PBS, Louis L’Amour Western novels, Mary Higgins Clark novels, Doris Day movies, Clark Gable and Rock Hudson, big bands and Victory Gardens. He cooked and braided my hair (he was the oldest of 9, so he was a very versatile caregiver). Once he retired from sales to be home more to help my mom with my brother, he became an overnight security guard and spent nights reading endless books, which he’d bring home for me to read, too. Then, we’d discuss the books. He always asked me when I figured out the ending—“Who did it? Did you guess?, he'd ask. We talked about plausibility and whether we got the “heebie jeebies” from thrillers.
In junior high, I begged him to read Jane Austen. I was handed Pride and Prejudice in an English class and then decided to devour her entire book list. I remember him pointing out how funny words could be—Austen was a master at humor and wit. It was subtle and real and timeless.
My dad was the person who showed me how words built the world.
He loved Julie Childs—mostly because of the amazing way she used her words. That’s her magic, isn’t it? There are so many amazing chefs, but Julia built her recipes with words. My Dad did a wonderful impression of her—and then he laughed, not in mocking Julia but with Julia at all her funny quips and double meanings and plays on words.
Watching the dramatization of Julia’s life had me wanting to call my Dad to laugh and chat about it all—but he’s been gone for 12 years. It doesn’t feel that way. I can still see his face and hear his voice and I see him in my kids all the time. Lily has his English nose and grit. Chloe has his hazel eyes and stubborn streak. Nicholas has his charm and love of books.
When I started to write this tonight, I didn’t actually think my blog would be about my Dad. That’s the magic of writing—you never know where the words will take you. I thought I’d write about the books I scored at Inkwood and the lovely Sancerre I am enjoying and the kick-ass mushroom leek pasta I made or the afternoon I had playing PacMan with my kids (and Chloe’s best friend and my lovely bonus daughter Makayla). But it seemed all words led to my Dad, who gave me all of his, always.
I know I listed all these adult sounding books—but my favorite book to read with my Dad was “Dance like a Bear.” I still have a very worn copy on my bookcase, behind the glass doors with my other rare and precious and signed books. The binding is ripped and the words are not very deep, but that book was our first, together.