My father has always loved reading. We had bookshelves lining our breezeway when I was kid and I can’t remember a time where there wasn’t at least on book on his bedside table. I’d find him reading in the car when he was waiting for me to get out of rehearsals or voice lessons. And I’m pretty sure his eReader has become an extension of his hand.
But for him it wasn’t enough just to read. He wanted to share the stories he loved. By the time I was in seventh grade, I was reading the books that he read. In non-fiction, it was a lot of American history. In fiction it was generally thrillers, sci-fi and historical novels.
He would read something, pass it on to me, then we’d have a discussion about it. As someone who remembered conversations much clearer than lectures, the hours he and I spent discussing historical events did more to help me succeed in history classes than any amount of studying I could do.
We talked about fictional stories with as much dedication as we did the non-fictional ones. The only difference here was that, on a couple rare occasions, I didn’t have all the facts.
You see, my dad wanted to share books with me, but he also was concerned about protecting my young mind. This resulted in an interesting phenomena.
My father had given me a book to read and I was naturally excited. I took it from him and turned to flee back to my reading spot*, but he stopped me. He gave me one simple instruction: “Don’t look under the index cards.”
I was a little confused, but this was a man who asked very little of me and fed my book habit, so, I agreed.
About a third of the way through the book, I found my first index card. It was taped into the book and covered a paragraph of maybe five or six lines. Later in the book, there was a full page covered. These deletions didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book or make it difficult for me to understand the plot. They were just curious. Particularly the first one. I mean, what could have possibly happened in that one paragraph that was inappropriate enough to censor, but did not bleed into the surrounding paragraphs???
One of the great unanswered questions of my life.
This censorship initiative was not long lasting, maybe two or three more books after this sported index cards. Instead, we moved on to talking about the parts that had my dad questioning appropriateness. While our historical conversations almost always took place in the kitchen, the talks about novels were generally conducted in the car. We’d drive, sing some oldies and talk about some books. And I learned a lot, not just about books, but about my dad and about life. Lessons that I still rely on today.
So, I wish a Happy Father’s Day weekend to all those dads out there. Thank you for both feeding, and worrying about the states of, our minds. And for being willing to tackle the uncomfortable conversations. It’s greatly appreciated.
* My reading spot was the bathroom because I see all the corners of it. This was important when I was reading a scary book. It was the only way I could be sure that the bad guy wouldn’t find a way to jump out at me. Many an evening was spent sitting on that floor or in the empty bathtub.