Once upon a time my father stayed home sick from work. This happened maybe twice in my lifetime as a youngster living in the same house with my parents. My mother, maybe, sick one day in my Life as a Youngster.
My father called me into the bedroom, there he was propped up on pillows.
"Bobby, I need something to read. What do you have in your room?"
Like I was some gunsmith. ‘I need a gun, not just any gun Bobby, you'll know what to do.’
I'd nod and bring him a well oiled Smith & Wesson. He'd nod, then he'd ask me to leave the room. Was this sick man going to take his life? Shoot the tv that was playing I Love Lucy? Or just spend the day fondling the gun?
But he didn't ask me for a gun. He asked me for a book, any old book. I nodded. Rushed out of the room and went for the book I had just finished, without ever, and I mean ever and never, breaking the spine.
My father once remarked, as if he was beside himself, that when he looked at my paperback books, a full library and every one in alphabetic order, he was thunderstruck how not one book had a crease in the spine.
"How do you read these books Bobby and not crack a spine?" I showed him my careful technique of reading books as if peering into a small and fascinating room. He predicted I would be blind by age 20. He was wrong, but he was still my father, who I believed knew more than any other man when I was 15. At 16 I had a different opinion.
When I came back from my room, with Joseph Heller's Catch-22 in my hand, I spent the rest of the day enjoying hearing my father, once an infantryman in WW2, laughing out loud all through the day as he read the book. He never got out of the bed. He never stopped reading the book. And it seemed he never stopped laughing. Yes, one of the joys of my childhood was that day.
photos from the Arnold Lumber family circa 1900, Berkshire County, Massachusetts:
John Arnold scaling timber on Mount Greylock: note the tie, suspenders and top hat for quite the dapper woodsman.
Happy family, in the sunshine, standing & seated on a stickered lumber pile in Vermont.