This is my first Father's Day without a dad to call up and wish Happy Father's Day to. My typical routine the last few years was to make that call and buy him either a book I'd enjoyed or an Amazon gift cert so he could get something for himself to read. If I sent the cert, I would always email it along with a list of recommendations. This year... My dad was one hell of a reader. He was FAST, for one thing - he was easily a 100-pages an hour guy, and we aren't talking skimming either - and his tastes ran the gamut. The thing I remember from growing up is that he always had a book in play, constantly - there was never a time he wasn't reading at least something, and usually several things at once. The idea of not having a book to-hand just in case an extra five minutes popped up here and there was unthinkable. That was an obsession that he passed on to all his kids to varying degrees - I probably have it the worst, but my sister is an intense reader too, as are my brothers. I'm hopeful we can pass it along to the next generation as well.
One of the saddest moments of the whole year he was sick, and the one I think will encapsulate the whole thing for me (as tends to happen - some memories grow in power while others fade, until a long span of time becomes just a few intense minutes), was when we were talking about a long fantasy series we had been reading together since about 1992, Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" saga. That series is 12 books long and counting, and Robert Jordan himself didn't live to finish it. It's being completed by Brian Sanderson, a fine author in his own right, who did a solid job on the first of the last post-Jordan novels. The moment with my dad I'm talking about, however, came before the word came out that Jordan's notes for his last book were so voluminous that the "last book" was going to become three books, to be released over three years commencing last November. (The series is now planned to conclude at book 14, which, frankly, is a pretty ridiculous length for any single story - we're talking over 10,000 pages in the damn thing, which I say with a great deal of affection for the immense, sometimes clumsy series.)
Around last August, when it was increasingly clear that things with my dad's treatments weren't working out particularly well, he and I were sitting talking about the series, about how we were both looking forward to reading the next installment. Over the course of that conversation, we talked about the fact that the next installment was no longer the last installment, as had been originally planned. He asked when the other books were scheduled to come out, and I told him. He paused for a second - obviously, he wasn't unaware of the seriousness of his situation (my dad was one of the most intelligent men I've ever met - and I've met my share) but it was clearly a point where the doors of mortality clicked another few notches closed in his mind. I could see it in his eyes. He wasn't going to finish that series, even if he did get to read the next book. Like I said, one of the saddest moments for me out of the whole sad, awful experience of losing my father.
But here's where I try to tie this up into something slightly more uplifting - books, man, BOOKS. My dad and I shared our love for them in such an intense way. There's nothing better than a good read, in my opinion. I'd take it over good food, a good time out, even a good movie - all of those things are wonderful, but books are just hardwired into me, mostly from my dad. He got to read Strongman before he went, and I don't think I even can do justice to what that felt like. I wish he'd stuck around long enough to read everything else I'm going to write, but his influence, and the influence of the literally hundreds of books he suggested or that we read together, are going to be all over my stuff. That's just a given.
So, Happy Father's Day to my dad, and to all dads. Go call yours if you can, and maybe buy him a good book.