The Hole in Dad's Library
I am what I see, and what I’ve seen and where I’ve been. I am what you told me I am. But, mostly, I am what I have read. I cannot recite one sentence or stanza through recall, but it’s all in here somewhere in the pile of my shredded memories. Every fetching phrase, every glorious setting, every unlikely ending, all left their mark on me in some way. Books were part of the furniture in our apartment. Dad loved to read as an escape. In his youth, he fell in love with Charles Dickens, then his sister Barbara’s husband John presented him with the full set. The bookcase in the foyer was a low, long double-decker with storage below, Fifties-Contemporary meets utility. My father always fancied himself a carpenter of sorts, same as his father. The shelves were crammed and my earliest memories are of the railed prism of those front spines, covered and not, with words and designs intended to catch the eye conveniently situated at my then eye level. I couldn’t read yet. There weren’t any pictures beyond the paper covers and most of those were gone, or limited to a snapshot of the author and his faithful hound. Over in the paperback section, it was science-fiction and recent purchases of best-sellers, as my arrival altered the budget. The science-fiction bookcovers were a trove of art, plus many of them were double novellas, pasted together with each cover the flip-side of its opposite. Mindboggling images of stars and planets and rockets, drawn in a manner that helped prepare me for a few later encounters with hallucinogens. Of all those books on display, the one I spent the most time thumbing through was Dad’s Bluejacket’s Manual, issued to him at Great Lakes Naval Training Command in 1948.
The Bluejacket’s Manual bore a