My dad loved books, but he hated bookmarks.
Even though the library included free ones in every book, Dad insisted upon “dog earing” pages. My mother would nag him about it, saying the books were the library’s property and they probably didn’t appreciate him returning books with creased page corners. But Dad continued to do it, and to be fair, I never heard him getting chewed out at the library about it. Certainly he wasn’t the only person who dog eared books.
As I was going through some books and sorting them for donations, I came across one of those library bookmarks. The bookmarks served dual purposes: marking your place in the book and reminding you when the book was due.
The bookmarks, with the sketch of the Downey City Library at the bottom, are so ingrained in my memory, having checked out hundreds of books from the library during my childhood.
The due date on this one was Aug. 29, 1981. I would have just turned 6 the month before. It would’ve almost been time for school to start, as we started just after Labor Day. I would’ve been entering first grade.
What’s even more interesting is that I found the bookmark in an old, worn copy of East and West, a collection of short stories by Somerset Maugham. That book is from the New Orleans Public Library and had a due date of Sept. 2, 1959. (Dad lived for a brief period in the Big Easy.) The next time I visit I may return the book just to see the reaction of the librarian!
Sorting through Dad’s book collection was the ideal task to mark Father’s Day.
As I have mentioned before, Dad loved the library. I visited the local library today and asked if I could use his card.
The librarian’s face lit up. “Patrick was such a sweet guy.”
I caught her up on Mom’s medical situation and it turns out her Mom had colon cancer as well. Small world! She said her Mom refused to deal with the colostomy bag as well.
She also told me how towards the end, before Dad went to the nursing home, he would sit down at a table and take all of the contents out of his wallet. They would gently encourage him to put everything back.
Dad kept going to the library even when he probably forgot what the place was for.
As we head into Father’s Day weekend, I’m reminded of some of the quirks of his personality. It drove Mom crazy that Dad insisted upon folding the corners of pages of books borrowed from the library. To him, it was simply practical; but Mom thought about those poor souls who would check out the book after Dad and have to deal with all of the creased corners.
I did my part to support Mom’s campaign. I bought Dad multiple bookmarks over the years, all of which were never used.
Dad also used library books as his day planner. He would stuff letters to be mailed, bills to be paid, etc. in the pages of library books. I wonder how many cards I sent him accidentally went back to the library, to be tossed into the trash by an annoyed librarian!
I for the most part read books electronically now, so there’s little opportunity to follow in Dad’s footsteps. But every time I see a poor book with abused corners, I will think of Dad.
I’ve written about my dad’s love of libraries before. Usually this would either be a solo outing for my dad, or when I lived at home, we would often make it a father-daughter trip. Rarely did we go as a family. (Mom loves to talk too much to stay quiet for very long. Sorry Mom, but it’s true!)
Anyways, my dad carried on his library tradition after my parents left California and retired in Ruidoso, NM. The librarians knew him by name here too, calling him the formal, “Patrick.” It made him feel special. On one of my rare visits home as an adult (at least until my father became ill), Dad wanted to show off “his” library. So we all piled into whatever boat of a car my dad was driving at the time and ambled our way to the library, which was only a mile or two from their home.
Bear statues can be found all over Ruidoso, an homage to Smokey the Bear. There’s a large bear statue outside of the Ruidoso library, and my mom wanted us to pose around it, while we snagged a bystander to snap a photo for us. The photo sums up our family pretty well: corny, quirky but quite harmless.
The most time I ever spent with my dad one-on-one was as the library. We practically lived there every Saturday, arriving in the early afternoon and staying until closing. All of the librarians knew my dad by name, and didn’t mind special-ordering books that he requested.
Photo credit: City of Downey, Calif.
Visits to the library evoke good memories for me. When I was younger, dad and I would go our separate ways upon arrival. I would head to the children’s section and dad would head to the periodicals, where he liked to peruse newspapers from around the country and the world. As I got older, I joined him on the adult side of the library, and would often bring homework or research projects with me to complete in the quiet, peaceful atmosphere that the library offered.
I also remember my dad and I collaborating at the library to find a way to ease mom’s nerves as she battled menopause. There was a gift shop in the library, and my dad would give me money to go buy her a trinket. We’d also agree to tell her how good dinner was multiple times that night when we got home. Our plan usually worked, much to our relief, as both of us shied away from emotional outbursts.
Those lazy Saturday afternoons spent in that soothing hush, and bringing home a tall stack of books to devour at my leisure, those weekly library trips are a treasured memory for me. I think they were for my dad as well. In fact, at my parents’ home, two books still reside on my father’s nightstand, gathering dust, awaiting to be read.