Posted by: ktzefr | June 13, 2014

On Dads and Books and Memories

Charles and Luverna Pickard, 1934.

Charles and Luverna Pickard, 1934

I think of my dad sometimes in bookstores.  But I don’t recall ever going to a bookstore with him.  When I was growing up in Eastern Kentucky we didn’t have shops that just sold books.  We bought paperbacks at the Rexall Drug. 

I think of my dad sometimes in bookstores because he liked to read and learn and tell stories.  He often exaggerated in the telling the way writers exaggerate in the writing.  His tales were larger than life, at least larger than our lives in that isolated patch of the Appalachians. 

When my brother, sister, and I were in school, my parents saved money to buy a set of encyclopedia.  We didn’t have a lot of extra dollars for non-essentials in those days.  We had no inside bathroom, and we all rode around squeezed onto one seat, or in the back, of a GM truck.  Money was earned and/or saved by doing our own gardening and keeping cows and pigs and chickens.  Mom and Dad also ran a country store.  But my dad thought a set of encyclopedia was essential and he made as much use of the books as we did, perhaps more, as he carried A-B or G-H or M-P to the store with him each day to read just for fun.  He’s the only person I’ve ever known who read the encyclopedia for fun.

A few years back I was coming out the door of Borders Books and suddenly stopped.  It was December, a few days before Christmas.  The day was sunny and bright and cold.  A blue-silver sky.  Lots of happy people.  A mix of traffic hum, car horns, and jingle bells.  When I had opened the door to leave the store I was struck by this thought: I must tell Dad about the book!

I don’t recall either the title or the type of the tome in question.  I don’t recall why I thought he would have been interested in it in the first place.  I don’t recall much of anything else from that day, nothing before or after that particular moment.  But those brief few seconds are vivid in my memory — this first impulse to share info with him about some book and then suddenly remembering that my dad had died more than two decades earlier.  But for a moment in time he was as alive in my mind as he had ever been…and then he was gone again.   

Often in life we are asked or expected to be specific about our feelings.  We must feel this way or that, be for or against something, decide to love or hate — see the world in black or white.  But gray areas abound, different shades and intensities of gray abound.  And, in addition to the gray areas, there are also times when even extreme emotions run together.  Times like these when joy and sorrow are so intertwined the two are impossible to separate and you can’t feel one without the other. 

Here’s wishing all the dads in my blogosphere and beyond a happy father’s day with much joy and few sorrows.




  1. Katie: This blog was so touching! You are amazing with the way you recall and then put things on paper with pen (or computer!). What a touching story and I think that may be a lead in one day to another book for you ?! Wishing Michael a Happy Father’s Day and you a happy journey with your writing which is so exceptional and poignant! Rose

    • Rose, thanks for the wonderful feedback. So much can be going on in a single moment and I find this one of the magical things about being human, the way we associate moments in our lives and connect them across space and time. Please wish Richard a Happy Father’s Day, too, from us.

  2. Katie, this just brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful memory, lovingly written. A great post for Father’s Day.

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