I wonder what Dad sees when he looks at those books. I know he doesn’t see the towering display of encyclopedias that Mom, Rebecca, and I were giddy with joy over each week. He was never with us to see that tower.
I know he doesn’t pull the volumes off the shelf and touch the gilded golden edges of the pages. I know he doesn’t choose random letters and flip open to random pages just to find out what he might land on each time. I know he doesn’t run his hand down the spine of the books just to feel the bump of the decorative ridge.
I suspect that instead, he has memories of the encyclopedias that I don’t share. He might remember packing them as we moved from house to house over the years. He might remember purchasing new cherry wood bookshelves to showcase the set of volumes. He might admire the regal look of the complete set on the shelves.
His history of the encyclopedias is much different than the history I own.
Part of me is comforted by the familiarity of those golden spines all lined up neatly. Part of me resents their position amongst artifacts from a past I never knew—a past that belongs to someone else.
I get tangled in this conflict every time I see my Dad. I do not get caught up in mourning over my parents’ divorce. It is not resentment of Jane, or his new life with her, that ensnares me. No. It is the way my Dad’s memory of the past does not match my own memory of the past that trips me up every time.