a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Monday, March 2, 2015


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dad's Encyclopedias


A complete set of Funk and Wagnall’s New Encyclopedia (new in the 1980s, anyway), purchased one volume at a time from the grocery store, sits on the bookshelf at my father’s house.  I pass by this shelf countless times during each visit to his house on a lake in Indiana.  His new house.  His “Dad and Jane” house.  Not a house I ever called home. 

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. 


  1. The contrasting images of you with encyclopedias to your dad. So powerful and so profound. I feel a sense of loss, too, for your tangled conflict.

  2. It's amazing how such a simple object can create deep emotions. These vintage slices are interesting to view in relation to what's happening today.

  3. Your ending truth is enlightening. Our perspective definitely creates some differences. I love your sensory description.