My father is a complicated man. No one has ever disputed his intelligence. They may dispute many things about him, but never that. My second cherished item is a book he gave me when I was thirteen. It’s not the book itself , though The Illustrated World of Thoreau was obviously something wonderful to give your child to read and open worlds. The book had Thoreau’s writings coupled with striking pictures relevant to the thoughts.
My father took it a step further. My father takes everything a step further, part of the problem of his complicated existence as well as my own. He raised an intelligent, hard-headed, existentialist daughter, something I’m sure he was striving for, though we couldn’t have imagined where that road would take us both.
In the book he gave me, my father took great care to add his own comments. High level, metaphorical, and bordering on the spiritual, his words seemed as striking as Thoreau’s to me, especially coupled with the pictures, which my father also wrote about independently.
He dedicated the book to me and my mother, though it was really for me. Not even a year later he would leave us both during a fairly pedestrian mid-life crisis, yet I clung to the book as my intellectual way forward. Nature became a solace to me as it was to him. He remained my idol, even more so because of the rarity of our relations, until that time during which I grew up and came to terms with the fact that we all must: our parents are human, no more no less.
Many decades have passed since I was thirteen. Yet, if there were a fire in our house, this would be one of the things I would grab on the way out. The words stand today, as striking to me as when he first wrote them. Perhaps even more so because of the paths we’ve each had to weave in our lives. I am a complicated woman.
My father would expect no less.
The book, cover long since discarded. Dedication intact, along with a stain from one of numerous moves.