My father holds court in a black, leather, Scandinavian-inspired chair in the corner of the room next to a set of sliding glass doors. It is not at all unusual to find him surrounded by as many as five books, each laid out before him so that they form the shape of a rainbow or a sunrise.
Amongst them might be a best-selling novel, Alan Greenspan’s latest economic treatise, and yet another take on the impact of World War II on American industry. There will almost always be at least two books on religion. The only exception to this rule is the year during which he read nothing except books by Carlos Castaneda. He offered no explanation for this decision, nor did I ask. I’ve read enough of Castaneda’s works to consider traveling west in order to score some mescaline. Before I could bring this plan to fruition though, a lovely young boy approached me as I sat, curbside, with friends at an outdoor café in Athens, Georgia. He had what I thought to search for, and I politely declined. The idea, and the boy, were intriguing though..for just a minute or two.
Despite his voracious appetite for the written word, my father rarely recommends books. I can, in fact, think of only two books that he has held in such high esteem as to insist that I read them. The first was “Atlas Shrugged”, which was to change my life. He offered several examples of people to whom he’d recommended the book whose lives were altered, irrevocably, to the positive. Reading Ms. Rand’s words would change the way I felt about politics, while showing me the error of my leftist ways. My feelings about money would undergo a transformation. I would understand the importance of wealth, and the wealthy. In short, I would understand as never before, capitalism, and its intrinsic importance to the world economy.
I read the book. Well, I read most of it. Truth to tell, I found it much too long. The story intrigued me for as long as I read, but the simple fact of the book became a burden. I am much more successful in undertaking projects that have a foreseeable conclusion. And, read though I did, I never seemed to progress through the pages of what can only be described as a formidable tome. My reading friends began to harangue me. They questioned my resolve. It seems none of them cared for the book, and couldn’t understand why I insisted on carrying it around when it was perfectly obvious I wasn’t reading it. For just the second time in my life, I laid a book down without finishing it. The first book that beat me was Bill Clinton’s autobiography. There is a chapter in the book that feels like reading the genealogical sections of the Bible. I’ve read the Bible through twice, because I cared…
The second book my father recommended was “Younger Next Year: a guide to living like 50 when you’re 80 and beyond” by Chris Crowley. And, if his recommendation of “Atlas Shrugged” came across as a spontaneous political science lecture, this latest suggestion rode in on a gush of Richard Simmons-like enthusiasm. Almost immediately, upon reading the book, my father began a daily ritual of walking eight miles. Usually he traverses the beach. If I lived in Destin I, too, would take every opportunity to be beachside. Sometimes, though, and specifically on holiday weekends, my father takes to the streets. I arrived in Destin on one such Saturday. My father had told me he’d be walking. He’d suggested I call after I’d crossed the Bay Bridge.
“Pick me up in front of the “Crab Trap””, were his breathy instructions.
I searched my memory bank for coordinates, and feeling I had his approximate location, brushed the ashes off my console and struck out in his direction.
Traffic inched through shadows cast by hastily wrought high-rises. Lobster hued walkers passed me, and several cars ahead of me, before my tires rolled a few inches and stopped, again. An image of a large, very brown, senior citizen wearing a sweat-soaked t-shirt danced across my periphery. A lane of traffic separated us. I looked for a place to turn around.
Rolling up behind him, I observed an equally brown, lusciously curvaceous, blonde pounding the pavement behind him. Leaning across the passenger seat, I lowered the window.
“Hey, babe…need a ride?”, I purred while imagining the raised eyebrows of his young follower.
I imagined a squishy sound as he slid in.
“Didn’t you see me?”, he laughed sardonically. “I told you where I’d be! Didn’t you see me?”
And so it goes…
This past Sunday marked the tenth day of an eleven day Christmas vacation during which I’d eaten anything my heart desired for the first time in more years than I care to remember. As I stood at the pharmacy counter while the technician counted my cholesterol pills, I saw the book; “Younger Next Year for Women”. It seems the first edition was written specifically for men. This latest edition focuses on the fairer sex. My father’s voice spoke to me from six hundred miles away, urging me toward the metal rack.
I bought the book. At lunch today, I read the first ten pages. The first prescription is to partake of physical exercise at least six times a week. It seems that this, and only this, will induce older cells to regenerate while promoting a feeling of general well-being.
And, she’s off! I intend to chronicle my odyssey. Here’s hoping the author resisted inclusion of genealogy…
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