Figure 1. one of my father's many first editions [click on picture for price tag]
by EILEEN JOY
I know I am a day late for Father's Day, but am hoping I will be forgiven. I have been home in Washington, DC for several reasons and am on my way back to South Carolina today and wanted to note, here, and publicly for the first time, how blessed I am in my father, a crazed maniac of a bibliophile, lover of poetry, Greekophile, peripatetic traveler, and the unofficial mayor of wherever he goes. For most of our lives [well, mine anyway], I think our fathers mainly annoy and maybe even embarrass us. I can say that, for most of my life, I liked to pretend that I could not comprehend, nor did not remember, how it was that I ended up in English studies. Suffice to say, my adult self would not recognize my teenage and twenty-something self, who mainly distinguished herself as a habitual pot smoker, skipper of classes, and cultivator of the worst company possible. In the early 1990s, when my partner was working as a technical writer for GTE Spacenet, she discovered that one of her colleagues had gone to high school with me, and when she informed her that I was working on a Ph.D. in medieval studies [which Ph.D., I might add, took almost ten years and included "dropout" periods where I worked as a gardener and even as a clerk at Target--seriously], my recollection is that this colleague spit out her coffee and started laughing uncontrollably. As an undergraduate I went to a university with open admissions and earned in my first three semesters grade point averages of 1.8, 1.6, and 1.4, respectively. I spent most of my time in mosh pits and stuck safety pins pretty much everywhere on my body.
Figure 2. my father's study
As silly as it sounds, English classes saved my life, but suffice to say, I would have never attributed that to my father's influence, although, pace the photographs here, how could I have not known otherwise? Youth is truly wasted on the young. I used to think my father's book collecting was a little crazy [I still do on occasion] and I was also mortified when he would dramatically read Yeats or Whitman or Lowell at the dinner table when I had friends over. And because, as I have shared here before, my father is manic depressive with occasional episodes of extreme "religious-type mania," let's just say that there are periods in my life I never want to relive again, although they still happen. But perhaps one reason I will always be glad for my father's over-the-top passions are the books and first-edition volumes of poetry he has collected over the years which now, all together in various rooms of the house and overflowing the bookshelves, are a wonder to behold. Over the years, my father has kept secret post office boxes in various post offices all around the city, thinking that he is fooling my mother with his purchases. But because he eventually wants to display everything he has, the secret has never been a secret. My mother used to beg my father to rein in the book collecting, but resistance has proved futile. Which brings me to an admission of something I have never told my father: when I was working at the University of North Carolina in Asheville as an adjunct asst. professor about five years ago, and I was really broke, I brought my first-edition copy of Yeats' The Tower--a gift from my father--to The Captain's Bookshelf, an antiquarian bookstore that purchases and sells rare books. I was hoping for a few hundred dollars and when the owner came back from the back room where he has his computer, he sat down in front of me and asked me if I realized what I had. The book, he said, would sell on the market for about ten thousand dollars and he would give me eight thousand. I took the money and have regretted it ever since.
Figure 3. one of my father's many bookshelves
For Father's Day we let my father go to see Richard Sheridan's The School for Scandal at the Folger by himself [terrible, I know, but the rest of were too exhausted to accompany him] and he almost did not make it because we all forgot that it was Gay Pride day on the Capitol. He regretted that he could not attend the parade. At my sister's second "gay wedding," my father read C.P. Cavafy's "Ithaca." That is my father. Let us now praise fathers.