Writing about my family this month is, I discover, turning into a way of listing the gifts (Coincidence that I read Voskamp right before Nablopomo?  Don't think so -- Nice timing, God.).  If I were to name just one gift that my dad has given me (and there are many), it would be the gift of words and story. 

Dad is infuriatingly good at Scrabble, puns, and using six long words when two short ones would suffice.  He also tells stories really well (political correctness optional).  Some of my favorite childhood memories are of the evenings when Dad would read aloud to us.  We'd sprawl out on the living room floor with an arsenal of scratch paper and markers, and settle in for an evening of adventures.  Dad's voice, rumbling wise and low -- our very own Garrison Keillor -- took us to the American prairies, the Big Thicket, mid-century Canada, the hills of Scotland, Narnian woods.  He read, we drew the stories we were hearing.  I really don't know how he found many of the books he read to us, but they were always wonderful (Well, I may or may not have tuned out during any and all battle scenes.).  They taught us about different places and eras, but there were also some stories about kids an awful lot like us...Kids who were small or not quite good at anything yet, but were cherished by someone who gave them a part to play in something wonderful...whether that was bringing in the cattle or fighting evil out of Narnia.  So maybe our little lives were grand stories, too, in their own way?  Without realizing it at first, we were learning big things like redemption and friendship and perseverance.  We were learning that big families can survive a lean season.  We were learning that the lion is by no means tame, but he is good.  Learn these things when you are young -- even before you quite understand them -- and they will be embedded into your very soul for the day you really need to know them. 

Our own Garrison Keillor
My dad didn't have to spend his evenings reading books to his teeming throng of children.  He was probably tired and had bills to pay and wanted to watch Monday Night Football.  But he chose to read to us -- an active, rather than passive, form of spending time together -- and now I realize what a gift it was.  It demonstrated that he prioritized us, time with us, and wanted to share with us the wordcraft that delighted him so much.  I am thankful, dad, that you read to us and infused our lives with good story, crafted well, and read well.  That is a priceless combination. 

Through both the epic tales and the epic Scrabble battles, dad had given me the foundation of a vocabulary which has proven a key to survival.  At the risk of sounding like a public service announcement, a rich vocabulary is such a powerful thing.  A vocabulary got me through the SATs and into college.  A vocabulary has helped me write my way through the twists and turns of the last several years.  Loss, joy, effort, uncertainty...Words are my way to try to make sense of it all, and if possible, to try to build some beauty into the way of things.  I have these words because dad read to me.

It's not so easy for my dad to hold Scrabble tiles anymore, but he can still write and he can still captivate a room with a story told in that great radio voice.  Until he finally gets that book deal,  his wonderful prose is over on this corner of the web:


CFHeidel said…
Hmmm. Most kind, most kindly fledgling, but methinks you have over-polished this old brass kettle. Er, I mean, "Thank you."
Anonymous said…
Thankfull you, Ginny for helping me get to know your farter better. Reading for your children is big gift!

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