Rick Riordan, you’ve created a monster!

My daughter got into the Rick Riordan Percy Jackson series in a big way. She has blazed her way through every hefty volume in record time. She drags them everywhere she goes, reading and re-reading them over and over again until they are literally falling apart at the seams.

After a hard-fought campaign of constant hectoring and pestering on her part, I got Mark of Athena for her last year. At the back of the book she saw that House of Hades, the next book in the series, would be coming out on October 8, 2013. As you can imagine, she’s been pining for that book all year long. She started the countdown back in August. In September she slung me over her shoulder and hauled me to the bookstore so that I could pre-order the book for her. At the customer service desk I asked if it would arrive on the 8th, or be mailed out on the 8th. The saleswoman assured us that the book would be mailed out so that it would arrive at our house on Tuesday, the 8th. She tortured me every single day that she waited for that book to arrive. Only twenty-seven more days until the 8th! Only sixteen more days until the 8th! I wish Tuesday would get here already! Only 53.273 hours until it comes!

I don’t know how the girl made it through the day at school. She ran to check the mailbox as soon as she got off the bus. NO BOOK! She concluded that it would be mailed out by UPS and would therefore be delivered to our doorstep later that afternoon. For the rest of the day she kept opening the front door to see if the mail carrier had left a package on our doorstep. As the evening wore on, I seriously thought about driving to the store to buy another copy just to put the poor girl out of her misery. Sure enough, when she had at last resigned herself to the fact that the book would not be arriving, I received an email notification that it had only just shipped.

The long-awaited book finally arrived on Friday. We all said our good-byes to her knowing full well that she would not be entertaining any further meaningless chitchat from us for as long as it took to read her book, and she disappeared into the bowels of Hades.

When she finally resurfaced on Tuesday, having finished the 583 page book, we all exhaled a collective sigh of relief…

And then she showed us this:

Thanks. Thanks a lot, Rick Riordan. You’re killing us here.

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Dad’s Books

I’ve written about my dad too…

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My dad has been losing his vision to diabetic retinopathy. He can no longer drive. He misjudges distances and he sometimes stumbles. Worst of all: his ability to read has been seriously compromised. He has consulted with specialists on two different continents. He’s had laser treatments and injections. He has bought pair after pair of new glasses in the hopes of improving his vision enough to be able to read again with ease. He has tried reading on the Kindle and the iPad without success. Lately, he has decided he will no longer seek available treatments.* Still, every morning he spends a couple hours hunched over his beloved books with a powerful magnifying glass, laboriously trying to make out the letters, which remain stubbornly, traitorously blurry.

My dad has suffered terrible losses in his life. His father died when he was just a child. He lost siblings to the privations imposed by war and invasions. He has always lived modestly, never indulging himself in anything other than the books that are his treasure. He would think nothing of giving away cars, furniture, clothing, before each of our many moves, but his ever growing collection of books always went with us across continents and oceans. Despite my mother’s vociferous objections, he would not be parted with these. When we finally settled down in Virginia, he built his own bookshelves and filled them with his cherished volumes of Heidegger, Machiavelli, and Kant. He lovingly fashioned suede covers to rebind his most cherished books that were literally read to pieces.

My husband, a scholar who appreciates the same kind of literature, was perusing my father’s bookshelf one day when he suddenly burst out laughing. Interspersed between two volumes of philosophy, he had spotted this:

Goats and GoatkeepingOn the bottom shelf was a space devoted to the inevitable porn stash every dad has hidden away somewhere. In my dad’s case, his porn consisted of many, many, well-thumbed issues of Dog World magazine. What can I say? His interests are wide-ranging.

When my parents moved back to Virginia after many years of living in Korea, they took stock of their belongings. Before they had left for Korea, they had a shed built in their backyard just to house my dad’s books. They never expected to be away for as long as they were. By the time they returned, the books had been languishing in the shed for over a dozen years. Some did not fare well. Mice had nibbled the pages of some. Others had suffered from water damage. I’m sure it broke my dad’s heart to discard these books. What he did with the ones that survived broke our hearts. To our shock and horror, he boxed up the vast majority of the books that he had collected over a lifetime and shipped them to the university in Korea where he had been working all those years, as a donation to the library.

My siblings and I had grown up with these books as the only constant part of our landscape. Many of them predated our own existence. To us, it was as if my dad was sending bits of himself away. It seemed like a surrender to old age and to his loss of vision, it seemed like a farewell to his life of scholarship. We said nothing to my father, but amongst ourselves, we mourned for all of these losses.

Now I realize that we needn’t have worried. Lately, every time I go to Arlington to visit my parents, my dad presses a piece of paper into my hands upon which he has scrawled in his illegible handwriting a list of the books he wants me to hunt down for him. The latest book list included Summa Contra Gentiles by Saint Thomas Aquinas and Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy. Little by little he is replacing the books he regrets having shipped to Korea, the books that had to be discarded, and the books that are falling apart from overuse.

“And please try to find them in hardback so they’ll last longer,” my 78 year old father says in his quiet, gentle voice.

“Sure, Dad,” I say. There’s nothing I’d rather do.

*At the University of Virginia, researchers are investigating the use of stem cells to treat and perhaps even reverse the effects of diabetic retinopathy. They are getting close to the clinical trial phase of their study.

More about my dad here:

Take me back to San Francisco

O wonderful 

I’m the Worst. Mother. Ever.

I cringed all day whenever I recalled the lecture I gave to my daughter as I dropped her off (late) to school this morning.

Worst Mother Ever:  (in an accusatory voice) What were you doing upstairs when I was calling and calling you to come down?

—Guilty silence—

W.M.E.: What were you doing? You were reading weren’t you?

My daughter: (mumbled, barely audible, sheepish response) Yes.

W.M.E.: You’re not allowed to read in the morning anymore! Got it? NO READING ALLOWED! Now you’re going to be late for school, because you were…READING!”

Poor, poor kid…and it’s only the fifth day of school.

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Dad’s Books

My dad has been losing his vision to diabetic retinopathy. He can no longer drive. He misjudges distances and he sometimes stumbles. Worst of all: his ability to read has been seriously compromised. He has consulted with specialists on two different continents. He’s had laser treatments and injections. He has bought pair after pair of new glasses in the hopes of improving his vision enough to be able to read again with ease. He has tried reading on the Kindle and the iPad without success. Lately, he has decided he will no longer seek available treatments.* Still, every morning he spends a couple hours hunched over his beloved books with a powerful magnifying glass, laboriously trying to make out the letters, which stubbornly, traitorously remain blurry.

My dad has suffered terrible losses in his life. His father died when he was just a child. He lost siblings to the privations imposed by war and invasions. He has always lived modestly, never indulging himself in anything other than the books that are his treasure. He would think nothing of giving away cars, furniture, clothing, before each of our many moves, but his ever growing collection of books always went with us across continents and oceans. Despite my mother’s vociferous objections, he would not be parted with these. When we finally settled down in Virginia, he built his own bookshelves and filled them with his cherished volumes of Heidegger, Machiavelli, and Kant. He lovingly fashioned suede covers to rebind his most cherished books that were literally read to pieces.

My husband, a scholar who appreciates the same kind of literature, was perusing my father’s bookshelf one day when he suddenly burst out laughing. He had spotted my dad’s copy of Goats and Goatkeeping interspersed between two volumes of philosophy. On the bottom shelf was a space devoted to the inevitable porn stash every dad has hidden away somewhere. In my dad’s case, his porn consisted of many, many, well-thumbed issues of Dog World magazine. What can I say? His interests are wide-ranging.

When my parents moved back to Virginia after many years of living in Korea, they took stock of their belongings. Before they had left for Korea, they had a shed built in their backyard just to house my dad’s books. They never expected to be away for as long as they were. By the time they returned, the books had been languishing in the shed for over a dozen years. Some did not fare well. Mice had nibbled the pages of some. Others had suffered from water damage. I’m sure it broke my dad’s heart to discard these books. What he did with the ones that survived broke our hearts. To our shock and horror, he boxed up the vast majority of the books that he had collected over a lifetime and shipped them to the university in Korea where he had been working all those years, as a donation to the library.

My siblings and I had grown up with these books as the only constant part of our landscape. Many of them predated our own existence. To us, it was as if my dad was sending bits of himself away. It seemed like a surrender to old age and to his loss of vision, it seemed like a farewell to his life of scholarship. We said nothing to my father, but amongst ourselves, we mourned for all of these losses.

Now I realize that we needn’t have worried. Lately, every time I go to Arlington to visit my parents, my dad presses a piece of paper into my hands upon which he has scrawled in his illegible handwriting a list of the books he wants me to hunt down for him. Little by little he is replacing the books he regrets having shipped to Korea, the books that had to be discarded, and the books that are falling apart from overuse.

“And please try to find them in hardback so they’ll last longer,” my 78 year old father says in his quiet, gentle voice.

“Sure, Dad,” I say. As I hunt online for Summa Contra Gentiles by Saint Thomas Aquinas or Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy, I am filled with peace and joy.

*Just this month I was excited to read about a study that’s been going on at the University of Virginia. Researchers are investigating the promising use of stem cells to treat and perhaps even reverse the effects of diabetic retinopathy and are getting close to the clinical trial phase of their study.

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