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Grandpa's books

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It’s February and so rather unimaginatively I’ve decided to write about love this month.  (By the way if you haven’t sent me a story about love, please do so at  There are all sorts of love as you know so I’m not limiting myself to romantic love.

My dad’s parents and especially my grandfather were big readers.  My grandfather read and wrote poetry.  Most of his poetry was written on a big blackboard he’d placed strategically in the middle of the already overcrowded kitchen that was stuffed with a chest freezer the size of most of one wall, a table with mismatched chairs, my grandfather’s daily weather writings and the newspaper.

To get to anywhere in my grandparent’s house required going through the kitchen and most folks seemed to get tuckered out just entering the front door because hardly ever did anyone move from the kitchen into the rest of the house unless you were a child.  If you were a child, you had no choice but to continue moving.  Children were not wanted in the kitchen unless they were entering the house to get to the living room or exiting the house to get to the yard or getting food.

So it took me quite a while to learn about the limericks my grandfather made up on the back side of that blackboard or to discover that intermingled with Shakespeare and quotes from the Bible were things my grandfather had written.  But it took me only as long as learning to read and being able to reach the bookshelves crowded with my grandmother’s salt and pepper shaker collection to find my love of old books.

My grandparents were poor.  Not “I can’t get enough to eat poor” because my grandfather could grow lilies in a Minnesota snowstorm and scoffed at the idea of missing out on a fishing or hunting trip.  But, poor nevertheless.

So the books on the shelf didn’t contain the New York Times bestsellers list unless they made the list 100 years ago or so.  Americans have always been pretty blasé’ about old things, more so than probably any other country.  So it was my grandfather’s habit to go to estate sales and buy books by the lot for a dollar here or a dollar there.  You never knew what you would find on my grandfather’s shelves.  I devoured a three inch book once that contained according to its title, “The Complete Veterinary Handbook” written sometime around the Civil War and became so enamored with Elswyth Thane, Zane Grey and Edith Bancroft that I still collect their books today.  Long before my classmates would study history to know what they were I had seen illustration plates of women wearing bloomers and had carefully fingered hand colored pictures of cows and horses we no longer raised even then and had practiced writing in Grey’s descriptive style.  I watched men land on the moon but more importantly I read of men who had dreamed of landing on the moon before men had ever driven a car or seen their first train.

My grandfather was a really rough man.  I imagine he loved me but he never really said.  On the other hand, I pass by my bookshelves every day and see books as old as time whose worn covers have long since become unreadable and whose pages disintegrate with a careless touch and I ache for the children who will never know the love of the written word, never fantasize about who has held the same book and what they dreamed or knew or thought.

I guess my grandparents weren’t so poor after all.

Tell me about your love by writing to me at

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