Reid the book

September 16, 2021

   My right eye has been weepy of late. As with most physical developments that don’t cause pain, my remedy is to ignore it, and then live with it. Carol, ever on the alert for my style of preventative medicine, will pick up on any physical anomaly (primarily as it has to do with hair, beard, toenails and “when’s the last time you changed shirts”) before I’ve even had time to notice it, much less formulate an excuse for ignoring it.

   “You have a blocked tear duct, and the appropriate treatments are eyedrops, compresses and to stop reading,” Carol prescribed during breakfast one morning recently, as she summarized her Google search. Let’s take that last one first.

   Mostly all I do now at home is eat, sleep, go to the bathroom and read. Except for the reading, I could just as well be a newborn, a cat, an oyster or in an extreme example, a ficus. But, reading is not just what separates me from the flora and fauna of our world; it’s how I’ve come to define myself as a human being. I’ve thought about it quite a bit (oh, I forgot to mention I do take a lot of naps; before I nod off, I think of things), and for me reading is breathing. So to say I have to stop reading is the same as saying I have a cold and congestion and the cure is to stop breathing.

Mostly all I do now at home is eat, sleep, go to the bathroom and read. Except for the reading, I could just as well be a newborn, a cat, an oyster or in an extreme example, a ficus.

   I do think that a good therapist (meh, a cheap mediocre one could break this one down) would see my compulsion as a, say, disengagement if not an escape from the real world. Early on in my working life, my boss noticed I was reading a book entitled The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy. He looked at me, grinned, and said, “You’re escaping.” May be, but to this day, I could still nail “Duns Scotus” in a trivia quiz.

   In her declining years, my mother read almost exclusively. When I’d ask her what she was reading, she’d answer she had no idea, so this escapism thing may have a genetic root. Or it may be something more sinister.

   After several elementary grades of spending recesses confronted by classmates taunting, “Hey, Reid the book and drink the champagne,” I confronted my parents with the rationale behind my name. “Oh,” they replied, “we just wanted something that sounded different.”

   Great, then you two go to middle school, and I’ll stay home and iron and fiddle with the toaster.

   As Nancy Drew was my first girlfriend, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that reading would be the salient feature of my life. Most normal people define their lives in stages; mine more or less has occurred in chapters. There’s a letter A, a whitewashed fence and raft, a whale and a field of rye where I’m a hero. There’s a Catch, a cockroach, a raven, the undead that transforms into a bat and a reanimated monster. Then there’s Adams, Hamilton, Lincoln, Grant, FDR, Truman, Kennedy, LBJ, Reagan…and, yes, the dystopian T- word.

   I’m currently reading a biography of the muckraker Drew Pearson (a teen idol of mine), a history of this country’s historical structural racism (a childhood epiphany that first occurred to me on viewing the race screens on a New Orleans public bus) and John Steinbeck’s log of a marine biology cruise of the Gulf of California (after watching my son-in-law and granddaughters study the tidepools of Laguna Beach and Crystal Cove, CA.)

   Oh, yeah, I will keep reading, even as my eyeball gently weeps.

Photo Credit: Lovisa Photo

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