Today’s been sticky and it’s not over. I’m downsizing the place, and obviously one of the things that has to go is books. I’m hanging onto the signed copies and first editions and whatnot; someone in the family will want those. In some cases they know the authors. In every case of the signed books, they know I do. There’s a continuance there; the book has a power beyond being a fine read. It’s a link, friend-to-friend, family to family. Then there are books about writing, again some by friends in the game, some by other professionals I haven’t met but wish I had. Reading them is always inspiring, almost always educational (no matter how often you’ve read it before) and – most important – a reminder that I’m one of the luckiest men I ever met. I’m disposing of just about all the books from my previous career – everything from Lee’s Lieutenants to WWII in Europe to Irwin Rommel’s between-world-wars treatise on small unit actions and Sledge’s (practically) minute-by-minute history of his part in the Corps’ war in the Pacific. I know very, very few of those militaria authors but I had the honor and privilege of serving with some of the original cast, so a few of those go in the lockerbox for the descendants to puzzle over somewhere down the line.
What gets really tough is looking at an old, back-broken, raggedy mess and remembering it from your childhood. Example: Albert Payson Terhune’s collection of stories called My Friend The Dog, my copy published in 1926 by Harper & Brothers, first copyright 1922. I don’t even remember who gave it to me, but it was old when I got it. I read it and re-read it, always jammed in a corner where no one could see, because it made me cry. I wasn’t a kid who wanted other people to know I did stuff like that. I have a couple of books like that. They won’t go yet. I have to read them at least once more.
I guess I’m being foolish about it all. They’re paper and glue. Maybe cloth covers, maybe paperback. Inanimate objects, nothing more, and they get to move on just like we do. That’s the way it is. But damn it, though, sometimes I feel like I’m turning my back on a friend. It kind of hurts, you know?