For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
June 16, 1999 - Father's Day
While these two events are not exactly equal, they do teach similar lessons.
The first event is that one day you realize your eyes need adjustment both for distance and for nearness. So you get bifocals.
The second event is that one day your last parent dies. In my case, it was my father. But once again, I found that I began to see through two kinds of lenses.
One looks back. My father and I went through five stages. The first, the one before I remember anything, was when he apparently adored me. (Here I'm relying on photographs and the testimony of my father's friends.) The second was a period when (at least this is my honest memory; he probably had a different view) he verbally berated me, from about the age of four until the time I left home at 17. The third was when we mostly ignored each other. He was working swing shifts at the power plant. I was in college, then hitchhiked around the country.
The fourth was when we decided that we kind of liked each other, and began to seek each other's company. It was all a little tentative.
After my mother's death, and on through his own long illness, we reached a fifth stage. We began to reckon with one another, where "reckoning" means "taking each other's measure." There are bonds of blood and time that reveal things to the patient eye.
There were times when I helped dad. When mom died I found out that my father had never written a check in his life, had no idea what the costs of running a house might be. I helped him work that through, identify his revenues and expenditures, set a budget, define regular routines.
There were times when he helped me. There was some assistance with a down payment for my first home.
One kind of lens looks forward. Here I'm thinking of dad's connection to my son Perry, then just three. They lit up like Christmas trees around each other, both of them grinning and following each other from room to room. I'd had that kind of connection to my granddad, too, and it shocked me to see it again. But it also changed me, matured me, made me profoundly grateful. Perry and my dad never had the chance to build the kind of long term relationship I had with my mother's father.
I balance the richness of my experience against the aborted promise of my son's bond with my father and I am saddened. Not for me. For Perry.
It just might be that all of life is about stories. There are stories we tell ourselves. There are stories we tell our peers. There are stories we tell our elders. But most important are the stories our elders tell to us, and we tell to our children. Not all of these tales are true. Nonetheless, they are deeply important.
Last week I looked at our program schedule for our libraries. I was very proud. The Douglas Public Library District offers some 50 programs every single week. Most of them involve storytelling. Just recently, many of those programs have been about Father's Day.
I hope that those of you with young children were able to attend. And for those of you whose children are too old for storytimes, I have a request.
Tell a story to your children. Tell them about your fathers.