Sunday, November 22, 2015

House Housman

I am desperately trying to clean up my house in preparation for Thanksgiving. One thing I have to do is go through all my dad's books. And that is what I was doing today.

My brother George brought them all over to my house several weeks ago and unloaded them unceremoniously in the front room, and now I have to deal with them. OK, technically they are my mom's books too. But most of them are my dad's. Some of them were given to him by my mom. But that is another story for another day.

For today, we address the subject of A.E. Housman. That is he pictured above.

This was a British poet, in case you did not have a dad like mine. A.E. Housman wrote beautiful poetry that my dad acquainted me with when I was a kid. As I saw the name I began reciting automatically... "The day you won your town the race/We chaired you through the market place/Men and boy stood cheering by/And home we brought you, shoulder high.." That is from "To An Athlete Dying Young."

That is a very sad poem because the winner of the race dies young. He winds up, as Housman puts it, townsman of a stiller town.

But back to this book. The object of going through these books is to figure out which books belong on the A list, on my living room bookshelf, and which can just be packed away. Me being me, nothing is being thrown out. That goes without saying.

I am looking at this one Housman book thinking, that's funny, my dad loved A.E. Housman, and yet there is no writing in this book. My dad frequently leaves notes in these books. But there was nothing.

I put the book aside. Eventually I see: "More Poems By A.E. Housman."

And bingo!

There is my dad's handwriting, college-age I am guessing, on the inside front cover. Pompously he has written: "To my friend, George John Kunz Jr., As a token of sempiternal esteem, From the author -- Alfred Edward Housman."

LOL!! As we say now. I just started laughing. I forgot how much I was missing my father and how sad and sentimental this whole business had made me not five minutes before. Not five minutes before I had been thinking of A.E. Housman ... this is me again, reciting off the top of my head:

With rue my heart is laden
For golden friends I had
For many a rose-lipped maiden
And many a light-foot lad

By brooks too wide for leaping
The light-foot lads are laid
The rose-lipped girls are sleeping
In fields where roses fade.

How about that? I have not checked my work but I think I am right, off the top of my head. Thanks to my father. Anyway, those melancholy verses were in my head. I was thinking of my dad and also of Leonard Pennario, the things of his that I have kept and internalized. But now suddenly that all changed. It was as if my father were in the room with me and we were laughing together. It was that funny.

We are all going to see each other again some day, God willing, you know? It is not that bad.

Anyway. End result as we say here in Buffalo: Hours go by but finally I have things sorted out. Books with meaning in the bookshelf. Books without meaning in liquor boxes and stashed somewhere else.

Am I ready for Thanksgiving? No. Not by a long shot! But I am one step closer.

Before long I can start planning my menu!

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