Pen Marks On My Soul

I’ve pretty much finalized my alliteration days-of-the-week topics. Of course I’m going to deviate from them, but it’s nice to have a little writing prompt when I’m at a loss.  I’m sticking to my pledge to post something, even only a little something, every day. Today? Is officially Thoughtful Thursday.

I was digging around in the various graphics I have saved on my computer, looking for ones I could use here on the blog from time to time, and I came upon this little gem from the webcomic XKCD, called “Advantages To Dating Librarians.” It’s pretty much true. If I lend you a book and you return it with the spine cracked, food stains and pen marks on the pages, and the dust jacket ripped all to Hell…I’m going to politely get around ever lending you a book again. And if your dog fucking BITES A CHUNK out of my book and you refuse to replace said book? Pretty much the kiss of death for our friendship. (Why yes, I am still bitter about it.) I’ve always thought that how you treat my belongings reflects how you value me as a person. It’s an issue of respect. I intended to stop my blog post for the day here, but I’m reminded of a story about my grandfather that I feel like sharing.

XKCD Librarians

(I’ll wait while you click the link to the comic then come back, because apparently I’ve filled 94% of the free image storage space that WordPress gives you. If anyone knows of a workaround, I would love you forever for sharing it because I cannot afford another $50 or more for WordPress storage space. This seems like as good a time as any to direct your attention to the PayPal donation button and the link to the used books and DVDs I’m selling on Amazon up in the right-hand sidebar. I feel like such a whore right now. Ugh. I hate taking money from people. I still owe my friends a metric fuckton of money for take-out on our “West Wing” girls’ nights…someone remind me to shove a $20 down Steph’s bra next time.)

My grandfather lived with us from the time of his stroke in 2001 until my parents’ divorce in 2007; and he passed away in July of 2008. Before his stroke, my grandfather looked and acted like a young man in his 40s or 50s rather than an old man just this side of 80. He was a carpenter who was always outside doing something; his face and his arms, at least from the short-sleeve line down, were tan even in the dead of winter. He did so much landscaping and handyman work for the widows in his neighborhood that he worked more retired than he did when he had a full-time job. My grandfather was an honorable man. He served in the Navy during World War II. Decades after his wife, my namesake, died of lung cancer in 1984, he got angry at the suggestion that he date another woman. He supported our family both emotionally and financially when my Mom hurt her back and was out of work for over a year (no workmen’s comp) when I was a child. But the stroke took all of his independence away, and in his own eyes I think a piece of his dignity went with it. Grampi was no longer able to live by himself. He had mobility issues and falling was a serious danger. His reflexes were such that he freely forfeited his license rather than go through the indignity of failing the RMV’s official driving test. He suddenly aged 20 years in a day.

With his stroke limiting his physical abilities, Grampi became obsessed with reading to keep his mind active. He read at least one book a day and pretty soon he had plowed through the family library and moved on to our town’s public one. Grampi cleaned out their seasonal $1 book sales as well. But his one cringe-worthy habit was writing his initials in the front cover, so he could keep track of what books he had read. Worse? He refused to use bookmarks, instead making little hash marks keeping his place on the page. And all of this? WAS IN PEN. *headdesk* *arm flail* *pulls own hair out* It took months to convince Grampi to only use pencil in the public library’s books, much less to get him to stop this behavior all together! And even then, he needed supervision or his pen would creep back out again and when caught he’d play the “cute confused old man” routine…the smarmy bastard! So frustrating! For this reason, my sister and I never gave Grampi access to the bookshelves we kept in our bedrooms, and he respected our personal space.

But when my sister Sara took over the desk in our living room with all of her schoolwork, and she had stacked some pleasure reading books there. Sara caught him taking one of the books before he could make a mark on it, and she yelled at him for close to an hour. His defense? “They’re in a public place so I’m allowed to read them.” I know Grampi stopped listening 5 minutes into her diatribe because of the sly grin on his face. It took all of my self-control not to burst out laughing and make Sara’s anger even worse.

Not even 24 hours passed before Grampi started devising additional ways to get at her books. The main issue was that the living room was sealed off from the rest of the house by glass doors that were incredibly loud to open and close. Each window pane featured a little clay Christmas decoration that clanked against the glass whenever there was even the slightest movement. Sara felt secure in having them act as her very own book alarm…but that didn’t stop Grampi! This time she caught him red-handed with an off-limits cookie tin, a mistake on his part because we were also supposed to help monitor his diabetes by enforcing snacktime rules. My sister being my sister, snatched the tin away and didn’t wait for Grampi to leave before she cracked it open to snack on them herself. Boy was she surprised to find her book nestled in there instead of a few rows of cookies!

Grampi’s next method was to allow all the cats into the living room, where they were not allowed — as they have interesting habits like climbing the Christmas tree, munching on the Christmas cacti, or clawing the nice fancy guest furniture if you leave them alone. Of course my sister screamed at him and started ejecting all the cats, while Grampi successfully smuggled his book out and back to his reading chair. This time his mistake was to immediately crack open the book, because he and my sister spent most of their time relaxing in the same room. Of course the cover caught her eye when she sat down post-cat wrangling, and she completely lost it on him again.

His final attempt involved going in to the living room while my sister was out of the house. It seemed simple enough, as we were in high school at the time, and out of the house from at least 7am to 3pm. With extracurricular activities, we might not get back until past 9pm. So after finishing his book of the day and making a late lunch, Grampi checked the family calendar and noted that Sara wasn’t expected home for another hour at least. Plenty of time to kidnap the book and hide it so he could exclusively read it when she was gone. Unfortunately for the booknapper, Sara’s club meeting was canceled that day and she walked in on him in action. Instead of sheepishly admitting what he was doing in the living room and putting the book back, instead Grampi shoved it under his sweater and tried to exit past my sister. But the sweater was thin and buttoned up tight, and my sister didn’t believe my grandfather had suddenly grown a tumor on his back the exact dimensions of a paperback book.

After that, my parents stopped thinking that his torment of my sister was funny and talked to Grampi about his book-napping ways. That was the end of it. It’s not one of the most wild or popular stories in my family — like the pet goat and the haystack that wasn’t — so I wasn’t reminded of it until recently, when my Mom bought me this book, The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva. The dust jacket described the protagonist as an art restorer /slash/ assassin, so she immediately thought of me. Being as OCD as I am, I couldn’t start reading this book without reading the others in the Gabriel Allon series sequentially. It throws off my whole reading mojo. Thankfully, our family’s basement library had about half of the series on hand. I opened the cover to The Kill Artist, the first of the series, and there in the upper left corner, in pen of course, were the initials “D.G.” I immediately thought of this story, got overwhelmed by the rush of good and bad emotions, and started crying.

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3 Responses to Pen Marks On My Soul

  1. LittleBig says:

    I’m actually not very knowledgable about WP, but do you have a flickr account? I link to all my photos from flickr.

    It’s free to do that and the basic flickr account is free, but I pay twenty or thirty bucks a year or so for an unlimited flickr account. That’s been totally worth it for me.

    • Mollie Katie says:

      That’s an issue I’ve been having, when I try to link-drop images in it goes horribly awry. Took days to get stuff in my sidebar right. I ended up giving up and just using WordPress itself. I was trying with Photobucket but I can just as easily make a Flickr account…maybe that was the issue? I’m pretty much technologically retarded though. I even have a hashtag for it on the Twitters: #LudditeDanceParty

    • Mollie Katie says:

      Fixed it. With Flickr. In case I forgot to tell you. I think something was just wonky with my laptop…it’s not half dead and wheezing any more, which I really approve of.

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