Yesterday was my Dad’s birthday. He’s a pretty great guy, and thinking about birthday gifts got me to thinking about the gifts he has given to me. Both of my parents were teachers, in fact teaching is pretty much the family business when you get down to it. Uncles, Aunts, grandparents, siblings, there are a ton of teachers in the group. But Mom and Dad, they were my first teachers.
Dad taught English, history and government; and I can honestly say that my love of history and a goodly amount of my love of language came from him. I have wonderful memories of his history lessons. He rarely just gave us an answer to a question, there was usually far more to it than that. A book would come down off the bookcase, a passage would be pointed out, discussion would follow. I still recall a 7th grade Civil War history test, a take home test at that, which resulted in a number of my classmates at my house. Dad wouldn’t give us the answers as I think some assumed. Instead he put his rather extensive library on the subject at our disposal. We all got A’s.
I fell in love with history because of him. He has given me an appreciation for how modern day events are affected by past ones, how you can often predict what will happen by looking at similar situations in the past. He made history come alive for me. Never did he resort to dry lists of facts and dates, instead he wove a story around that framework which usually compelled me to go off and learn more about it. It is a direct result of those stories that I found myself spending four hours in the Imperial War Museum in London. In fact, I can honestly say that part of my love for travel is rooted in my love of history. Few things match the feeling of standing on a spot, knowing what went on there. The battlefield at Hastings, standing in a Roman amphitheater in France, wandering the streets of Bruges and having this sense of history wash over me; that is also because of him.
One of his favorite gifts to give has always been books. My love for intrigue novels is his fault. It started with a trio of Robert Ludlum books; books that I devoured in a manner of days. Next was John Le Carre, and then I was off and running. He gives me a book, I find a new area of interest and new books are added to my shelves. Looking over at those shelves right now I see a collection largely inspired by him. This includes both fiction and non-fiction books about espionage, intrigue, intelligence services. On my nightstand are two new books on the subject (one about the Mossad, another about a triple spy!).
Another book that I love, one of the best gifts I ever received, is my dictionary of Modern American Usage. Yes, I am just that much of a geek about language. Mom introduced me to Shakespeare, Dad encouraged the addiction to language. I get from him an unholy love of puns, of playing with words and a deep interest in their origins.
For his birthday, brother Erik and I sent him a collection of gourmet foods. Looking around me here in the office I can only marvel at where his gifts have taken me.