The OF Blog: In Memoriam

Monday, November 14, 2011

In Memoriam

This afternoon I helped bury my maternal grandmother.  She was 89 years old and had been fighting against dementia for several years before she was released from her suffering.  I have made passing mention of her on this blog for years now, but I feel it is necessary to share a few things with readers here, as she and my mother have been the two primary influences on me as a reader (and as a person, although my dad has much to do with the latter).

Until she lost much of her sight due to macular degeneration about 6-7 years ago, she was a voracious reader who had hundreds, if not thousands, of books scattered about her home.  Whenever she would watch us for my mother on football Fridays in the late 1970s and early 1980s, she would always have something to read, whether it was a new novel, OMNI, Asimov's, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, or any other assorted odds and ends.  She was the one who introduced me to science fiction reading when she bought me a copy of the 1980s revival of the old pulp SF Tom Swift novels, followed later by a gift of a 1950s Book Club edition of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles when I turned 13 in July 1987.

She was always encouraging me (and my cousins and siblings) to read.  I was talking with my eldest cousin on this side of the family (he is four years older than I am) about her and the books she would give us.  He remembered one Christmas (I want to say it was 1986, when I was 12, but it might have been the year before) when she gave me a copy of Bullfinch's Mythology and he was so interested in it that he borrowed it from me and started reading it.  He said she must have noticed, because for his next birthday, he received a copy of it as well. 

Now I know in many families, having relatives giving unsolicited books is an annoyance, but for my mom's family, we shared a love of all sorts of literature and we often would lend others our books.  I can remember visiting her soon after I returned to Tennessee from Florida in late 2003 and helping her stack and sort the books she had scattered all in the upstairs part of her house.  I found things such as a 1968 hardcover edition of Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light and first editions of the last two books in Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun series.  She readily lent those to me and I can remember talking with her about her impressions of those books (she was a sharp reader before dementia set in and she in particular liked Wolfe's fiction) over a few visits in the 2003-2004 span. 

But she was more than a fantasy/SF reader.  She loved mysteries and although I am not as much of a mystery fan as she was, she certainly had a major influence on my mom and her sisters (and to a degree, my sister and female cousin, I suspect) on those and the thrillers they still enjoy reading.  I am convinced that if my grandmother had not been as much of a fan of literature of all sorts, that my mother and myself likely would not have become the avid readers that we are today.

I've been preoccupied, naturally, these past few days since her passing this past Saturday morning.  Yet I derived some comfort in writing about those poetry collections in my last few posts, in part because I felt I was honoring her memory by writing about a subject (she also loved poetry, according to my mom) that she herself likely would have wanted to participate in if she had the capacity to do so.  One can love to reading and reading in one sense is a solitary function, but if one does not share that love of engagement with real and imagined settings, people, and situations, it becomes a dead area devoid of true love and affection.  Although I miss her greatly, I feel privileged in being able to share with readers here the same variety of books that my grandmother introduced me to over the past thirty-plus years of my life.  Hopefully, you in turn will share this love with others close to you and remember the bonds formed by this sharing all the days of your lives.


Jeff said...

Beautiful post. Sounds like you have a wonderful way of remembering her.

Aaron said...

I really enjoyed this post, as it reminded me of my late father who was the one who introduced me to sf/f and to fiction reading in general. He is gone now, but his memory inspires me to do for my own son what he did for me. Thank you for the words and my condolences for your loss.

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