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June 15th, 2014

My Father’s Library Book

I wrote this post in September 2008 soon after my father died. Since then I have read Middlemarch and it is one of my favorite books. Happy Father’s Day Dad. 

My father, always a constant reader, was reading Middlemarch by George Eliot, in the weeks before he died. He took it with him to his recent chemo therapy sessions and even to the emergency room on August 25th.

A huge book collector, my father always had a good selection of books out from the public library in Brooklyn or Glen Falls (depending on where he was spending his time). Middlemarch was a library book, which he took out from the Cadman Plaza branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

On Thursday I saw Middlemarch on the wine rack near the front door in his apartment and immediately knew that I wanted to take it back to the library. I even thought about reading it before returning it as a sort of homage to my dad.

I thought about that Raymond Carver story about the baker who is livid because a woman doesn’t pick up the birthday cake for her son, who is killed in a car accident. Unknowingly, the baker keeps calling the mother to come get it…

On Friday, I decided to drop the book off at the Park Slope branch of the Brooklyn Library. I told the woman at the desk that I was returning it for my father. She said that there was a $4 fine on the book and another $3 outstanding fine (maybe another book still out?). She didn’t ask me to pay—I guess because I said I was returning it for my dad.

I wanted to tell her that my father died on September 7th. But I didn’t. Initially, I thought I would tell them to stop his library card just the way I stopped his AARP supplemental insurance and other things, too. On the phone, people offer their condolences and then take care of business. But to do it in person, it seemed too hard.

Besides, it felt too final to stop his card; he’s had a library card his entire life and I want that library card to go on forever.

There will always be an open library card for my dad. Why not?

We are encouraging donations in my father’s name, Monte Ghertler, to his favorite library in Glen Falls, NY:

Crandall Public Library,
251 Glen Street, Glens Falls
New York 12801

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