He slammed the door of his truck and stalked toward the house. From my view on the back porch, I could see that he was upset. He stomped up the steps as an oath escaped his lips. He looked at me in frustration, sharing phrases not usually repeated in my presence, or at church. This man known for his ability to remain unflappable in just about any circumstance, was frustrated and upset. I couldn’t figure out what was happening. “Worcester traffic?” I offered. As he walked closer and threw himself down in the chair, he groaned, “Shiva died.”
I laughed out loud! I completely understood. My poor husband was suffering at the hands of a novel. He shook his head, trying to clear it. It was my fault, I had recommended this one. “Isn’t it a good book?” I ventured. He said he almost had to pull over twice on the way home. He couldn’t’ see the road. He began to talk about the characters, as though they were old friends. He described the scenes that had upended him. The ways these fictional characters had overwhelmed his drive home. He shook his head, he agreed it was an amazing book. He is now a reader.
Watching this practical and oh so unemotional man gets swept up by the power of words melts my heart. Last week, we were talking about the book he was listening to on his way to and from work. He said, sometimes, when one book ends he can’t start another. He has to wait for a while and think about things. When I offered up the term, book lovers use to describe this phenomenon he laughed. A book hangover. Yes, that sounds right.
Keith has never been a reader. He was too busy riding the wheels off his big wheel. He and his brother John spent their childhood outside riding bikes and jumping them into the forsythia bushes next to the house. These were boys who climbed trees with casts on (John) and jumped off the second story house into the snow banks (Keith). They did not spend their days reading.
When we got married, I introduced him to books by reading them out loud. He drove through the New England countryside as I read to him from the passenger seat. Sometimes, he would lay on my lap on the sofa, after the kids were in bed, until my voice grew hoarse. As the kids grew older, this was one of the things we sort of lost track of. Life got faster, I read to the kids and he might listen in as I introduced Harry Potter or Bilbo Baggins to my littles, but he worked and I took care of things and these things sort of fell away.
Over the past year, books have taken up a new place in Keith’s life. He has listened in the truck and on the back porch. Occasionally, he’s been found lying on the sofa with his phone on his belly listening to just one more chapter after his ride home. He has read any book I’ve offered up, added an entire genre of his own choosing to the mix, and happily listened for hours.
Watching Keith enjoy books has brought me such joy. Sharing books, talking about them, and learning from them has brought us together in a new way. It’s like sharing a secret language. For me, the world of books has always been filled with great joy and wonder. To suddenly be able to share this with him has made it all the more special. We know these characters, talk about their challenges, and learn from their experiences. Characters have taken up residence in our home as though they were old friends.
If you had asked me ten years, or even five years ago, if Keith would be joining me in the world of fiction, I would have laughed. He finds joy in the world of building, working, and getting things done. He is the most practical down to earth man I know. And yet, here he is. It is amazing how if we allow it, we can change and open to new things. He continues to grow, to change, to become. It is a beautiful thing. I’m so grateful to be able to continue to witness his growth after all these years.