Brighton Gardens: The Final Chapter
After saving, literally, everything: receipts, bills, extracted teeth, rubber bands, letters (and their carbon copies), my Girl Scout compass, envelopes and stamps (both cancelled postage and collectible), paper clips, Mont Blanc pens, leather anything, 37 well-chewed pipes, empty cookie tins, and U.S. currency (thankfully!) … for 91 years, my father now has to decide which 200 or so volumes from his personal library to take to Brighton Gardens.
For this trilingual history professor, the selections are somewhat predictable.
Tap tap tap zing tap tap tap zing tap tap tap zing zzzzzzzip. Turns out that tune emanating from the Smith-Corona was not all about completing a lengthy thesis on the French Revolution. Erotica (many, many volumes of it), penned but never shared or published, nestle snugly between seven decades of diaries and Life magazines.
Recent maladies have made independent living impossible. The past 53 years he has resided in the home in which I grew up. For a man whose idea of leisure wear is a tweed Burberry jacket, striped button down shirt, sleeveless wool vest, and bow tie (in all four seasons), his graceful transition to nylon running suits, tube socks and polo shirts is nothing short of remarkable.
He mentally reviews every room, meticulously stuffed from floor-to-ceiling with cardboard fortresses protecting his treasure troves. He zeroes in on the essentials.
“There’s a pistol upstairs in the second drawer of my bureau on the right side next to the blue socks. You have to take it to the police immediately because you can’t transport it across state lines.” A pistol? My father with a firearm?
Well, the bullets I learned are kept in his study downstairs behind three rows deep of dusty books and a metal cabinet filled with Faroe Island stamps. The excavation has not progressed that far. Meanwhile, more surprising, the condoms found next to the pistol, expiration date 2004. And, because redundancy is his middle name, a second pistol discovered in another bedroom, also minus ammunition.
“Don’t forget to look into the book to the left of Ploetz. There’s cash inside.” And placing money inside Ploetz is too obvious for the robbers?
“You have to call The Economist and tell them I moved.”
Three months in the hospital have taken their toll. But when it’s 10:16 and the physical therapist said he was coming at 10:15, it’s time to be concerned that "the whole morning will be shot."
Besides the books, what tops this nonagenarian's must-have list is operatic music (starting with early Verdi), his favorite painting by my mother of a Puma (mine too), family photos, and Mont Blanc pens.
Ok, now here's what tops the book list:
Kurt Beermann PhD Dissertation: “Reception of the French Revolution in the New York State Press 1788-1791”
Big fat French, German and English dictionaries
Histoire Universelle, Encyclopédie de la Pléiade (three volumes)
Leather-bound literature starting with Shakespeare
Merck Manual Medical Dictionary
Holy Bible in English, 1895 prayer books in Hebrew belonging to his father
Mystery stories including Sherlock Holmes and Dorothy L. Sayers
Two-volume Dictionary of Biographies (in French)
And, of course, Ploetz.