Parental Reading Guidance… Army Sergeant Style

My dad can read but doesn’t much… unless you count horse magazines. Something about equine breaking and shoeing gets his literature on. My mom is a huge fan of “sex and sufferin” books… this is how she categorizes her reading pursuits. I understand the “sex” part, but the “sufferin” is what throws me for a loop. Personally, I am a huge fan of sex, but the suffering part is a downer. Not because I am squeamish, but because I don’t give a shit about book characters having to suffer. Just get back to the “throbbing manhoods” and “heaving” bosoms. I am also surprised she doesn’t use the words “velvety” and “ravishing” more often in her everyday speech. I believe those two words are prominently used in her “S&S” books. Glad she isn’t into “S&M” books… who knows what she would talk about when chowing down on Crisco fried food at the dinner table.

Obviously, reading was a big part of my childhood… but I have never read an S&S book. I don’t remember Mother Goose and some old lady with a foot fetish with a worn-out uterus. I do remember we had this Native American folklore book (back then it was entitled “American Indian”). Today you would be confused between the building of the Taj Mahal and spirits of Tatonkas by the title of this book.

My sister and I are now voracious readers. If you were her Facebook friend you would get a constant stream of Kindle book recommendations and recipes. She is really into the literature of chocolate corn muffins. I’m into nonfiction and worthless humor. I am really into the literature of the nerd.

Our reading habits are based on having parents who A) encouraged reading and B) didn’t really know what the fuck we were reading. Once we got old enough to buy, or check out, our own books we pretty much explored the world on our own. We never had a book removed or banned through the infamous hand snatch that so many parents are known for. I am not even sure they were aware of our forays in literature… I just know that I was never told what I couldn’t read. This may be the only liberal aspect to my otherwise Southern Republican parents’ life.

The Third World War by Sir John Hackett, published in 1982, was the book that gave me insight into the importance of parenting. I read this adult book when I was 12. It was technically proficient imagining of a war in Europe between NATO and the Warsaw Pact that would happen in August 1985. Eight years later I would excel as an Army private because I was ready (after reading this book) to be part of the coming inferno in Europe… the Soviet Union collapsed months after I enlisted. I enlisted as a 19D, Armored Cavalry Scout… which meant that in case of war with the Warsaw Pact I would have been a real shitty T-72 speed bump in the Fulda Gap. This book built a foundation in my mind and ensured that I could accurately identify the Soviet mechanized formations… at least the Forward Security Element of the Advanced Guard. We Cav Scouts weren’t expected to live past initial contact with these units. In Afghanistan, these formations proved less than succesful for the Soviets. This book prepared me for my future career in the Army.

Getting this book was not that easy though. I saw the book in the Bad Nauheim, Germany, Post-Exchange bookstore. I was either in the 6th or 7th grade, I don’t really remember. But I do remember being fascinated by the “novel’s” cover, it featured a Soviet T-72 shooting out of some flames… this is the same type of tank I mentioned earlier that was designed to roll over the top of dumbass 19-year-old American privates like me. The store clerk wouldn’t let me buy it. She specifically said “that book is for adults, you can’t have it.” I was crushed, as a 12-year-old who had been raised on war toys, being refused a book on war was unthinkable. We won’t discuss the parenting decision of allowing me to play with war toys or how I grew up fantasizing about the military… which were dispelled once I actually served in the military. I walked home broken-hearted.

My dad, an Army NCO at the time, saw my crest fallen face and asked me what was wrong. Today I would have said “the fucking bitch at the book store wouldn’t let me buy a book I wanted. Since when is censorship ok?”… but since I was 12, I said something like “the mean store clerk wouldn’t let me buy a book I wanted and I don’t know why… something about me not being old enough.” This pissed my dad off… pissed him off in a way that I didn’t expect. I thought he would be mad at me for acting sad and mopey, instead he was pissed at the bookstore bitch. He curtly told me to follow him.

We marched (did I mention my dad was an Army sergeant) back to the store. Upon entering we marched (did I mention my dad was good at marching) up to the counter and confronted the bitch. He placed his hand on my shoulder and said “Do you see this boy? Any time he is here and wants to buy anything… he can. I don’t care if it is a Playboy magazine or some ‘adult’ book. He can buy anything he wants. I determine what he can read, not you.” With that he did an about-face and marched out with me standing there. I then bought the fucking book.

My dad didn’t say a word when I returned with it (I think he was polishing his Army boots… Army sergeants do that). I didn’t thank him because I did not realize how important this event was. Years later, upon recalling this event I thanked him. He didn’t remember it but admitted it was something he would have done and would do again.

My dad can read but doesn’t do it much. But he served in the Army so you can read all the S&S books you want. I have bitched about my parents a lot as I was growing up. Now as a man, I realize that they did the best they could. Parenting be hard. This is one of the greatest memories I have of my dad. By the way, horse breaking and shoeing magazines bore the shit out of me, but when I see one I think of my dad, smile, and think how that bookstore bitch didn’t know what hit her.


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