Reading

When our daughter was an infant cable television came to our town. We were living in rural North Dakota at the time and I didn’t think much about it. My home town, where I grew up, had developed a local cable television system when I was a child. We lived far from commercial broadcasters and the only way to get television signals was to have a huge tower on the hill that received television from 80 miles away and then transmitted it over a cable system to the town. Since we had a tower on the hill and the cable system, the owners of the system also put a television camera on a weather station installed on the tower. We had our own weather channel that displayed time, temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction. Whenever we turned to that channel and the windspeed was displaying zero, we knew that the wind had been so strong that it blew the anemometer off of the tower again.

At any rate it happened that at the time that cable television came to our town in North Dakota our church was in the process of installing new siding on the parsonage. With all of the siding removed from the building, it was an easy task to wire the house for cable TV. We weren’t big watchers of television, but it was figured that the next pastor might be, so cables were run to the kitchen, living room and master bedroom. When we had moved into the parsonage it became known throughout the church that we didn’t own a television set and members of the congregation kept offering us their old sets when they got new ones. We accepted one such offer, but didn’t watch television too much.

However, on occasion I would watch a bit of television when I was up in the middle of the night changing, feeding and settling our daughter back to sleep. She wasn’t one for sleeping all through the night and she suffered from earaches from time to time, so there were plenty of nights when getting her settled was a challenge. I struggled to remain awake as I held her and gave her a bottle. One night I turned on the television and found a channel that was playing reruns of the sitcom M*A*S*H. The show had run its last episode just three days after our daughter’s birth. Over the next few months I watched a lot of episodes from past 11 seasons. It was probably the time in my life when I watched the most television, even if you count my current tendency to watch a couple of YouTube videos nearly every day.

What i remember about that time in my life is that I was too tired to read as much as I wanted. Getting up in the night with the baby, trying to juggle my job as a pastor, caring for the baby and her 2 1/2 year old brother, scrambling at a variety of part time jobs to supplement the modest income of a pastor in a small church in a small town, I was constantly a bit short on sleep. I know that memories change as we go through life, but I remember it as a season of not reading as much as was my custom.

It wasn’t the first time, I struggled with a balance of sleeping and reading. When I started college, I went off with the habit of reading myself to sleep every night. I read novels and short stories and whatever I could find. It didn’t bother me that I would wake up with my head in a book and my glasses slightly out of kilter. Then I went to college and my reading load went up a great deal and I needed to retain the information from the books I was reading. I had to shed the habit of falling asleep when I read. I stopped reading in bed. I made up different ways to keeping myself focused when I read that included pinching myself on the inside of my elbows. I made it work.

Throughout my life, my ideal of vacation or having time to myself included reading whatever I wanted. I have always maintained lists of things I want to read when I have time. I love bookstores and libraries. I have gotten pretty good at finding things to read with my tablet computer. I generally have a book “on hold” in the library’s ebook department. So I imagined that retirement would mean that I would be able to read wherever I wanted, or at least that I could read a lot more.

Now, decades after all of those experiences, I have come to that moment and I have discovered that I am not reading nearly as much as I thought I would. Just a couple of weeks ago, I had to renew a book at the library, something that isn’t common with me. I can read nearly any book in a two-week timeframe. I still read every day, and I’ve got a couple of magazines that I read cover to cover every issue. I have a couple of books on hand that I am reading, but I’m not spending the amount of time reading that I thought I would. I even catch myself watching youtube on the computer when I could have been reading a book. It is different from when our daughter was an infant. I could stay awake to read. I have the time to read and I’m not taking advantage of the opportunity.

I continue to surprise myself. I know that this particular phase of my life is temporary. We’ll get through the process of moving and I’ll have a new home and a new set of activities. I suspect that there will be plenty of things that need to be done and I won’t have all of the time in the world, but I know I will make time for reading. I always have.

The thing about me and reading is the more I read the more I want to read. There are entire libraries filled with opportunities for the years to come. Boredom won’t be a problem.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!