My father died last month, at age 93. I've been going through his papers, and one of the treasures I discovered is a smallish sampling of the huge collection of 3 x 5 word cards he kept his entire life. When I was a little girl, I remember him carrying them around, testing himself--and my sisters and me--on vocabulary. Ironically, though his vocabulary was huge, his spelling was atrocious. He once asked me how to spell "bus," and he wasn't joking. The file cards are crammed with words he bumped into while reading or talking, along with their definition and usage, or quotes that tickled him. He had a deep appreciation for good writing, and committed a daunting number of his favorite speeches, plays, and poems to memory: to name just a few, Shakespeare, Milton, Tennyson, Poe, Lincoln, and Churchill. For humor, he liked Yogi Berra, but nothing beat a good Mark Twain quip.
Reading the cards brings him back in a visceral and very welcome way. I don't have any 3 x 5 cards, but it is obvious to me that my path in life is, in no small measure, a gift from my dad.