Archive for May 18th, 2011

18th May
written by amber

All of My Books

All of my books are in boxes, sitting neatly and packed ready to go at one end of the living room.  I’m sitting neatly at the other end of the living room, also packed and ready to go.

I don’t mind going.  The Poplars seems like a nice place and I am aware, most of the time, that I need assistance, that I can’t safely live alone any longer.  What I mind is giving up my books.

They say short term memory is the most affected, and I do forget where I put things, what I walked from one room to another to get, what I just said and worse, that I turned the stove on, sometimes hours earlier.  These are annoyances and – yes – dangers, but they are peripheral to who I am.  I can accept that I am forgetful, I can blame age or the disease.  But I’m terrified of losing my identity, losing who I am.

Increasingly, I look to my books to remind me of who I am.  That big green leather-bound sociology textbook takes me back, not just to the university courses but to the close-knit group in our residence, the parties, the dances, the sit-in when Administration tried to raise tuition. Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl was my bible for my early 20’s, working and dating and trying to figure out what I wanted from life.  Right next to it on the shelf was Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, evidence of how life showed me, for the first of many times, that I didn’t have as much choice as I thought I did. Good training for what I’m going through now.

The books about gardening, collecting antique china, embroidery, calligraphy – all show my attempts to find fulfillment.   Those things are me, I enjoyed them.  I might not do them any longer, but I look back with pleasure on those hobbies.

I had a shelf full of cookbooks – The Sugar-Free Cookbook, The Diabetic Gourmet Cookbook, Reversing Diabetes Cookbook, and many more.  Seeing them always brings me pain, but I never gave them away and I’m not ready to let go of them yet, although I must.  I should have kept just the one cookbook – Cooking for One.  Won’t need that from now on either. My daughter promises that the food at The Poplars is delicious.  Well, we’ll see.

Over the past 25 years, I amassed a collection of books about helping others – books about grief counseling, about volunteering in palliative care, about stress debriefing and mentorship.  This wasn’t my vocation but my avocation, a meaningful pursuit that finally fulfilled me.  I continued to help others until I was in too much need of help myself.   All I have to do is look at the covers and titles of these books and I am reminded of the words within, of the ways they provided me with what I needed to assist specific people, then I can recall the people vividly.

My travels are in those boxes – my real travels evidenced by such books as South America on a Shoestring and my fictional but no less satisfying travels evidenced by many wonderful novels.  I’ll miss those novels even though these days the plot of a young adult novel is too complicated for me to follow.  Soon I’ll be reduced to Robert Munsch.  Perhaps I’ll come to form a fantastic conviction that in my childhood I was a paperbag princess stuffed into a snowsuit by a mother who loved her forever.

Without my books, any past is possible.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story posted every day on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012.  Stories must be a minimum of 200 words.  Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section.

The first line of this story was suggested by Joan Melvin.  Thanks Joan!