i have measured out their lives with coffee spoons and liberry check outs
Do I dare
[from "The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot]
I have measured out their lives in six week parcels.
When I deliver library books to homebound seniors, I see them once every 1.5 months.
Six weeks is enough time to make a new friend, and enough time to lose her.
You get to know people quickly when you select their books. Knowing what someone reads sometimes feels as personal as reading their journals. Perhaps a reader connects more quickly with someone who shares her love of libraries and books - fiction readers maybe more so, since we are prone to romanticism already.
Add to this proclivity, the age of my friends. I've observed that the older one is, the less time she wastes with chit chat and shallow time fillers. Most of my patrons seem to accept new people with interest and warmth. I like to think it is because they are wise and realize life is hard for everyone; why not lessen the burden with kindness? Whether my theories of why are right, I've decided that six weeks can form a bond.
However, six weeks is enough also to break a bond through failing health or a discouraged spirit. In the short span between two visits, I have seen friends regress from reading enthusiastically to extreme illness, to coma, and even to death.
The first time I lost a patron felt like a punch in the gut. He was my most serious reader and healthiest patron. He was married, took care of his wife and lived independently. He was interested in the world and fascinating to visit. Then one day, between visits, he was gone. In a instant.
My immediate thought was, "I'm too soft for this job. I will never survive it."
I have lost other friends since Mr.G, but his passing was still my hardest. There are a few patrons I visit about whom I think, "If it happens...when it happens, I'll be done with this gig." But I know I won't. Telling myself is just my dramatic way of reminding myself how much I care, because in reality, the passing is a bit easier each time. I realize some of them are ready for peace and passing on. They believe in heaven and don't fear. Knowing they were ready helps me be ready too...almost. In addition, the sudden passings are the ones that make me marvel, "I was just talking to her weeks ago. She was discussing and laughing over that book we discovered. She must've been fairly healthy close to the end." It's not everything, but it's something.
Overall, what this six week period has taught me, is that anything can happen in a short parcel of time. And if a life can end in six weeks, what can be born? In a six week span, I learned my life was vastly different than I believed. I passed through rage and into doubt and into peace. I discovered I'm stronger than I believed and softer and than I expected. I learned that anger doesn't always lead to bitterness; it can be righteous, valid and protective. I have to learned to listen to my body and my hunches. Well, I've been told I'm allowed to listen, and I'm trying to learn and practice.
I wonder what my older friends learned in their last six weeks. I wonder what they learned in other six-week-portions.
Some spoonfuls are bigger than others.