Thursday, January 10, 2008

the library card

For a lot of reasons, this has been a very off balance week around here. Solid ground shifts, tectonic plates stabilize...and life goes on. It's so easy to get so caught up in your own drama that you can become oblivious to the world around you. Until...


I was standing at the counter of the mega-library in the next city over, filling out an application for a library card. Liberal Collegeville is a great place, but our library leaves a lot to be desired. The Big City-ville library is amazing - huge, well-stocked and gorgeous. For years I'd not listened to people who told me this was the library I needed to use. The tide was about to turn.


As the counter clerk was putting my info into the computer, a grey haired man stepped up to the clerk at the next window. She looked up at him, smiled in a personable way, and asked how she could help him.


The man paused, opened his mouth and quickly closed it again. The clerk's smile didn't falter. She allowed him to take his time. He tried again. As if on the edge of a precipice he teetered, took a deep breath...and jumped.


"I was wondering what you do with library cards that won't be used anymore," he said.


She looked at him quizzically, but didn't have time to answer.


"My wife just died," he said in a rush. "And I want to know if you need her library card back."


The clerk was at a loss. She asked the woman who was helping me, and was told that they wouldn't need to get the card back from him.


"So I can keep it?" he asked carefully.


They told him he could and he picked it up gingerly off the counter. He turned the card over in his hands and placed it in his breast pocket. For the briefest moment his fingers lingered on his chest. He smiled, thanked them and was gone.


I was still watching him walk away when the clerk handed me my new card to sign. As he closed the door behind him, I scrawled my name.

Life goes on.

************************************************************************************
Aargh!! I just realized it's Thursday. Aargh!! No Thursday Three. Aargh!!
I may have to improvise something tomorrow. Aargh!!

29 comments:

Altaglow said...

Rc, this is a beautiful piece of writing. It breaks my heart as I'm sure it has hit yours.

my two cents said...

Just think how important her library card must have been to his wife for him to want to keep it.

ped crossing said...

That brought tears to my eyes. You can tell he loved his wife dearly.

Also a good reminder that you never know what burdens others are carrying.

Jo Beaufoix said...

That was just so poignant and beautifully written. I imagine it left you all a little somber. Like my two cents says, it must have been very important to his wife.

MarmiteToasty said...

Ok, now I have this huge lump in me throat after reading that....

life aye, its what we sign up for..

x

Flowerpot said...

poor fellow. Gulp.

Aoj & The Lurchers said...

Oh bless him.......

I had to stop using my library. I couldn't bear to give the books back!

laurie said...

oh my. that is poignant and touching.

that sad bereft man.

that's a hell of a lot better than a thursday three, my dear.

Lisa said...

Oh my.

Diana said...

Comments pale after a post like that.

Thank you for that.

Kaycie said...

How touching.

I'm with Laurie, this is much better than the Thursday Three.

Teresa said...

How touching, as ped crossing said, "that brought tears to my eyes"

Akelamalu said...

Aw that's so sad! :(

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Heartbreaking stuff. It is always the simple things in life that mean so much.

Lovely post, RC.

Crystal xx

aims said...

I've always thought that the medical profession get hardened against death since they see so much of it.

So glad to see that isn't true for you.

Corey~living and loving said...

oh my...there should have been a warning on that one. I am all teary now!
Great post!

Lil Mouse said...

dear god that is so sad...

FireMom said...

Beautiful and sad, all at the same time.

Kimberly said...

Beautiful and bittersweet.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

altaglow - it really did get to me.

my two cents - that's what I was thinking, too.

ped crossing - absolutely right. You really never know what people are going through.

jo - it did put a pall on the day.

marmitetoasty - it is what we sign up for - knowingly or not.

flowerpot - he just looked...lost.

aoj - I take mine back eventually, but there's usually some fine attached!

laurie - what? you don't like T3??

lisa - my words exactly.

diana - that was how I felt at the time. Not really a lot to say.

kaycie - fine...you don't like T3 EITHER??

teresa - yeah, it fogged me up a bit, too.

akela - very, very sad.

crystal - thank you. It made me want to come home and hug my husband.

aims - the day death stops bothering me will be the day I quit.

corey - I'll remember that next time!

lil mouse - I'm still thinking about him.

Mya said...

Late again...

Beautiful post. Too, too sad.

Mya x

Omega Mum said...

What a beautifully observed piece of writing. And how touching. Though I can't imagine taking the trouble to try and return a library card myself....I have my late mother's old free bus pass, having said that....

Iota said...

Oh.

He must have been plucking up courage to ask that question for ages.

Eileen said...

This was so beautiful. Really puts things in perspective. Your writing is amazing, the story was so bittersweet, it really brought tears to my eyes. Pure Love. Period.
XOXOX

Sweet Irene said...

What a sweet gentleman for asking such a question and in a way it is very understandable, because now his wife will be in the library's computer records forever.

Maybe he was trying to unburden himself of all the lose ends. Maybe it is hard to carry your wife's library card with you when she is gone.

Good post!

Stacie said...

I have started to write a comment on this post a few times already. I never seem to come up with the right things to say and end up deleting the whole thing. I guess I want you to know how touching this post was to me. You have told me that perspective is everything, and if this doesn't change a person's perspective, nothing ever will. Thank you.

Laura McIntyre said...

It bought tears to my eyes to, how sad but heartwarming at the same time

kitten said...

Bless his heart!

Groovy Mom said...

Aw, what a sad sweet story. It made me cry a little too.