Like most folks, I suppose that I am vain about my age. I just hate to admit that I may be getting older. The chest sinks a little lower and the strands of gray hair are easier to find. The laugh lines are not so laughable any more. All of those things are expected and if I squint just a little bit, they are not all that obvious. It is the mental faculties that worry me. I seem to spend just a little too much time looking for my keys and glasses or wondering where my watch could be hiding. I chalk all of this up to being busy or distracted. All very logical excuses. It was my book collection, or rather the scarcity of my book collection that began to bother me. All my life, I have been surrounded by books. They are on shelves throughout the house. They reside in boxes in the garage. They are lurking behind doorways and waiting quietly in closets. To my wife’s great displeasure they sometimes rest in small stacks around my favorite chair. There are even a few in my van to wile away the time waiting for the endless parade of Claremore trains to pass. I recently completed a U.S. naval history that was read completely and exclusively at railroad crossings.
My concern was that as middle age was passing me by, my reading was dropping off. I had only to look among my books and see that the collection was growing by only two or three a week. I had visions of me being unable to remember how to operate a Velcro closure, find my way home from the grocery store or remember on which side of the bread to put the peanut butter. I already am having trouble remembering why I went to the refrigerator and the difference between my social security number and my driver’s license number even though they are the same.
I know for certain that my mental faculties have peaked because my VCR flashes “twelves” at me and I can’t always remember how many or how often I’m supposed to take my “One a Day” vitamin tablets. I do still recall what day I’m to go to Sunday School and I know who is buried in Grant’s Tomb. Still, I was concerned about the book collection growing so slowly when, at last I remembered. The library! You must return read books to the library!
The college library has performed a very valuable service for folks just like me. The new library cards are printed on bright yellow card stock and are heavily laminated.
That means that they are highly visible and nearly indestructible. A real boon for us forgetful folks. The card is easy to find in my billfold among the trappings of advancing years like AAA and AARP cards. When I forgetfully run the library card through the washer and dryer, it comes out in good shape.
I take my bright plastic card and after winding my way through all the video tapes, viewing stations and audio tapes, find the real books. There are still real, solid, hardbound books printed in black ink on white paper. After completing my class assignments, which are all in video format, I check out a real book or two. There on the shelves waiting to be rediscovered were some old, dear friends.
Last evening I took my youngest daughter there. Way in the back of the library, I introduced her to old friends that I had met at just her age. Robert Heinlein was there to tell Ashley all about the wonders of Science Fiction and worlds to come. She met C.S. Forester, who promised to take her sailing with Captain Hornblower. She had already met Scout and Dill on their way to learn about life and reality from Atticus down at the courthouse.
It was outwardly a quiet evening. It was a glorious time spent in the lively company of my daughter and a host of old friends.
Written by the late James R. May. Originally published in the Oologah Lake Leader, circa 1992.