Statute of Limitations on Grief

I moved away from home late in life.  I knew I needed the distance or I would suffocate.  I needed a chance to see who I might be without all of “Them”.  I recall planning it.  I pinpointed three or four places I thought I would apply for jobs and see which came up with the best options.  I interviewed by phone.  I got a job and I moved.  It’s been 16 or 17 years now.

Prior to moving my mother gave me all the genealogy work she had accumulated and boxes of old photos.  Not the immediate family albums, though, those were on a shelf in the living room and she and my father looked at them frequently.  The ones with pictures of me, I did not get even after they passed.  The people who emptied the house either have them or relocated them to dumpsters. While I was not fond of my immediate family a large part of my life was invested in them. They are after all part of the genealogy. We have a connection.

This past weekend I was working on some of the hints at where I put the tree and every couple of years spend time on it.  You hit a wall, you get busy with work, you let it go for a while.  Around the holidays, it always seems to rise up and demand some attention.  So I attend to it.  I added a bunch of scanned images to the profiles at various levels.  Then I started to go through the hints.

There are more divorce and obituary records available now than there were before.  Recent records that while they do not include a lot of specifics and documents, do include dates and some links to memorials on other sites.  This holiday I discovered that some not at all distant relatives had died, a first cousin and his wife.  One in 2010 and one in 2012.  They were only slightly older than I was. I remembered how my cousin used to come to our family picnics. He always made me laugh.  He was a good guy.

It made me sad that I did not know at the time. No one called.  No one emailed.  I did not see it on Facebook. I am not an avid reader of the obituaries back home.  Perhaps I should be.   Would I have made the trip for a funeral?  Probably not.  So what right do I have being sad?  They were related.  I did know them.  I did like them.  I had enjoyed family picnics with them. I had been at their wedding.  I guess it is a sadness slightly removed.  And it was years ago, so why be sad now?  The statue of limitations on some crimes starts only when the crime is remembered by the victim.  I say that it is the same for grief, it is a fresh grief the first time you hear it even if the actual death was years earlier.  Perhaps not as “fresh” as with someone you are with at the time of their death, but still new in the heart regardless of time.

My emotions, my rules.




#grief #sadness #genealogy

Two Libraries and a Book Nook

I remember two libraries from my childhood.  The first was our local library.  It was a small town so it was a small one room library, a branch of the library from a larger city nearby.  That one room, opened the year I turned seven (1968), was roughly 12 by 20 feet contained old wood shelving that soared over my head.  The shelves were shiny with varnish and worn smooth from years of books leaving and returning.  I wondered if the books came back and discussed the families they’d been to visit.

There were just two shelves I was allowed to draw from.  Two shelves for my age.  Two thirty inch long spaces with hardcover books that contained the potential to take me to other places, other countries, other worlds.  When I was older, there were more shelves for me.  I quickly read through all that was available to me.  Then I read them again.  And again.  There was always something more to discover in the words, the language, the imagery.  This must be where my acceptance of reruns on television arose.  Just as I read and reread books, I will watch and watch again movies and shows that catch my attention.  The characters become friends, family, company.  The locations become familiar as if from actual memories of having been there.

I can still feel the dusty road underneath my bare feet from a story I read as a child.  I can still smell the fried chicken and biscuits from fairground festivities in another.  I can hear the winding down of the music from an orchestra as we wandered home in the dark in another.  I read the books available to me so many times that I lived them.  The memories of the characters in those books are my memories.

I lived on My Side of the Mountain by Jean George, struggling through that harsh first winter of learning how to adapt to not only the cold, but the hunger and the loneliness.  I rubbed my fingers raw on the abalone shells on The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.  I laughed and worried when Mrs. Coverlet went away and left the Percival children alone – oh the antics they and their tortoise shell cat got up to.  I solved many mysteries with the Boxcar Children and the Happy Hollisters and some with Nancy Drew, but she just didn’t appeal to me as much as others.  Things came to her too easily.  I didn’t respect that.

I sprouted wings in Black and Blue Magic and learned what my strengths were.  You have to grow into your strengths you know.  Sometimes it requires that you fall down wish a painful crash.  And get back up.  And fly.

When I was about ten, the little one room library doubled in size.  They’d built on an entire room just for the children’s section.  That was like the most amazing gift ever.  Every shelf was mine, all mine.  It was like visiting old friends.  I would even spend a moment or two making sure some of the ones that were too young for me were still there.  Just checking in on them before checking out a stack of new things to read and some repeats.

As I grew up, there was a need for a library with books I could use for homework in addition to recreational reading.  What the heck is that anyway?  Recreational reading- all reading is knowledge and exploration and growth.  It just seems that to call it recreational is to cheapen it.  A larger library in the small city next to our town was our next regular stop.  Other than its size there was one major difference.  The librarians there were frightening.  Children there clearly should be seen and not heard even in the children’s department on the second floor.  I would have to contain any excitement or joy for fear I would be banished.  This was not what I was used to.

On the first floor was the adult section and a reading area where adults sat like statues reading current magazine issues and local newspapers.  The shelving was metal and far too easy to accidentally make noise if books fell over while I was gingerly trying to pull out the one I wanted.  It had a basement where squirrelled away were all the old items, back issues of magazines bound into large heavy books, newspapers on microfilm and other research items that all required special supervision.  Even though secluded, talking was low and at a minimum down there.

Old school library behavior required.  No one wanted to attract the attention of the librarians.  No one wanted to be shushed.  Everyone would look.  To keep a book overdue required an apology and a nickel.  After all you kept that book from someone else who might have wanted to read it also.  Going there was formal, less fun.  But there were so many more books to disappear into.  I was thankful for that.  And the smell was the same – that wonderful smell of cloth bound, well loved, many times read books.

FavoritesIn addition to the two libraries was another very special place – a tiny used bookstore called the Book Nook.  There shelves were unfinished, raw and sometimes splintered wood.  But who cared – it was about the books.  Used books lined every available inch of space, wall to wall, floor to ceiling.  The best part was I could buy them and bring the books home and keep them!  Or exchange them back later.  Once a month they had a day where you could fill a bag with paperbacks for a buck. A paper grocery bag – they were bigger in those days then they are now. Better than Christmas that was.   I still have some of those books.

That first library moved into a shiny new open concept space of its own just after I graduated from College in 1984.  My mother had been part of the “friends” group that staged fund raisers and ice cream socials year after year to make that happen.  I never felt as drawn to the new building as I did that original little single room. It wasn’t as warm and welcoming as that first space, my introduction to reading, was.  The old building became first rented to accountants, then a lawyer, then was torn down.  It was, after all, prime real estate in what had over time become a small bustling city instead of a town.  It was sort of hallowed ground to me.  Like moving a cemetery, it seemed wrong to me to tear it down, destroy a monument to something so beautiful as reading.  It was an ugly little plain cinderblock building with space to park maybe three cars, my monument to reading.

I lived there and still do in every story I have read and have yet to read.  I should frequent my local library now more than I do.


#shoutaboutbooks #readingisfun #readtome #readaloud #memories