Every day, and many times during the day, at public libraries all over the country, a librarian or a staff person helps an individual who wants something they cannot obtain on their own. My story is about one such staff person, and the dignity of one little old lady, who happens to be my Mom.
My Mom regarded the dementia that snuck up on her in her eighties with her typical impatience for anything that was sub-functional, with ‘functional’ being her subjective definition of above average. Some days were better than others. My day to take Mom out was Saturday. I never knew where in the range of clarity and patience, or lack thereof, I would find her when I arrived to collect her. As hard as she took it if she was low on either scale, I took it harder to see my always together Mom now unsure. But I was determined to see it as just another adventure to make the most of.
Often, our first adventure was to visit our town library in Cape Elizabeth. There, the always cheerful Pat had Saturday morning front desk duty. The problem was Mom couldn’t always remember which maritime murder mystery she had read, and it was really important to her that she got a new one, even if the names of all the other ones were a blur that day.
Pat’s knowledge of the maritime murder mystery sub-genre, which for all I know was no different than her knowledge of bee-keeping or Civil War history books, was something she regarded as a shared secret between them. Her regard for my Mom’s fragile self-esteem in a world of which Mom was no longer in full command at all times, made my Mom’s day a happy one.
And when Mom is happy, we’re all happy!
P.S. Last week I went to pick Mom up, and asked if she had finished the novel she had checked out last week and wanted to go find a new one. “Yes,” she said, “but I think I already read it.” Then turning back she whispered, “Please don’t tell Pat, I don’t want to hurt her feelings if she forgot that I had.” Smiling, I slipped the book in my bag and off we went for a new adventure!
This true story is one example of the many mutually rewarding interpersonal interactions taking place every day with intelligence and empathy at our community library.
Julia Bassett Schwerin, a member of the Thomas Memorial Library Foundation’s Story Team,
authored this true story as told to her by Joel Bassett, a past Treasurer of the Foundation Board