Today I finally made the momentous decision to get rid of my collection of college textbooks and post college engineering and technical books, which I had carefully maintained for about the past 50 years. This came about after I had recently been involved in helping our good friend, a CVV member, sort and box up her late husband’s similar collection of beloved college engineering textbooks and computer manuals, this following his rather sudden and unexpected demise last winter.
Ever since then I had been saying to myself, ‘I’m 80 plus years old. I have stage 4 prostate cancer. I am an above knee amputee with macular degeneration. I can’t walk very well, can’t see and can’t drive anymore. My younger brother already died and he was healthier than me. Obviously I need to think about getting rid of stuff I’m never going to use again. That’s what a rational person would do.’ Of course it is very hard to be fully rational when making an irrevocable decision to get rid of things that symbolize and reflect the personal and professional accomplishments of my younger self that is now forever lost and can never return again. It’s the forever part that gets to me and I’m sure many of my readers. But I decided to bite the bullet today and just pack my four 10 ream boxes of books that I had so carefully sorted and cataloged several years prior and load them into the car.
Needless to say that task was quite a challenge for me. I knew I could not even open any of the boxes because I would certainly find many very treasured items that I would be unable to finally part with, so I made the conscious decision to just load entire boxes from my den closet into the car, in toto. First problem was my wife is not very good at backing up the car, especially into a garage, so she immediately ran into and knocked over one of our curbside trash bins before finally getting the car into the garage in a catty cornered manner exactly opposite to where I was pointing at her to do.
Meanwhile I had managed to lift one of the boxes from the closet floor into a task chair with casters so I could roll it along the floor to our hallway garage entry door. From there I managed to wrestle the box onto the garage floor and scooted it up near the car’s rear deck. Applying some Herculean effort, I managed to lift it up into the car from my knees. Meanwhile, my wife heard me cursing and struggling to lift just a simple box full of books and advised me that it would perhaps be best and safest if she simply carried individual books into empty boxes in the car while I rested up and recovered from my near fall from my knees to the ground. All this time, I’m saying as many 4 letter words as I know in the hopes something would make this erstwhile simple task doable for someone as decrepit as me.
Anyway, my wife and I finally got the car packed up and headed over to the Thousand Oaks Brimhall Library. Since it was my project that I had already prearranged with the library staff, and rather than have my wife do everything for me (again!), I hobbled over to the front desk, spoke with a staff member who immediately summoned a library aide with a book cart. We went out to the car together. The young lady, of very slight build, loaded the four boxes onto the cart in almost no time and off she went. No swearing, no falling, no struggling whatsoever. Meanwhile I’m thinking to myself, ‘I used to be like that! What the hell happened!’
As I reflect a little more, I realize that a good part of the problem may be my UCLA physician who is treating me for prostate cancer with meds that impair my strength and endurance at the expense of putting the cancer in a quiet, inactive state. Because I respect him so much, I feel compelled to do what he says. He is a brilliant, dedicated young man barely in his thirties. I know just how disappointed he would be if I should die of prostate cancer, so I’m doing my best to make sure I die of something besides prostate cancer. Meanwhile my wife doesnt want me to die of anything at all, leaving me stuck in this checkout line, credit card in hand, awkwardly waiting and wondering what will transpire next in this great continuum of life, death and all that lies beyond.