COLUMN: The Bookends of Life

FILE PHOTO: books. Photo by Syd Wachs on Unsplash

Imagine, if you will, a shelf lined with a collection of books. On each end is a sturdy, somewhat heavy object we call a bookend. Its purpose is to hold the books in a vertical stance so we can read the titles on their spines. These bookends also keep the volumes in their place and from falling down or off the shelf entirely.

My book collection is stacked in some disarray in an actual bookcase, not a shelf; so bookends are not necessary. But let’s stick to the image of a shelf in your home that holds the books of your authorship. Each book represents a year of your life. Some volumes are thin and uneventful with no major milestones recorded. Others might contain the news of a marriage, first born child, job promotions or, sadly, a death. Regardless of how many years or volumes your shelf contains, may I share with you that my bookends are: childhood on one end and the golden years, far or near, on the other.

In my travels for both work and play, one thing I have learned about myself is that I get the most enjoyment out of life when I am in the company of those two bookends I described above. This realization crashed into my brain and then soul on Halloween evening. I sat in a chair, next to my mother-in-law at her assisted living facility here in Preston. We cradled a bowl of candy on her lap, waiting for the swarm of trick or treaters to meander down the hall to greet us. Thanks to Alzheimer’s Disease, most of the time her mental curtains are drawn shut as she rests calmly and comfortably with her blanket and cuddle cat stuffed animal under her arm. There are, however, two things that consistently bring the sun out from behind the clouds: music and children.

As each cluster of the costume-laden lads reached her room, she would immediately light up in eyes and hands. Reaching out to hold their hands or touch their hair. Some of the braver ones drew closer to her for soft hugs before taking their Reese’s Cup or Blow Pop from the bowl on her lap. One set of darling sisters, dressed as twin princesses, even came back later for not more candy, but another hug to say goodbye. Once the visitor pace slowed, I moved her back to her reclining chair and got her settled with her usual comforts. We watched an inning or two of game three of the World Series together as she drifted off to sleep.

As I reflected, the next morning, of how much I enjoyed that time with her and the trick or treaters, I wondered if she could also reflect and relive it in her mind as an afterglow. I sure hope she can. I am very fortunate that my occupation often puts me in the company of the demographics I speak of in this story. I am almost daily in this assisted living facility for one reason or another and always leave in a better mood than when I arrived. The occasional pediatric patient or interaction with co-workers or friends’ children and grandchildren have the same effect on me. Those second paychecks of life make me a wealthy man.


I hope your book shelf has many volumes containing noteworthy events worth writing and reading about. I hope my books are not found by my posterity to have covers too far apart. You can choose what your bookends might be. Don’t worry about blank pages; it’s never too late to fill them. And let’s not forget to dogear some of those pages to mark the sentinel events for easy reference to reflection when we need motivation or encouragement to carry on the good fight. To my bookends (the young and the old) who keep my “books on the shelf,” I say… Thank you… JOB WELL DONE!!

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