I started collecting books when I was a kid. I still have my original Nancy Drews, Harriet the Spys and a collection of nursery rhymes I used to read under the cover with a flashlight.

I spent hours in the New York Public Library and bookstores on rainy Saturdays. I prowled places like The Strand and other used bookstores finding gems among the dust and dust covers. My book collection grew over the years. My son Nick once counted my books and stopped at 1000 and that was about 15 years ago. My collection was the bane of every man I’ve ever lived with (okay, I’ve only lived with 3 but so many others helped move me :)).

But my books are probably my first love. The first thing I ever loved and something that gives me such pleasure in being around.

As a kid in my crazy world, books were the one thing that gave me a source of comfort and security. I forgot about all the craziness and hurt and anger when I was in a bookstore or surrounded by my books. I lost myself in them and among them. And I never stopped loving them.

When we moved into this house I immediately turned the dining room into a library. Michael, who owns maybe one book on Harleys and one on fishing, and has no use for books not only packed all my books in Texas but painted over the gaudy floral wallpaper here (the idiots who lived here before glued the wallpaper right to the dry wall so there was no removing it.)

The painting took about 16 coats and I’m pretty sure that is not an exaggeration. The paper was so wet that it did start coming off in places. So Michael had to remove it, spackle it and paint more. This went on for weeks. Finally when we thought the flowers would stop showing through and the paper would stop peeling off, it was time for me to unpack my books and put them up.

The only problem was that after I put up the bookcases, I was short about 3 bookcases and I certainly had a problem with the height. As I’ve collected books, I’ve also collected bookcases and I put all my kids’ pictures in frames on the shelves. I like certain heights and woods. I looked all over for them. I ordered some and then the order was canceled. I was frustrated and found some in stores. They were “somewhat” around where Michael worked.

So I call Michael who is at work and I say Well I located 3 bookcases, but 1 is at this store, 1 is at this store over here and 1 is at this other store way over here.

Pause.

“Okay” (sigh) “Give me the addresses.” So I give them and he drives “all over hell” (his expression) and comes home and sets them up. Ta-dah. The library looks GORGEOUS. The rest of the house could fall down for all I care, but that library…so nice.

Even Michael thought it looked fabulous. When I had wood blinds custom made for the family room he said, “I think you should have them put in the library as well. It would make it look rich.” This from a man who needs only a ceiling, a floor and 3 or 4 walls just to keep the rain off the TV. So, wow.

So that’s my love of books.

Since I was a kid I thought, naturally, of writing a book. What bibliophile doesn’t? But people said I could write…and not everyone can. I started thinking about it since I was TEN. TEN!

Over the years there was always a hopeful feeling that I would one day write a book. People always asked me, “When are you going to write a book?” There were so many times over the years I tried to write and would wind up frustrated and just drop it.

I said there were two things I was going to do by the time I was 40. Write a book and quit smoking. When I had done neither by 40, I was upset but I quit smoking when I was 41 and was happily done with that horrible habit. But still no book…

I thought that one day it “might” come together, the inspiration, the writing, the agent, the publisher. Yeah, just like that. Sometimes thinking about it exhausted me. How could I ever DO it?? Too many things to happen to get a book out there.

So of course, I now have a book out there. Not a small accomplishment to me.

But since it came out last week I haven’t really looked for it. Weird I thought. All my life, with my love of books and bookstores, you would think that I would run out there to see it on the shelf.

And yet day after day I did not.

So yesterday I decided it was time to go see my book in a store.

The first one was out of it. I asked if they had had it and they said yes but it was sold out. (Again, don’t know if they sold one copy or ten).

Go to the second one and I see it. Not only is it there but it’s facing out.

I stare at it but there is really no feeling. I pick it up and try to feel what’s it’s like. Me. In a bookstore. The great loves of my life….books, bookstores…here I am!

Nothing.

I stand there for a few minutes and then feel this sadness well up in me.

I run out to my car (or hobble-run with my sprained foot.) I put my head on the steering wheel and just wait for the tears to come and they do and they flow and flow and flow.

I cry with heavy heaving sounds. I’ve gotten so used to driving and crying but I can’t move the car. Or me. I’m frozen, weeping onto my steering wheel.

There is only one person in the entire world I wanted to share that magnificent moment with. The other great love of my life.

And he wasn’t there.

I sat there filled with the loss of Michael but also filled with the loss of my moment. My lifelong dream. Realized. That moment.

I tell people all the time that every loss has a secondary loss….things you lose and lose and lose due to primary loss…

I was a solo independent person when I met Michael. I remained one in our relationship….but we shared those special times…not just that but the kind of mindless tooling around…

I could have said to him, let’s go out and find my book in every bookstore we can! And he would have gladly gone…would have gone in with me to some, would have double parked in the city and let me run in, would have gone in by himself a time or two…it would have been fun.

I’ve been alone all my life. Most of my joys and sorrows have been alone… Even in other relationships I was alone. Times I had to go and be by myself because the bf or husband or whoever he was “couldn’t deal” or I couldn’t trust him to behave or he’d be a jerk.

Michael liked to beg off some family things to go fishing (and sometimes he just wanted to see how much rope he could get … ;)) but he was there when I told him to be and he was there during the important parts of my life.

I think Michael has been what my parents should have been, what my siblings (birth) didn’t get to be and what my siblings (adoptive) didn’t care to be…..he’s been my cheerleader during wonderful times and my rock in tough times…

When I was in undergrad we were going to spend our anniversary in NYC but I had a paper to write. I figured we’d go to the Main Branch of the NYPL (one of my favorite places in the world). Libraries give him the hives (the books! the books!). At the Main Branch of the NYPL you look up the book you want and then you go to the librarian and give the numbers and they call them up from the stacks via big dumbwaiters. I always thought it was neat…

I was working hard and would send Michael over to the librarians with the numbers and he would wait for the books and bring them back. I always said, “Did you see them come up from the stacks? Isn’t that cool?” And he who had NEVER been in a library in his life would say, “Oh yeah, nothing better.” (Sigh, eye roll). 🙂

For years he talked about getting those books for me…as if I had tortured him for hours. So funny. But he was right there. And I’ve never shared the Reading Room of the Main Branch of the NYPL with anyone like that (I’ve brought all my kids through but never worked there with someone). And he knew, through his persnicketyness, that it was a big deal to me. And he loved it.

There was always a part of me that thought that even when I drove Michael crazy with things such as books and book cases and libraries he secretly thought I was cute in my psychotic way. I always could sense that from him. With every other guy in my life I always felt that I hit “not so cute” wall by pushing (or dragging…as in dragging him here and there). Michael never hit that wall.

With Michael I always felt like he just thought I was cute as a button even when I was driving him crazy.

And I know that if I had dragged him from one bookstore to another for days on end to see MY book, he would have not only been so proud of me and patient to the nth degree, but he would have thought I was adorable. And then jokingly told everyone how I tortured him by dragging him from one bookstore to another.

I think I am missing the memories we made together and how they’re gone. I’m in DC where we had so many GREAT memories together and I had a funny story to tell him that would have tied into the times we were here in the past…and he’s not there.

And I realize that the memories we’ve made are all in the past…and I love our memories so much…and I ache that there will no new ones…

I feel like I am just sounding like a broken record these days but I think that

the

empty

space

beside

me

feels

SO

big.

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