You can’t give ’em away

In her later years, my mother’s eye sight was not particularly good. Laser and cataract surgeries didn’t help a great deal and, as pain kept her up late at night, she turned to audio books to keep her company. She borrowed every audio book she could find from every library she could get to. And when she ran out of those, she started buying them. New, used, from eBay, from Chapters or Amazon. Wherever she could find them. By the time she died, she’d amassed over 700 audio books on CD and cassette and countless dozens (hundreds?) more downloaded from iTunes and Audible. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of them.

She’d desperately wanted her books donated to a library, so that other people like her could enjoy the books. While she was in the hospital, my father contacted the Halifax Regional Library to ask them about donating the books. They were underwhelming in their enthusiasm and essentially told him that he could donate them but they’d probably just put them on their sales table. Even the South Shore library where my mother had borrowed many audio books from was less than enthusiastic about the potential donation. (In hindsight, I suspect that the audio book donations libraries usually get are, well, crap. Jumbled boxes of books nobody will want to read, possibly in poor condition. In hindsight, I get it. At the time, I thought it was a bizarre reaction to a huge gift.)

After my mother died, my father painstakingly went through all of the 700+ audio books, boxing them carefully by author and making a master list of what each box contained. Then he and my uncle drove down to the little library to deliver all 22 printer paper boxes full of books. The difference in the library’s reaction was satisfying. While there were a few that they’ll probably unload (don’t blame them — my mother tried to get rid of some of them herself), the rest are all being entered into the library system with special bookplates containing my mother’s name. A pile of them have already been loaned to a local nursing home. (My father had also given them one of my mother’s MP3 CD players and one of her cassette players. Those went over so well that he’s going to be sending them the others — and my mother stockpiled them like they were never going to be made again, which given the recent twilighting of the Sony Walkman cassette player, might be accurate.)

It’s a happy ending. My mother would be pleased that her gift was ultimately so well received, not because she’d want the accolades, but because she knew how hard it was to find good audio books and she’d wanted her collection to be of use to somebody else like her. I think she can rest easy knowing that her books will be enjoyed for years to come. And I like knowing that, years from now, someone will come across one of those books with its little commemorative bookplate and my mother will come alive again just for a brief moment.

(Today marks exactly three months.

Yes, I’m still counting. I may never stop.)

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