Grist for My Mill

When I accepted the job of part-time caregiver, I thought both women — the fulltime caregiver who interviewed me and the woman I would be caring for — were total strangers.

As we learned a couple of days ago, all three of us had attended the same function last year — Thanksgiving dinner at the senior center. I didn’t talk to either of these women at the time, though in retrospect, I remember the director of the center pointing them out and telling me who they were.

It seems odd that the two people I see most in my life now, who in some ways are the most significant, were so insignificant to my life back then, that I didn’t even remember the encounter. Admittedly, this is a small town, so such coincidences would not be uncommon, and yet, I do sometimes wonder how often two lives cross before the two people finally connect.

A lot of times when people meet, not just friends, but soon-to-be marriage partners, they trace their lives and find many points of intersection, and yet, they didn’t make the all-important connection during those earlier near-encounters.

Jeff and I didn’t find many such points of intersection, though we spent our lives within a couple miles of each other. We did find that we had been in many of the same places, though not necessarily at the same time.

Not that it matters. Or maybe it does. Maybe it’s not the crossing lines themselves that matter but the time of the actual connection. If we had met before we met, would we have connected? Would we have even liked each other? So many things happened in the years immediately preceding our connection that primed us for that ultimate encounter, a previous meeting might have passed unnoticed.

It’s sort of the same thing with these women. If we had talked at Thanksgiving, would things have been different? Would they not have wanted me to work with them? Would the job be working out as well as it is? One of the things that helps all of us, I think, is the novelty. Those two spend so much time together, that a third person adds a bit of spice (or at least a bit of a change), especially now, when the vulnerable are still mostly isolated. If we’d met before, perhaps we would have lost the novelty factor.

Obviously, despite my new job, I am still spending too much time alone, too much time in my head thinking thoughts that have no value other than to keep my mental mill working.

Luckily, I am meeting some friends for a picnic in a little while, which will give me more — and different — grist for my mill. All social distancing and mask wearing guidelines are supposed to be followed, of course, though how one eats wearing a mask, I don’t know. See? Already something new to think about!


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

2 Responses to “Grist for My Mill”

  1. Estragon Says:

    I’ve read that we’ve evolved to be close to a relatively small group (i.e. a few 10s) of people, and very close to only a handful at any given time. Historically, this group would have be pretty stable, with most of us living in the same small tribal group for most of our lives.

    In modern times (a blip in evolutionary terms), most of us interact with many thousands of others in our lives, but don’t have the capacity to get close to most of them. If this is true, serendipity and context would obviously be really important in which of the many thousands we get close to, and which of the previously close people end up outside the circle. It seems some of us have a lot of turnover, making new friends (and dropping old ones) easily, others less so, depending on circumstances and our own personalities.

    This leads me to wonder how/if covid is interacting with this. Are people ending up out of our circle because of travel restrictions etc, and others ending up in it because of proximity and opportunity? Will the new makeup of our circle blow up post-covid? I suspect not, based on the history of war brides etc, but who knows?

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      That’s a good question about people ending up out of their circle. It will be interesting to see how this thing ends — it feels like a world war, to me. Oh, not the deaths or where the virus came from or anything like that, but world wars serve to shake up the world and bring about a new order. With so many people working from home, will that affect how many people end up in our circles? Will it affect the real estate market and the economy of places with a huge number of offices? People are assuming they will be going back to work, but what if the companies decide there’s no reason for to keep a physical presence anymore?

      I’ve been thinking about the whole racist thing in relation to evolution, and your point of being close to a relatively small group of people. We are comfortable with those folks, since they are our tribe. I’ve been wondering for a while if what we now call racism is nothing but discomfort, interacting with those not of our tribe. I’m not saying our “tribes” are essentially based on race, but if all the people in your tribe are a certain race, there would be discomfort being around anyone not of your tribe.

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