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