I was hooked on the novels of John Irving at a time in my life when I moved around a lot and had no close friends. I recall driving route 70 from St. Louis where I had spent a comfortable five years, to a new home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where I knew not one soul other than my spouse, who would become my ex a few years down the road. I had left behind my children, then in college, several friends, and the best job I ever had. Cutting ties again, a five year pattern. In the passenger seat of our Ram Van I turned the pages of Irving’s Cider House Rules.
I fell in love with the sweet characters blown about by the winds of time, like all of us. Homer Wells, an orphan, is the main character mentored by the good Dr. Larch who runs an orphanage/abortion clinic. As Homer grows from a child to an adult encountering coming of age challenges he keeps the phrase “of use” in the forefront of his mind. He has been well taught. In all circumstances, be of use.
And that was the challenge I had before me as I settled into a new situation. It took me awhile, but I found a way to be of use there, and everywhere I have been since then. As I age I find this a continuing problem. I don’t ever want to stop being “of use.” And this phrase takes on different meaning all the time. Now it means staying active, physically and mentally, trying hard to remain positive when there is so much to worry about, keeping strong for my children who are grown and parents themselves. For if I am not “of use” I am a burden. So being of use may be selfish too.
The question is in what way was I of use today? Nothing grand. I paid a bill and had lunch with a friend. I made spaghetti sauce and walked my dog twice. I bathed her too. Did laundry, cleaned the toilets, washed my hair…of use???