Most of our fears change as we age, but one of mine has stayed the same.
My abibliophobia, the fear of running out of books, is as real now as it was when I was a kid.
That’s when my mother told me I could read anything from the second or third bookshelf, but nothing from the top one.
She knew what she was doing because naturally, those are the ones I sneaked to read under the covers with a flashlight when I was supposed to be asleep. And those are the ones she wanted me to read, to teach me to appreciate books and the words that went into them.
“The Cry and the Covenant,” “A Stone for Danny Fisher” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” were my friends in those awkward years when she pretended she didn’t know.
And now, it’s not good health or money or even time that I fear running out of — it’s books.
Not likely, because they’re wall-to-wall in more than one room and there are dozens, literally, still unread.
Not to mention the titles stashed on my Kindle because, after all, what if when I’m ready for them, they’re no longer available?
I keep buying them because I need to know they’re there — “just in case.” But just in case what, I’m not entirely sure.
Years ago, a friend called, told us his wife was leaving him and asked us to come over to talk. We stopped at a used book store on the way so I could bring him a stack of novels.
After all, if you have enough to read, can anything really be that terrible?
My mother used to say she hoped she’d live long enough to read all the books she wanted to read, and unfortunately, she did not.
There was a bookmarked novel in her night table when she died, not even half read.
I’m fussy about what I read in my old age, and find myself thinking, “If this were the last book I could read, would I?”
I try to save the Kindle for car trips. Or sleepless nights when putting on the light to read a “real” book would wake my husband.
But sometimes I go totally off track and read two — or three — Kindle books, or two or three real books, one after the other.
And yes, sometimes I have a real book and a Kindle book started at the same time.
And sometimes I buy a real book I’ve already read on Kindle because it’s a beautiful thing. Or I have all the others by that author in hardcover. Or just because.
As real as any other phobia, abibliophobia can be challenging.
The whole downsizing because we’re old now thing means having only two set of dishes, a reasonable number of shoes and absolutely no clip-on earrings. I can do that.
But I cannot part with my books, not even many I’ve already read. They’re still my friends, they still bring comfort, they still remind me of when I first read them, where, and even why.
When my husband does the eye-rolling thing, I say, “Hey, you know what some women are doing while I’m reading?”
He generally answers, hoping I’ll take the hint, “Cooking?”
Abibliophobia is a fear I can live with – I just hope I live long enough to read all the books I want to read.