“Hello, Mr. G—“
At least once a week, for the year that I was at that library, I would exchange only those words with this one patron. He would take up all of the tables in the genealogy and local history section with various Sanborn maps and indexes. It was understand within the staff that this was okay – he was a master genealogist and was essentially adding to our collections. He worked quietly and methodically. I never wanted to bother him with any other words; he always appeared to be on a mission of some sort.
I learned this morning that Mr. G—- passed away, quietly and even older than he had been those years ago. I learned more from his obituary about him than I never knew directly from him. He lived a good, long, full life. Even now though, I can still hear the way his voice said “Hello, Casey.” Raspy and weather-worn, very grandfatherly.
At the gig I am presently at, I have a similar exchange with a patron. Every day he asks for “The Record”, the local newspaper, but usually he doesn’t have to croak out the words – I grab The Record as soon as I see him approaching the desk and he smiles when I hand it off to him. That is the limit to our exchange as well, but I when he doesn’t come before lunch. Just as I would’ve about Mr. G—-.
You can’t really bank on anything in a library staying as it was the day before. People come and go as they please and as live takes them. Material gets checked out or disappears. But it’s the little exchanges with “Mr. Record” and the ones that I had with Mr. G—- that are small rays of light in the day.