shelf life 

Stuff wears out.
There was an old bottle of shampoo, Neutrogena T/Gel Total, that was sitting on a shower shelve for five years. I don’t like it and only use it when there is nothing else in the house. David used it. But I have used it now and again and again, and last week, It was empty. Time to toss the bottle. For just a moment, I was nostalgic. Was this the last household item that belonged to David? Could I throw it away? I could add a few more dramatic questions–in my head, I did–but without drama, I threw it in the bathroom trash can. A few days later, Julia emptied that can into a bag to be put into the trash.
Without drama, but I was aware of it leaving the house.
My appliances have lately reached their expiration dates. The mini food processor, a work horse in my kitchen, stopped. Just a few too many garbanzo beans in the making of a quick humus and I fried the engine. I replaced it with a shiny new one.
My fridge and range have slowly become less reliable. Neither has failed catastrophically, but the cooling fan freezes to stillness a half dozen times a year and needs manual defrosting. I worry about it when I travel. The oven has taken to turning itself off at inopportune times. Will it start turning itself on?

The appliances moved from Indianapolis with me. They were not stylish or new and our buyers were tearing up the kitchen before moving in. Nine years here, another nine in Indy. Their shelf life was pretty good. The new ones are on order.
Then last week, my laptop’s tracking pad went wonky. It didn’t respond to my fingers regularly. It began opening, closing, copying and shutting down files and software without my fingers. The tracking pad is a discreet part and could be replaced but a diagnostic showed a battery that had been recharged more than 1600 times. Normal battery life of that vintage of MacBook Pro includes about 600 charges. 1200 is a good long life. 1600 is almost a miracle. Replacement is possible but not inexpensive especially with a new tracking pad and more failings to come. It is way past its shelf life. It is time to buy a new laptop. This one is six years and one week old.
I know so well the exact age of my companionable typing machine because I bought it exactly a week before heart transplant day. I sat by David’s hospital bed for days after the transplant struggling to figure out how to use my first Apple, wishing I had kept my old laptop until David was healed. I had no mind to focus on a machine.
Yesterday was six years since David was transplanted. Six years since the labor pains of his death and of my new reality began.
David wrote somewhere that most of us have a heart with an 80-100 year warranty. He had a heart with a 50 year warranty. Listening to the Apple tech guy tell me of the miraculous battery life of my laptop was way too close to David’s heart doctors telling us how amazing it was that someone with such a low ejection fraction could still be living a relatively normal life. Really, I need to hear that again? Miraculous life was so close to death.
My lap top. Food processor. Fridge. Range. David’s heart. Even miracles have shelf life. Lazarus died. Twice. It doesn’t diminish the miracle but it doesn’t feel good. Beginnings have endings that even the best of caring cannot prevent. Endings may be slowed, put off for a little while, life can be coaxed along past expectancy but there is the inevitable dance towards endings. Towards death. And things are not people. Apart from sticker shock, I do not grieve my machines, but things hold little memories of salad dressings made and a laptop propped on knees next to a hospital bed. Now it becomes a little bit more my heart’s task to hold the memories.
And so it goes. The new mini food processor made dressing for supper; the big appliances are on order. There is free Apple Care if I buy a laptop before the 19th and the shampoo bottle is long gone. In the end it seems it is the shelf life of love that is the miracle. Every spring, like that transplant spring, hold promise. And miracles are never in short supply.

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