Every spring we have fleeting thoughts of worry until we see them come in again. Selling organic vegetables brings us more than the usual run of clientele suffering from illnesses they are hoping to cure by eating well. And sometimes, we wonder whether we will see them again next year or not.
But he had been in this spring. As chipper as ever, though in just as poor health. Of course, he wasn’t one who came because our vegetables were grown organically. He just came because he liked corn and tomatoes. And because he was looking for antique copies of Thornton W. Burgess books (he was always telling us how his original set had been thrown away).
He asked after the kids and the rest of the family. He called me “Gretch”, just like he always has. And he even got to see my husband, whom he nicknamed “Boomer” after the welding explosion (and hasn’t called by his real name since).
His wife came in alone last week. She never came without him. And I knew before she told me. But that didn’t stop the tears from coming as I walked around the counter to give her a hug.
“I’m so sorry,” was all I could say.
“I am, too,” said his wife and caretaker and friend.
I had more customers arriving and she wasn’t in a hurry to stay after relaying her news. But she reassured me we’d still be seeing her from time to time.
“Thank you for letting us know,” I told her sincerely.
Because sometimes, we don’t find out until we hear an obituary on the radio and put two and two together. And even those aren’t very informative since we know most of our customers by the cars they drive and the vegetables they buy rather than their given names.
But we won’t forget his name. It goes down on our list of the customers we’ll always miss, no matter the style of their jokes or how much they spent. And I’ll think of him every time my kids read their torn and tattered Burgess books.