One of our most regular customers at work died recently. We hadn't seen him for a bit, but then we knew he and his wife were set to go on vacation, so none of us worried, really, although we do note when we haven't seen one of our regulars in a couple of days.
His wife just came in a couple of days ago, and this is when I learned that Barry had passed on, quite suddenly. His wife retired on a Friday; he died the following Monday, about a week ago.
They had just gone on vacation.
She has come in the past couple of days. Yesterday she came with a friend and her granddaughter (who often came with she and Barry to visit us at the cafe, get drinks, hang out for a couple of hours, have a fun time) and today it was she and the aforementioned friend. We smile, and I remember in my mind how tiring it can be to hear the well-meant "how are you"'s from everyone you know, and so I try to make small-talk, be engaging and cheerful and exactly what she got from me before, when it was she and Barry.
Nonetheless, in the cafe we have teared up so much in the last couple of days. For all that I have only been working in the cafe for a few months, Barry was a constant, almost-daily presence. He came in with funny mispronunciations for everything he wanted, teased us mercilessly. He was one of the first people to rib me for being new and messing up, but did so in the kindest possible way that had me laughing along with him.
We keep waiting for him to come get his multi-grain bagel. I keep waiting for him to come in and order something to drink.
I was talking about this to a coworker tonight and we both said to each other, If he had this much influence over us, the baristas at the bookstore cafe he visited, how much more must the people who knew him well be hurting?
I keep thinking of his granddaughter; only a little older than I was when my Grandpa Swearingen died. She looks about the way I felt; bewildered and hurting and a little angry, too.
My coworkers and I worry, when our regulars don't come in for days at a time. Of course, we don't think we're entitled to any notice or anything; that's pushing it way too far. But we have several senior citizens that come in all the time, two to three times a week... sometimes daily...
I'm worried about all of them now.
They should really call us if they go on vacation or take any time off from the bookstore; I'm just sayin'. We just like to know everyone's okay.
It got me to thinking about my Grandma VanHoorn again (but then, how often don't I think of her is probably the better question, and the answer is I am always thinking of her) and I lost it a little at work on Sunday... thankfully I had plenty to keep me busy in the back with the dishwasher. But still; how many people that we didn't know, that we didn't think to inform, people that one sees in passing and gives no thought to, mourned her loss? Her visitation taught me that my grandmother knew basically everyone in the central Illinois area, and a whole lot of people everywhere else, too.
Barry seems like he was one of those; those kind, effervescent silly compassionate incredible lives that touch hundreds if not thousands of lives in a deep way; effortlessly, just through the living.
The world has one less small light.
That's all I really have to say tonight.
Two days remain before my parents fly in... 32 days until I step foot in Illinois myself.