A Favorite Customer

Josie Leavitt - July 18, 2011

There is a price to pay for having a bookstore in a small town. What makes being in a small town so lovely are also the things that cause the most sadness. We know just about everybody who shops at our store, and if they’re new to us, we get to know them. This is a wonderful thing. We meet the dogs, the babies and the visiting family. Honestly, sometimes it feels like customers are showing us off.
We also know who is sick, and sometimes customers die.  This past week was a rough week. One of my favorite customers lost her battle with breast cancer. I’ll always remember six years ago, when Deb was first diagnosed. She came to the store and told me of her illness. We talked about her treatment, her outlook, and we laughed about wondering how she’d look bald. She asked how I was and I shared with her that my dog was having bilateral knee surgery the same day she was having her surgery.
And this part always makes me tear up: the day before Ink’s surgery we got a note from Deb wishing him for his surgery and recovery. The thoughtfulness of that note just kills me. To be able to think of someone else, even a dog, in the week of beginning her cancer treatment is unbelievable. It become a joke with us. I’d just tease her about and her love of animals and her pre-surgery distraction that would make Emily Post proud and then we’d talk books.
Deb was doing great, wonderfully in fact. Then, in September, she found out the cancer had come back in her chest wall. Surgery was not an option. She started chemo right away, but this time the cancer was really aggressive and she passed away last weekend at the age of 46.
I think everyone who works at a bookstore has customers they’re just always happy to see, no matter what the day. Deb was one of those customers for me. I think like many bookstore/customer relationships, we didn’t socialize outside of the store, but we knew all the details of each other’s lives. I knew about her husband’s bad back and her horses, and Deb would bring her whole family to the store. Her mom visited often and was in two weeks before Deb passed away, getting her a bird song book.
The thing with working at a bookstore is there is a fast intimacy with some customers because of how a book discussion meanders to real life and back to books again. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but there are times that I wish the losses didn’t hurt so much. I’m only grateful we’ve been lucky to have so few.

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