Friday was my last day at Tractor Supply. I kept it quiet. Not a lot of need for telling that news around, but sometimes the time for telling that was right.
A woman came in to buy mulch. She said, "Can someone load it? My husband just came from chemo, and he can't." I said, "Absolutely. I'll get that for you." I walk out with her, and there's her husband struggling with a bag. Their vehicle is pulled right up to the pile. She begins to yell at him from the door, walking quickly. There's no need for that kind of excitement, because, really, what I see is that the gray faced man cannot do it. He's trying, but he can't, and while his hands are on the bag, he's not trying to lift it any more. He just looks...I don't know...lost...forlorn...maybe even a little scared, but he just stands there with his hands on the mulch, and he's not saying anything at all. So we get there, and his wife is telling him, "You let someone else..." and I grab the first bag of mulch and begin to load it, easily.
The woman says, "Boy, this cancer stuff just takes over our entire life. He's got all these appointments and when we're not at appointments, he's just sick."
The gray faced man stands there, silent. I can tell he needs some encouragement, so I say cheerfully, "Oh, yeah, I know how that can be. I've been out of treatment for three years now, coming up on my fourth anniversary."
It stops them, as it always does. They don't expect to hear this. I could tell them that we've got a tenant who went to school with my Cara just diagnosed with cancer. It has no respect for youth. The woman said, "Did you have chemo and radiation?" and I said, "Yep." and kept loading the mulch. The gray faced man doesn't say anything, but he's listening closely.
I say, "It wasn't fun, but there's another side to it, and one day, you'll be standing on the other side of it looking back too." And I tell them that it's my last day of work, that I'm graduating and have a job in my field. And they listen interestedly. I close their tailgate, and I turn to the man, and say "You take care of yourself now, and mind what she says," and I give him a little hug, as his wife says, "Awwwww." I give her a pat on the shoulder and go back to the store.
Another customer came in, he and his wife, and they're looking for a hitching post to match the one they've got. They are sure that they bought their hitching post at the Tractor Supply. I say, "Well, I don't remember selling them, not ever, but I've only been here two years." The fellow has a white beard and big blue eyes, and he ponders a moment. He says, "Well, it's been like 6 or 7 years, probably." His wife looks surprised, and like she might disagree, but she pondered a moment, and says "Well, you're probably right about that."
I ask them if they have a computer, and the man says, "Oh, yes," and I tell them they might want to just type 'hitching post' into the search engine, and see what pops up. They say, "That's a good idea!" and they head off to look around. By the time that they get up to the counter, they hear a reader/customer who says, "So when do you start your new job?" I tell that person it's my last day. They tell me that they will miss me, a lot. How nice is that? I tell them that it's been a great place to work, and that I'll miss all my customers, too.
The bearded man talks to his wife, and out the door he goes. He comes back, and he has a CD for me, a demo. He's a musician, and he autographs his CD carefully to me. It's old type music, with a few old hymns thrown in. It is my turn to say, "Awwwww. Thank you," and the two of them stand there smiling at me. They tell me that they like my friendliness, and that they are sure my customers WILL miss me.
Probably the biggest surprise was this one. A man is standing in line holding a big window box planter, and I'm thinking, "Hmmm. I have to get my hinder outside on lunch break and look for them. I didn't know we sold those..." and he thrusts it at me saying, "You must be Debby." My name is on my apron, so it wasn't like he was psychic. Turns out he was from the flower shop. My coworkers had chipped in. I was a little speechless. The customers in line were smiling and listening. "Honest to Pete," I said. "They're not going to be satisfied until I walk out of here crying." I took that beautiful box, and set it on the floor next to me and got back to work.
One by one, most of my coworkers stopped by. Hugs were given. They're going to miss me. The ones that I didn't see Friday, I saw Wednesday, when we sat around eating cake. That was enough. But they bought me flowers too.
The best present came later. Somebody said told me the news. A fellow from corporate is coming to the store. He's going to talk to the employees. I won't be there, of course, but I am told "You stood up for us, and we have a chance to stand up for ourselves. We're going to do it too." I'm so glad. That was the best ending this story could have.
Yesterday, I watched Cara graduate, sitting in the audience with my other children and my grandson. It was a great moment. She graduated with a cord for summa cum laude, another cord graduating from the honors program, and a final cord for graduating with highest honors from the history program. It was a great day. Dylan and Brittani have a fine big camera, and next weekend, when we go there, they will load them on a thumb drive for us, and I'll post them here.
I heard them talking as they looked at the pictures. Cara said, "That looks professional, the way the background is blurred and the subject is clear. I love that!" and Dylan said, "I'd like to figure out how to do that on purpose," laughing. "That's bokeh," I said. "BB knows how to do that. Go to her web site." I think that they were a little surprised to hear that from my mouth. My picture taking is legendary. Really. It's that bad, but in this case, those who can't do know those who can do. :^D