About paying attention to that which we often don't see the value, and messages, in.
| The morning sun was just coming up over the hardware store as Tom reached into his pocket for his keys. He stood for a moment looking at the pale, orange-pink sky, reflecting on the wonder of it. He sighed heavily as he did so, thinking of how such a miracle as the sun coming up every morning was taken for granted by just about everyone.
“Maybe if a person’s day started with a little genuine awe, they wouldn’t be so inclined to think their lives were worthless,” Tom said to himself as he opened the door to the Pharmacy and switched on the lights. Thirty five years of turning that key and switching on those lights. The routine of that was wearing on him more than usual for some reason. “Guess I could use a little of that awe for myself this morning,” he thought.
For thirty five years Tom had owned and run the Weavertown Pharmacy. The best of those years spent with Julie by his side, working the counter with her smile and doing the books. He knew that was why his heart was particularly heavy this day. It had been two years yesterday since Julie had died of a sudden heart attack. His only consolation was that she hadn't suffered, but it had been two long years of missing her - her touch, her smell, her laugh, her shiny brown hair, her brilliant blue eyes - her essence. For thirty years she had complimented his existence in ways that had made him simply a happier more content person because of her presence in his life.
“I sure miss ya darlin’,” he said out loud to the rows of bottles and boxes and cards that lined the small shelves and made up the world he spent his days in. The place was fortunately small, and running it by himself had proved to be doable. He worked harder of course, doing the bookkeeping at home at night, but he didn’t mind that; it helped keep his mind off the now empty house.
He heard the tinkle of the bell above the door, announcing the first customer of the day, and he hurried to put his white smock on and don the aura of the Pharmacist. It always amazed him how people looked upon him as a kind of pseudo-doctor and even part-time psychologist. There probably wasn’t a medical history, life story or drama in the town of 500 that he hadn’t heard at one time or another. He was grateful the population wasn’t larger than it was; the burden of personal knowledge he carried was already somewhat too heavy.
He walked to the counter and found Bonnie Pritchard standing there, looking as wrinkled and sturdy as the old Wranglers she refused to quit wearing. Eighty-two and with all her wits very much about her, Bonnie was an old Cowgirl, living alone for the past ten years since her husband had passed on, and stubborn as the day was long. Tom always enjoyed her visits; her crusty humor and spunky attitude never failed to give his spirits a lift.
“Morning Bonnie. Here for the blood pumpers I take it?” he said with a grin, referring as she did to the blood pressure medicine she’d come in for.
“You know it Tom,” she replied with a big grin on her face. “And them durn pill companies are damn lucky I’m willin’ to take those as it is. Money suckers, that’s all they are Tom, just plumb darn money suckers.” She grabbed her checkbook out of her back pocket, amusing Tom again with her lack of female accessories; Bonnie was no nonsense, and purses to her were nonsense. He’d known her thirty years back though, and knew that in her day, purse or no, she had left no doubt in any man’s mind that she was a female. Back then those Wranglers might have been wrinkled, but they’d sure been nicely filled.
“Allright Tom, cough it up. What’s ailin’ you?” Bonnie said as she ripped out her check and handed it over. Tom looked up from the cash register surprised at the question, “why nothing’ Bonnie. Why you ask? Do I look sick or something?”
“Nah, you look as handsome and healthy as the day I met ya. But there was an air of sad about you from the minute you walked out from behind that counter. And that’s not like you my friend. Missing Julie I’d guess, am I right? What’s it been now Tom, about two years?”
“You know me too well, I guess” sighed Tom, letting down his defenses for the moment, in light of someone he respected too much to pretend to, calling him on his act. “Two years yesterday Bonnie. She was always so positive and happy, I almost feel like I’m betraying her by getting melancholy like this.”
“Aw quit being so hard on yourself Tom,” Bonnie said with a touch of soft behind her crusty words, “Julie was a good human being with a good heart and soul and you two had miles of road together underneath ya. You can’t expect that traveling alone now is going to be easy.” She stuck her checkbook back in her pocket and grabbed the little bag with her pills, preparing to leave “But you just remember something fella,” she said, suddenly putting her finger up to his face to emphasize her point “it’s just a darn fool that thinks once we pass over from this life that we don’t have any way of making ourselves known to the loved ones we leave behind.” She patted him kindly on the cheek, then turned to leave, turning suddenly halfway to the door to add in her strong no nonsense voice “You pay attention Tom McCordy. You pay attention to the little things!” And with that, she was gone.
Tom chuckled to himself and shook his head. “What a character that woman is,” he thought, as he stamped her check and placed it in the register.
He stepped into the back to check the answering machine for called in prescriptions, and just as he gathered his pad and pen for notes, heard the bell tinkle again. Glancing up he saw a striking young woman he’d never seen before, and along side her was the most delightful looking little girl; about two he guessed, with brown hair and sparkling blue eyes...he smiled warmly as her youthful energy filled the store.
“Good morning!” he called out as he put down the pad and pen and stepped out to see how he could help. “I’m Tom McCordy,” he said to the woman with a smile, “And a good morning to you too young lady” he added to the now beaming little person who he could now see was also clutching a small very furry stuffed brown dog. “Mommy’s gots a cowld,” she offered, curling a piece of her brown hair in her fingers shyly as she spoke, hugging the dog to her chest. The woman smiled down at her, then looked at Tom rather apologetically as she spoke while simultaneously wiping her nose with a tissue, “I’m afraid she’s right”.
“Well I’m sure I can recommend a good decongestant that will help make you more comfortable,” Tom said as he walked over to the appropriate aisle to get a bottle for her. “This should help” he said as he led them to the counter, “is there anything else I can do for you today?”
“Well no actually, that should do it,” replied the woman, “We’re just driving through on our way to Colton. My husband is being transferred up there and we’re going to look at some houses. Exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time. And me with this darn cold.”
The entire time the woman was speaking, the little girl played peek-a-boo with Tom, enchanting him with her pixie smile and soft giggles. As he handed the woman her change, he reached under the counter and grabbed a lollipop, discreetly asking the mother if it would be ok before offering it to the little girl. “Oh she’d love it,” she replied with a smile.
Tom leaned over the counter and held it out to the girl, who joyously took it from his hand. The woman took her package, turned to the little girl and said kindly “now Julie, what do you say to the nice man?”
Those bright blue eyes and shiny brown hair looked up into Tom’s face and said without a moment’s hesitation, “I love you.”