Saturday, July 17, 2010

Just ink and paper

“I don’t know if you remember my father or not, but he used to just love coming in here.”

I was helping to unload the car. Four good-sized boxes of books. There were already so many boxes at the front of the shop this afternoon that I had a hard time finding space for four more. It has been that kind of week.

So I made non-committal noises about remembering who the gentleman was.

“He’d been pretty sick, so he hasn’t been in for at least a year,” he said.

“I’m really sorry to hear that,” I said. I finally found a clear space over by the coke machine and set the box down. There were more out in the car and I was ready for the next trip.

“He did love to come here.”

I straightened up and gave him a questioning look. There was more to come, I knew.

“He died last December, just two days after Christmas.”

“Oh. I’m really sorry.”

We stood looking at each other for a moment.

“It was his heart,” he said. “He had a heart attack last summer. Probably a stroke, too. And he started slipping after that. He really went downhill quickly after Thanksgiving. We didn’t think he’d make it to Christmas.” He shrugged; smiled. “But he did.”

I just nodded.

“This is the start of his library. There’s more. I’ll be boxing it up and bringing it in.”

“OK. We’ll try to find a good home for it.” I smiled.

“I know you will. So did he.”

“What do you mean?”

“I asked him, a couple of weeks before he died, what he wanted me to do with his library. He told me to take the books back to the Emporium. He got most of them here to begin with, and he said that you would know what to do…that you’d take good care of his books.”

“I will.” I said it in a whisper. It was almost a vow.

He nodded. “I know.” It was almost a prayer.

Sometimes I am not at all sure that what we are selling here is just ink and paper.