February 12th was supposed to be “back to normal” day; but it turned out to be “slap in the face” day. Doug spent the evening of February 11th with his usual pre-work routine.
- Making his lunch: usually a turkey sandwich, a piece of dark chocolate and a “healthy” sweet snack.
- Laying out his “outfit”
- Cold brewing his jug of green tea in the refrigerator
He tossed and turned in bed–he was excited like a schoolboy on the night before his first day back to classes. I told him:
“It’s back to normal eve.”
He smiled, “I can’t go to sleep.”
I told him, “Maybe you should take half a pain pill.” (he had been diligently working at tapering off the medication even though his whole lower torso looked as if it had been seared with a torch.) We serenely watched “The Great British Baking Show”, chuckling and commenting along the way, breathing the types of breaths one breathes when they know everything was going to be okay, soft, smooth and deep. After watching numerous cakes fall apart, both of us finally drifted off to sleep.
He awoke and readied himself so quietly, I didn’t know that he was gone. I got up after he had left thinking about how happy he must be to be back at work where he has a few really good people as coworkers. I worried that he might be hurt as he moves literally nearly a ton of boxes each work day. I knew he was happy–now matter how much it hurt.
I was taking my last sip of coffee, preparing to shower, when I heard the front door creak open. It was Doug. I was shocked. I thought he said to me, “I’m not strong enough and have to go back tomorrow.” Because I couldn’t believe the situation which he went on to explain. What he had said was that he needed me to be “strong” for he had just been laid off, without warning, without honor, without sympathy, coldly, cruelly, shamefully on his first day back from a long and grueling fight with cancer which we didn’t know yet for sure was over.
I literally collapsed in tears as he tried to comfort me. Imagine that, him comforting me. He is a good man, kind, loving, forgiving and very, very strong. He was more worried for me than himself. I don’t care about his job, the money, the bills…I care about Doug’s honor and dignity and to see him degraded in this way both broke my heart and infuriated me.
Last night was really, really tough. We both awoke in the night and talked for a while, both fearing not being able to go back to sleep again. Doug was reading and I asked him what it was. He said it was an advanced reader copy of something or other. I said to him, “You still love getting those advanced reader copies don’t you?”
He smiled at me with the most sincere and wide grin:
“That’s why I love being a bookseller.”
My tears began a stream to see that smile and hear those words.