Most people in our small town know that Vance died. But every once in a while…
Our local bakery is owned by the sweetest couple. They have never greeted me with anything less than a giant smile and a warm hello. They are some of the friendliest people I know. I say “know,” but I don’t really know them. I don’t know their names or if they have children. But I do know their smiles.
I stop for donuts regularly enough that they recognize me, my kids and my husband. For years they have asked me how he’s doing or or told me that they saw him drive through with one of the kids a few days earlier.
A few weeks ago I stopped to get smokies for the kids and the man asked me, “How is your husband?” It took me a minute and I had to ask him to repeat the question. He’d been turned towards the cash register and I thought maybe I had misunderstood him. But I hadn’t.
When I told him about Vance, his poor face went from lit up with a smile to instant and genuine sadness. He told his wife, who was around the corner. She came to the window and gave her condolences. They are such a kind couple. I hated having to give them that terrible news.
Then yesterday I had to run into the hardware store to get Eli some hinges for his shop class project. I didn’t know the man who helped me find them in the store. As I was checking out, he noticed the last name on my card and asked if I was the Crutchfield family that lived close to the pool. I told him I was. He asked if my husband had been an electrician. Again, I told him yes. He went on the explain that Vance had done some work at his old place of business. He spoke of him with fondness then asked what Vance was up to these days. Sigh. I had to tell another person that my husband had died.
People don’t know how to respond to that surprise. I could tell the man felt awful for bringing it up. I didn’t want him to feel that way. There’s no way he could have known about Vance. He wasn’t purposely bringing me pain. He was actually bringing me joy in letting me know that Vance had done a good job for him. I tried to reassure him that I was okay but we were both just really awkward and I just kind of left when he handed me back my card.
Ninety-four days in, it’s not any easier to admit that he’s gone.