The Other Side of Retirement
Truman has become obsessed with Critical Care, the Ensure-like nutrition supplement for guinea pigs. The second he smells it, he starts wheeking and looking around frantically. If he dribbles a drop, we need to pause while he licks it from the bedding (and then eats the piece of bedding for good measure). His weight has mostly been holding, but since he has lost so much weight overall, I’ve been letting him have a few meals of Critical Care between his vegetables and pellets.
I get the Critical Care from the vet, but when we started to run low over the weekend, I called the pet store to see if they had it in stock. They did, so we drove down to pick it up.
The moment I walked into the store, everything felt… wrong. It’s usually pretty cramped, and there was suddenly room to maneuver around. But I chalked it up to better display arrangements and went directly to the small mammal section.
The owner’s helper came over to talk about vitamin tablets and new treats, and she wistfully told me that the store would be closing this fall. After 30+ years, the owner wanted to retire, and without a buyer stepping forward, it was time to close the store permanently.
I felt dizzy. I still feel dizzy writing that. I’ve been going to this pet store since I was 15. The owner is my anchor. She was the first person I called when Cozy’s eyes were coming out of his head. The person I called after we had to put him to sleep.
The person I called to say Truman is sneezing, Truman has decided he doesn’t like his bedding, Truman isn’t wheeking. She trims his nails, she cleans out his ears, she supplies me with new ideas for treats. We clearly have a vet (or, really, at this point, two vets), but she has always been my source for information and reassurance.
Sure, I want her to retire and enjoy life. She was beaming when she spoke about her retirement while we were checking out. But… what about me? Okay, I know, selfish. But this is my blog and not her blog, so… what about me?
I am admittedly not good with change at all. But she operates the only independent small mammal pet store in my area. My only options now are big chain stores that usually don’t carry the high-end food or Amazon.
But… it loses something, you know? It’s the one errand the kids love to go on because while I’m shopping, they’re checking out all the guinea pigs and chinchillas and hamsters for sale. The twins are nearing the age I was when I first started going there. It feels like the end of an era, and I am so damn sad about it.
After the store, we stopped off for water ice, and I think I freaked out the woman at the counter when I asked her if her store was considering shuttering, too. If the owner was ever going to retire and shut down the store between now and the time that I die, I needed to know now. She reassured me that he’s not considering closing the store any time soon. (Soon? Soon? Did you hear me? I need to know EVER.)
When friends or co-workers retire, I continue to keep in touch. But I don’t have that sort of relationship with the store owner. She is somewhere between a human-nequin and advice-giver; not quite friendly enough for me to suggest that we should grab lunch from time to time, but more than someone playing a nameless background role of Store Owner #5. I am going to miss her tremendously.
Some people roll with change and love change and look forward to change and try to create change. But I have kept the same haircut since childhood, shop at the same stores, eat the same foods. Like Bilbo Baggins, I like my cozy, little life.
And just as I imagine Bilbo would respond if Gandalf suddenly announced that he was retiring from magic, I am sort of freaking out about losing our pet store.
If I ruled the world, good stores would never be allowed to close.