Home > Love, Personal, Relationships > The postman

The postman

I leapt off my couch when I heard clattering at my mailbox yesterday. I hoped I’d see my family’s beloved mailman, R, who’s been away recuperating from surgery for several weeks.

I’ve missed the twinkling in his eyes as he interrupts a phone call to say hello to my little boys and ask how they’re doing. I’ve missed the warmth in his voice and the wave he throws over his shoulder as he continues on to other homes and other hearts.

As a little girl, I excitedly peered out my living room window for signs of the mail truck, hoping I’d get mail from a pen pal or my Big Sister. Since R became my mailman, I’ve been much more excited by who is delivering the mail than what might come in it. R delivers even more kindness than junk mail, which astonishes me when I consider just how much junk mail I drop unopened into my recycling bin daily.

I pushed open my screen door and peeked out. Oh. A woman about my age gazed curiously at me.

“Oh, sorry,” I said. “I hoped you were R.”

“Red? Who’s that?” she asked.

“Not Red! R,” I replied.

“Oh! He’s out after surgery–”

I nodded and spoke, hearing a period where there wasn’t one. “Yeah, my husband told me about that.”

“–and his wife just died,” she continued. “So he’ll be out for a while.”

My heart sank. Tears sprang to my eyes, and I felt embarrassed by them. He’s just my mailman! my inner Spock said. All the conversation you’ve ever had with him wouldn’t even fill a single hour!

“Um,” I stammered. “Um, is there–is there any way I can send him my condolences?”

She shrugged apologetically. “Naw. I just met him once.”

“Thank you,” I told her. “I’ll just … I’ll wait to see him again to tell him how sorry I am.”

I returned to my couch and sat in silence for a few minutes, wishing I could telepathically reach R to let him know how much everyone–excluding only the dog, who doesn’t like anyone who enters our yard–in this house loves him. How much we miss him.

And today, driving home from work, I thought about the at least dozen times my husband and I said during the holidays, “We need to give R a thank-you card and a gift! Some kind of tip!” before deciding we’d get to it tomorrow. That’s life with two jobs, two long commutes, and two little kids; no use feeling guilty about it, because we’d spend all our days feeling guilty about the opportunities we miss.

I cried. I didn’t feel guilty, but I felt so, so very sad for R. I felt sad I’d missed a chance to tell him how much he means to my non-canine family–how much he helps the adults of this household feel part of a physical community–and that we look forward to seeing him. That, though our lives intersect for only moments each week, our lives here are brighter for those moments.

I felt ridiculous crying, as I felt ridiculous crying when I learned a blogging friend’s daughter had died early last year.

But I didn’t really know her! I admonished myself. What right do I have to cry?

Today, I shook my head to clear away the bizarre notion that we cannot be deeply touched by those who touch our lives only briefly. How ridiculous to think that time alone should control the level of affection we feel for those who brighten our days!

Accepting my tears, I told myself that I’d write a note today in one of my blank notecards for when I do next see R. My words might not be just right, but they’ll be right there, and they’ll be the same no matter which card I write them in.

I can’t tell R now, no matter how much I wish it, but when I hand him that card, I hope he will know that its message is not only for today but for all the days we’ve known each other so far,

as I tell him, hoping my eyes speak more eloquently than my words,

“Thank you. I’m sorry. I missed you.”

Categories: Love, Personal, Relationships Tags: , ,
  1. February 9, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    We do not get to have relationships with people like our postmen any longer and it is a crying shame.

    • February 9, 2016 at 5:22 pm

      I absolutely agree. I love how connected the internet makes us in some ways, but I would never want it to be to exclusion of this kind of relationship.

  2. February 9, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    If only everyone displayed such empathy, think of the better world we’d have. And what wonderful role-modeling for your sons. 🙂

    • February 9, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      I love to hope that they will remember our postman, and remember how much joy he brought along with little tiny rectangles of paper. If they can remember that, well, then, I think there’s a lot of good they’ll bring into the world around them as they grow. ♥

  3. February 9, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    I love that your eyes filled with tears for him. I can’t think of a clearer way of expressing that you recognise his humanity. He isn’t a service received, but a person. One who is appreciated and valued. Not for what he does, but for who he is.

    • February 9, 2016 at 5:24 pm

      He is a person–a delightful, breathing, uplifting person whose presence makes our days so, so much warmer. I so wish I could reach him right now, but … I am glad to know he isn’t who is because of what he receives, but because it’s who he is.

  4. February 9, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Excellent Deborah. It truly amazing how special people can be and how deeply they can touch us. Sorry for your friend’s loss of his wife as well as your blogging friend’s loss of her daughter.

  5. February 9, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    Your empathy is priceless in a world that is ever increasingly focused inward rather than outward. This is a beautiful gift that you will give to your children by your example. You are an amazing person. I hope to grow to have such an attitude toward others in my life as well.

    • February 9, 2016 at 6:52 pm

      I think about all the times my mom asked if she was a good mom, and how I told her it was too early to know. Now, if I had the chance to answer that single question once, I’d say, “Yes, and the empathy you taught us is the best reflection of that.” But of course we don’t know what we don’t know.

      One thing I do know is that Anthony has influenced me greatly. Though my mom taught me compassion, I was always a little willful, and didn’t always know how to express it. Anthony’s helped me understand and act on it better, though there are still times (such as those I wrote about this weekend) that I choose not to, understanding I must choose where to allot my limited energy and knowing I’d rather direct it toward the Rs than even the most cheerful aggressors of this world.

      (Whoa, did this turn out longer than I expected! I mostly just wanted to say, “Blame my mom and my husband for whatever empathy you see reflected here.” :))

      Big, big, BIG hugs. ♥

  6. February 10, 2016 at 2:05 am

    You conveyed these emotions perfectly. We’re all connected through space and time anyhow, so cry for everyone who has met some sort of turmoil. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it just the same.

    • February 10, 2016 at 7:24 am

      I so agree about that connection, and see how it causes ripples through our lives in enormous and profound ways, regardless of things like time and physical location.

      I hope I am often moved, even to tears. I want to remember always how we are all woven together by strands unseen.

  7. February 10, 2016 at 5:03 am

    Why can’t we feel sorrow for an acquaintance’s loss?
    people cried for JFK – and most of them never met the guy!
    You’re a woman of deep emotion, Deborah. That is a strength not a weakness.
    Never forget it.

    • February 10, 2016 at 7:27 am

      I used to try so hard to be unflapped and unflappable that echoes of that sometimes present themselves as if still what I want today. They’re not, and I am glad to recognize these truths more swiftly all the time … and to have such kind hearts reminding me exactly why, and how. Thank you.

  8. February 10, 2016 at 5:32 am

    I can understand how R became a cherished part of your life, sometimes rituals evolve into relationships. Connection is such an arbitrary thing. I like your idea of having a note ready for when [if?] you see him next. Hope all is well with him.

  9. Holly
    February 10, 2016 at 5:43 am

    If more people were like you the world would be just as beautiful as you are.

    I think the card is a great idea for the personal level outreach, but one day you may want to contact the supervisor at the post office in your area to give a commendation too.

  10. February 10, 2016 at 5:48 am

    I’ve said for years that Time is not linear for me, it doesn’t go in a straight line, when I say “the other day”, it could be yesterday or (most often) 6 months ago, and as such, I try not to measure my friendships and feelings by time – if it touches me, it touches me. I agree with you on how ridiculous it is that time alone should control the level of our affection! We need more people that share love and kindness with no time constraints! 🙂

    • February 19, 2016 at 4:53 am

      I heartily support your conclusion! Reading this, I recall the first time I met someone for the first time and felt an immediate, instantaneous kinship. Where we went from there had nothing to do with how long we’d known each other, for we were immediately at home. That was the first, and there’ve been many since. 🙂

  11. February 10, 2016 at 6:58 am

    I am tearing up because relationships like that just kick start the heart. The relation ship with R, was just amazing. So sorry for his loss and the way he must feel. I truly think you and your family has crossed his mind even though he is going through so much. 🙂

    • February 19, 2016 at 4:54 am

      My husband texted me a couple days ago to let me R was back. He decided he wanted the normalcy back in his life (get that). My husband passed along our condolences, but I still want to give him a note to articulate more than can necessarily be said well in a chat over the mailbox!

      • February 19, 2016 at 5:56 am

        I think R will love the note. My brother passed in November and more than anything after returning to ny, all I wanted was normalcy. I went back to routine but my life was never the same. R probably needs the sweet faces like your own to get back to living

  12. February 10, 2016 at 9:20 am

    I can relate to the feeling of missing someone that you really don’t know but who has touched your life in some way. I’m sure that when you have the opportunity to speak to the postman or give him your letter he’ll feel equally as touched. He probably doesn’t even realize how much his friendly nature means to some people.

    • February 19, 2016 at 4:56 am

      He’s returned to work for the normalcy it brings, leaving me hoping he’s seeing from whomever he’s catching at home how much he touches many of the folks along his routes. I know from my frequent neighborhood walks we’re far from alone.

  13. February 10, 2016 at 10:55 am

    I work as a direct marketing consultant, so I often work closely with the USPS. I do think that your local post office would appreciate hearing from you about this. From my experience, they do try to help people. I’m sure the supervisor would help you to either contact Mr. R, or pass a letter onto him.

    • February 19, 2016 at 4:58 am

      It might take me a little while to get to this to-do, but providing happy feedback became a to-do the moment I read your comment. Thank you!

  14. February 10, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    This is a touching reminder to not wait to tell those we care about that we are glad to know them—even if it’s in a cursory way.
    I called my grandma this afternoon. She was nearly in tears with gratitude. “Thank you for remembering me!” she said.
    The hugeness of her gratitude made my heart break. But I’m glad I brightened her day.

    • February 19, 2016 at 5:02 am

      Oh, man. I know a little about the twin heartbreak/gladness of which you write. Right now, I’m struggling with where/how to fit in all the people I love and barely see. Anthony reminds me that we pick up where we left off, but that doesn’t change the fact I feel the void of their absence from my day-to-day (or even month-to-month!) life along the way. This is an area that’s been much, much more challenging for me to manage since having two kids.

  15. February 10, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    I’m going to echo the commenters who said that the world needs more of this. We are all assisted by people with no faces, no names — it’s wonderful when you can put all the important things together and see two humans, helping each other.

  16. Nikki
    February 11, 2016 at 11:07 am

    My heart aches for reading this, for his loss and your tears, and I think there IS a way to reach him. There is a physical location of the post office he drives from. Go there. As for his manager. Ask them to send him something on your behalf. Your tears matter because he matters. I don’t know the kind of grief that involves losing a spouse, but any kind of grief that is heard, and listened to, and is made known in simple gestures breathes life and hope into the middle of that grief. Maybe your tears mean he really needs to know you see him and think of him. Maybe he needs to know he’s not alone with his tears. xoxo

  17. February 16, 2016 at 7:35 am

    I can totally relate. Sometimes I can’t help but feel other people’s pain. I think it’s just that some of us can put ourselves in other’s shoes. Not everyone can do this. It’s a blessing.

  1. February 13, 2016 at 8:11 am

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