“David, would you please see if there’s anything in the mailbox.”
This was a request I got from a woman I used to work for. She was elderly, and had lost her husband a few years prior. I’d do odd jobs around her yard or in the house and I’d collect the mail for her in the winter when the driveway was icy and she didn’t want to risk a fall.
“Will you have time to stop by today, David?” was the polite sound of her voice on the other end of the line. There was never any urgency in the voice, and there was patience and understanding if I was busy, but there was a need (a small one) and I was glad to help.
I’d stop by in my rusty pickup truck and extract the one or two or three days worth of mail there was in the box and I’d salt the driveway and the walk for her if there was time.
“Oh, there’s a lot today, isn’t there?” I can still hear her say as I came to the door with the odd assortment of differently shaped and colored envelopes, “Let’s have a look. Come in, will you?”
In return there was a little money for me, and usually an offer of a cup of tea. She’d had a long and interesting life and I learned a lot from her, sitting at her kitchen table, drinking Salada tea from her everyday picnic patterned tea cups.
I used to think it was purely functional - her need to get the mail - for paying bills or answering requests or getting the news. But I think there was something more to it, an ordinary something more. I’d like to think that part of the something more was my company. But vanity aside, I think the mail was more than the mail - it was a little bit of the unknown; a little bit of hope.
I think I picked some of her measured approach in the years that I was going to school and working for her. I’ve tried to find the little bits of the unknown that get you from day to day lightly. Frequently it’s the mail, but there are other things too; checking my weight after a week of exercise, checking my bank account after a few weeks of taking my lunch to work; checking my personal email at the end of the day (I’m not allowed at work) - there are many things.
“What are you looking for?” my wife will ask me sometimes, when I’m just stalking around restlessly.
“Nothing,” is what she’ll usually hear. That or a shrug of the shoulders. I’ll just go on with my stalking until I think of something mail-like or wear myself out thinking and stalking.
“Where’s the mail?” is the question that is pounding in my head when this happens. That and the angst and discouragement when there is none.
“Where’s my little thing that I was expecting? Didn’t it come today? What no mail? Rats!”
I don’t say “Rats,” by the way - I’m more colorful.
Today the mail didn’t come.
I try to think of my friend when the mail doesn’t come. I try to think of that measured easy polite understanding she had when I couldn’t help that day. I try to focus on the day or two later when I would come and sit in her kitchen like Pooh or Piglet in Kanga’s house.
“Oh, here’s something I wasn’t expecting,” she’d say with a smile, never telling me what it was - good or bad. She’d investigate it while she went on talking to me.
On nights like tonight, I just think about her patience and try to find some of my own; patience and trust.
Tomorrow or the next day, there will surely be mail.