My mail box was empty the first two weeks I was here. There were, I thought, two possible explanations: I am a loser, and no one sent me anything; or I am an idiot and made a mistake filling out the change-of-address form before I left Ashtabula. I gave the matter some thought and concluded the problem was idiocy. Now there is a strong possibility that I am a loser, but I am a loser with a few outstanding bills, and creditors do not discriminate; they send their bills to anyone, even losers.
After more intense thought, I realized the dearth of mail might not be a reflection on my personality or my intelligence. The day I moved in, Nona – whom I had spoken to frequently in the weeks leading up to my move – gave me a quick tour. “And these are the mailboxes,” she said. “Yours is up here.” Then she looked at me in the wheelchair and decided it would be easier to bring the mailbox down to me than it would be for me to get up to the mailbox. An hour or so later, she dropped by the room and said my mailbox had been relocated. Every day thereafter, I went to the box and checked on the accumulating dust.
And on his third Monday at Covenant Woods, Thomas went to the front desk and said unto Shirley, “Hey! I think we’ve got a problem.” I told her what I thought might have happened –that the mail was being put somewhere other than in my newly relocated box – without letting on that the real reason might have something to do with idiocy. Shirley went to the mailroom, and a few minutes later told me that there was no mail for me in the box that until two weeks earlier had been B116. I thanked her for her taking the time to look, and as I wondered how to tell the Postal Service that I’m an idiot, Shirley said, “When the mailman comes, I’ll ask him about it.” In the afternoon, none too confident, I stopped by the mailbox and found mail in it. There was a check from the dentist – I had left town with a credit balance in his account – and a bill from the Cleveland Clinic. Alas, the bill was considerably larger than the check, but isn’t that always the way it is.
Later in the week, I found some birthday cards – “will you still need me, will you still greet me when I’m sixty-four?” – and a manila envelope from Suzanne, filled with the most delightful lies in the form of poems the people in the writing class composed on the occasion of my going south. This week the Facebook messages, the cards, the poems and Suzanne’s note put a little spring in my step. Well, the wheelchair was sprightlier, anyway.
Thursday I went over to the strip mall to get a few things, and as I was cruising up the sidewalk my phone rang. It was Bethany. She is always so bubbly and never fails to lift my spirits. Hayden is walking and talking, and his mouth is filling up with teeth. Beth and Ken are getting ready to do some preliminary work on their garden. They moved over the winter and are up on the mountain now, high enough that the possibility of frost will be there until early June. So they won’t be able to do much planting for a while, but they’re anxious to get started.
The best day for me is Sunday. That’s the day Russ and Karen bring dinner to me. Yesterday, Karen made chicken and corn on the cob. And there was a store bought lemony custard pie with a Nilla Wafer crust. We had half of it for desert, and they left the other half here. They know how to please the old man.
My birthday wasn’t the only age-related reminder of the week. Karen and Russ have now been together for thirteen years, and to mark the occasion, Karen said Russ got her a broiler pan and a baking pan. I thought this was the start of a man-with-no-clue joke. But Karen went on to say, “You know you’re getting old when you get a broiler pan for your anniversary and you’re excited. Actually, that’s what I told Russ I wanted.” Ah, visions of domestic bliss are wonderful, but if Russ and Karen are getting old, I’m getting older.
Sometimes the best letter or e-mail is the one you never send. I couldn’t sleep Saturday night; my mind was a raging sea of frustration and anger. About two-thirty, I gave up on the idea of sleeping and went to the computer. I took a moment to decide which friend I wanted to tell my troubles to and then started banging away. I don’t have Internet access in my apartment, so I created a Word document, which I planned to copy and paste into an e-mail when, by dawn’s early light, I went to the area of the building with Wi-Fi. Because I was working in Word, I know that the moment I typed the 547th word, I became disgusted with my whining. And yet, I felt so much better for having whined. I clicked on “Close,” the computer asked if I wanted to save the screed, and I clicked on “Don’t Save.” I crawled back into bed, slept for several hours and had a wonderful Sunday.