Wednesday, April 27, 2016
These days I receive precious little of it, snail mail. Mostly oversized postcards urging me to buy stuff, junk, an occasional bill (most come via the Internet), a rare wedding invitation and very very rarely: a letter from a friend.
The mail's arrival used to be exciting. My dad, in fact, always wanted to do this job; it was one of the last things he could do on his own. When he and Mom were living in their last independent home (in a little community in Pittsfield, MA, called Salisbury Estates (their small, elder-friendly home was on Walchenbach Circle), Dad would drive down to the little collection of mailboxes (about, oh, 100 yards away), then drive to a local coffee shop, where the kind owner would see his car and carry the local newspapers out to him. Dad would then return home, and deliver Mom's mail to her, announcing to her what each piece was as he handed it to her: Letter from the church, latest issue of Newsweek--that sort of thing. I know this routine annoyed the hell out of her. But that was Dad and the mail.
I inherited a little of that--not the doling out to Joyce (who would not have endured it) but the bringing-it-in-from-the-mailbox stuff. Okay, so I was a little ... compulsive about it. We all have our quiddities and quirks, right?
But in these latter letter-less days, I don't really care. Only rarely is there anything in the delivery that I want to see.
But I still write snail mail, regularly (not counting holiday cards and the like). I have two recipients--my mom and a former teaching colleague.
Mom was once adept with her computer, and we kept in touch via email for quite a while. Then, declining, she could no longer remember how to turn her laptop on or off, how to find her email page, what to do if she did find it. So the email days ended, and I began (in late December 2010) writing a couple of newsy letters a week to her. I didn't really think this would last long--she was 91 in Dec. 2010. But she's still hanging in there (now 96), and I'm still writing. I try to call a couple times a week, too. She lives nearly 600 miles from us, and a trip like that is very daunting for me now. I don't get out to see her nearly so much as I used to.
The other person to whom I write regularly is Andy Kmetz, a former teaching colleague at the middle school in Aurora, Ohio. But he was far more than a colleague; he was a dear friend. He taught art; I, English. And we directed many plays together at the middle (and high) school--nearly 30. He was a splendid choreographer and artist, and without him I don't even want to think what those shows would have been like. Some of the most beautiful moments in every production emerged from Andy's imagination--no question about it.
When we were working on a show, we often had a Wednesday evening rehearsal (other days--after school), and we would drive over to a nearby Wendy's for an early supper (sometimes Joyce and son Steve would meet us there), then--back to school for a couple hours of practice. Andy attended our son's wedding in August 1999, and it was a great thrill for Joyce and me to take our two grandsons to meet Andy a couple of years ago. He's now in an assisted living unit in Kent--is hanging on (mid-80s)--and Joyce and I go see him on Wednesday evenings (most of the time--not always possible).
Andy was never too adept with technology (and proudly so, I will say); he's never had a cellphone or a computer and doesn't want to learn (so he's told me countless times). And so I write him via snail mail once a week, letting him know what's going on in my ever smaller world.
So, I can still look over beside my desk and see postage stamps, envelopes, return address labels--and I know--fear--that my days of using them will probably be far too few. If I'm still around when my mom and Andy solve the mystery, I will feel deep losses of many sorts. And among them--a very minor one, of course--will be the passing in my life of snail-mail writing, a form of communication that dates back to the very earliest days of writing itself.