Monday, August 29, 2011

The Postman Cometh, the Postman Go-eth

We are mothers and fathers. And sons and daughters. Who every day go about our lives with duty, honor and pride. And neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds. Ever.
                                                                               -from a USPS tv commercial
People call it snail mail now.  In this age of instantaneous communication – texting, tweeting, Facebooking, Google Plus-ing – does anyone send a letter anymore?  When you can select online bill pay for every bill you have, do you write a check, put it in a envelope, lick stick a stamp in the right corner, drop it in a mailbox and go along your merry way?
I do.  But I am a mailman’s daughter. 
Mailman, postman, letter carrier, whatever you call them –  they are the men and women who deliver bills, holiday and birthday cards, wedding invitations, more bills, college acceptance letters, condolence cards, magazines, catalogs, and junk mail...oh so much junk mail.  And third class mail.  I know about third class mail because I am a mailman’s daughter.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is going through some tough times.  It’s broke or getting there.  It’s closing post offices, cutting jobs, possibly cutting back to five day delivery.  The winds of change are blowing.  Oh, how they’re blowing.
My father has been a mailman for almost forty years – the last in a long line of mailmen in our family.  He is 67 years old and walks 8 miles, five days a week, carrying a 75 pound mailbag, to deliver the mail to his customers.  He’s a million mile man with the plaque to prove it.  Kevin Costner, eat your heart out, my dad is a stud.
His work ethic is beyond the pale.  Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor state emergencies keep him from going to work to deliver his mail.  In 1996, the East Coast experienced a fierce blizzard.  Pennsylvania declared a state of emergency – everything was shut down.  My dad walked from our house – through snow drifts – to his post office in the next town because he didn't believe my mother when she told him that everything was closed.  He didn't believe her because the post office, his post office, doesn't close; the mail always goes out, he always goes out.  Just not that day. 

A few years ago, while delivering mail, he tripped and fell on one of his customer's sidewalks.  The mail, along with him, went flying.  Later, he would find out that he broke several ribs.  But right then, after he lay on the ground for a few minutes in pain, he picked himself up and he picked up all those letters, cards, bills, and magazines so that they could get to their intended recipients.  Duty.  Honor.  Pride.  My dad has them in spades. 
He wasn’t the sort of dad who went to school events.  I don’t remember him going to concerts or teacher conferences or back-to-school nights.  But there was one thing he did every school year.  When the school telephone directories came out, he would flip through the pages and tell me which of my classmates lived on his route – Saulino, Herr, the Daniels twins, the Byrds, and on and on.  On more than one occasion, those very classmates came up to me to say, hey, your dad’s my mailman!  Joe the Mailman!  We love him! 
He loves his customers too.  As he walked those million miles, he saw the winds of change on his route.  He delivered the mail while his customers were experiencing vacations (he always held their mail until they returned), births, deaths, divorces, graduations, surgeries.  Whatever’s happening on his route, he usually knows about it. 
But times change.  Routes change.  And he…he is ready for change. 
This past week, my father came home and told my mom that he’s tired of walking.  Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night keeps my dad from delivering his mail.  But pain…pain has won out.  He is hurting – too many falls, too few visits to the doctor.  He’s tired of walking with the pain.  So, he’s going to walk away.
The retirement paperwork is being prepared.  There is a countdown.  Soon, Bent Road, Heacock Lane, Maple Avenue, Crescent Lane, Deaver Road, and Deaver Place will be but street names on a map.  Dinner conversations won’t include the words "pivots," "third class mail," "casing the route," or "the mail truck;" they will fade into memories and join names like Barry, Joe Davis, and the Sewerman brothers, along with the name of every single postmaster who has come and gone throughout my dad’s career - whether he could pronounce them or not.      
Joe the Mailman is retiring.  And his daughter could not be prouder. 
Now, go out, buy a book of stamps, and send a letter.  There’s a mailman waiting to deliver it.

Check in with me in a few months to see how we’re surviving retirement.  Especially since Joe the Retired Mailman is under the crazy belief that he’s going to be spending a lot of time at my house.  

1 comment:

  1. Oh, that is such a lovely tribute! I love the mail too and always get soooo much joy (ok, maybe a little to much joy) out of addressing and mailing envelopes. Remembering our mailman growing up, still makes me smile. Cheers to your dad and all the hard miles he has walked over the years.