The Mail Box
I used to watch her trudging down the lane, head tied up babushka style, heave shawl and very heavy boots, for the path was apt to be soggy with mud. Grandma Meggs took that walk every day of the year except Sundays and holidays, an sometimes forgot and came even then. Like the mail-man himself neither rain nor snow nor the dark of night could stay her.
Even days when the lane was deep in snow, she plodded through. I called her over one cold winter morning to visit awhile and warm up before walking back. I was her nearest neighbor, I lived across from her mailbox. Her tiny cottage was down at the end of a long lane.
A friend used to say, “Grandma must have a case; on that mailman. But it wasn’t funny for it wrenched my heart to see her because the box was usually empty. She lived alone and her children were scatted to the four winds. She told me , “They’re good children, and have their own lives to live and they’re so busy. Too busy to come.
She had a telephone because the children insisted and even paid the bill, but she was hard of hearing and seldom used it. New combers didn’t even know her house was there and oldsters like her never went visiting. The Bishop called occasionally, but Grandma didn’t go to Church anymore.
I told her once that my daughter would bring her the mail and save her that long walk, but she wouldn’t have it. She wanted that walk for herself. Every two weeks Mrs. Vinton took her grocery shopping, but even that was an ordeal. Everything and everybody moved so fast, Grandma was in no hurry, but was hurried along. Mrs. Vinton’s teen age daughter would dash from here and there from counter to counter until the list was filled. And say “That’s all Grandma. Time to check out,” but Grandma wanted to look around and see things. But she’d come reluctantly and leave the store.
In the summer she’d come down the lane wearing her sun-bonnet, stopping to pick a wild strawberry or sniff a wild pink rose. Her step was perky, when the mailman failed to stop, just wave and call out, “Nothing today Grandma”. I could see her wilt. She turned and began her slow walk home feeling every one of those eighty-three years. Then she would report to Mickie, her cat; Nothing today, Mick.
Guess Lora’s canning and getting the twins ready for school, and Jack’s probably fly all over the country on his law-business, and he’d have no time to write. Wish I knew where Myra was. That paper she works for sends her all over creation; she would be too busy to write me. Sure would like to know how little Sue is. They were worried about her eyes last year, wonder if she had that operation. Jean must be ready to graduate. She’ll be having boyfriends and maybe marriage. Better finish that patch work quilt so I’ll have a wedding present handy”
Then it was autumn, and the Milkweed and Goldenrod and Joepie Purple painted the lane. Stick tight and Teasel pulled at her long skirt as she passed them. There wasn’t enough traffic on her lane to keep the weeds down. The Sumac was in its glory, and the woods were aflame on either side. But the mailbox was still empty. Once in a while a bill or a catalog came, but that was all.
She’d go back and talk to Mickie, “Nothin’ worth going after”,” I do wish the children would write me.” She sent wavering scrawls to each of them so they would know she was alright and never forgot weddings anniversaries.
Her children didn’t like having her living there all alone. Lora invited her to come to Stillwater---But what would I be doing there in that passel of kids? Myra said she could stay with her but so would be leaving al the time and I’d be alone anyway. Jack said he would pay someone to stay with her, his wife was a busy society girl. Grandma would not fit in there way of life at all. james and his wife were willing to take her, but she worked and had no extra room.
So they had a round robin discussion of it via mail and telephone and a rest home seemed to be the answer, a modern, intelligent approach to the problem. She would have the best care and they would all pay. She would be surrounded by friends her own age and they wouldn’t have to worry anymore.
Now, how to tell her? They knew she loved her home and was independent. Myra the letter writer would draft the letter and they would all sign it:
We feel it is not safe for you to live alone, especially with winter coming on. Neighbors are not close and we might not even know if you are sick. So, we have investigated al over the county and decided to send a letter requesting arrangements for you to stay at the Chimney Corner Rest home in Camden. They will take you for your pension and we will pay the balance. Jack and Millie will be out there Sunday to help you move. Don’t take anything but your clothes and Lora and I will probably be out someday to care for your things. Mrs. Venton will probably take your cat.
You will have good meals on time and have lots of friends to talk too. We can come and see you once in a while we will all feel better to know you are in good hands and think you will be happy there.
Love The Kids
Winter chill was in the air when the letter was sent. Weeds had become blackened with frost. The Milk Weed pods had exploded in a white fluff. In the morning there would be ice on the water in the ditch that would not melt as the sun got higher.
It was on such a morning that the letter came. The postman had gone on so she was alone when she found it. She’d wanted to read it when she got back to the house, sitting in her rocking chair with her spectacles on and savoring the anticipation just a little longer. She was hurrying though. Her face just glowed with happiness. Someone had at last remembered her. The first step on the porch was still in shadows, the sun had not reached it to melt it. Grandma Meggs went down hard, striking her head on the tall stone beside the step.
No smoke was coming out of her chimney that morning and it was cold. I tried to telephone her but there was no answer, so I decided to go check on her. I found her, just as she had fallen, with Mickie cuddled up close and mewing pitifully. I phoned the hospital, the children and rode beside her to the hospital. Grandma regained consciousness to say, “Tell them I was so happy to get the letter”. It lay clutched in her hand still unopened.