I’m sure a lot of people cried through the last few episodes of “This is Us.” (Don’t read any further if you’re not caught up.)
Like millions of us, I’m obsessed with this show, although it destroys me week after week. I was still recovering from the beautifully painful goodbye between William and Randall two weeks ago, and then last night was a whole new torture. Watching the family grieve evoked such familiar emotions and memories and brought fresh pain from long-ago losses right to the surface.
But the part that hit me the hardest wasn’t Kate breaking down, or watching Randall and his mom talk about how much time he lost with William, or even seeing the cracks in Jack and Rebecca’s marriage knowing more tragedy is ahead.
It was the mailman.
In a brief but poignant scene, a mailman – played with such tenderness by Bill Chott – stopped in to deliver a package and asked Randall how William was doing because he hadn’t seen him and was worried. He teared up when he heard the news that William he had died. Randall didn’t realize the two had gotten to know each other, but learned they had met during William’s morning walks.
“People don’t stop just to talk anymore, you know,” the mailman said. “We became friends. He always asked about my daughter.”
I sobbed, alone on my couch, because my mom had a mailman like that. She was often home alone in the afternoons, sitting in her wheelchair watching life through the windows that lined the living room.
On one of my visits home, my mom started telling me about her friend, Glen, who had confided some secrets to her. Who’s that? I asked.
“You know Glenn,” she said. “Our mailman. We’re friends.”
He had been delivering mail in our Anchorage neighborhood for years. Everyone knew him. He’d wave and smile when he walked up to the drop letters in the box next to the front door. Turns out one day, he popped in to say hi to my mom, and they struck up a friendship. From then on, he’d just let himself into the house and deliver the mail directly to her. He must have been in a hurry to finish his route, but you’d never have known it. He stopped just to talk to her. They became friends.
Whenever I came to town, he knew everything that was going on with me, and what I’d been working on. He always asked about her daughters and son. He shared details of his life with her too. It made her happy when a card from me arrived, Glenn told me. He recognized my handwriting.
When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, Glenn’s visits lasted longer. He noticed when she wasn’t home, worried when he hadn’t seen her.
She died on a Sunday. I saw Glenn coming up to the house on Monday and went outside to tell him the news. But he already knew. He said he had been to the hospital the day before but arrived just after she’d left us. He hugged me tightly, and told me through tears he wished he could have seen her once more.
I don’t know my postal carrier’s name. He or she stretches an arm from the mail truck to slide bills and ads and the occasional letter into the slot on our locked box on the street. My dad still gets Christmas cards from Glenn, sent from his new home in a warmer southern climate, where he moved with his husband.
But I have no idea who delivers them.
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