Today’s thunderstorm came a bit earlier than usual, around lunchtime, and it was particularly violent for a while. I looked out the front door—just to enjoy the spectacle, really—and saw (to my great dismay) my mailbox, which stands on the side of the road by the driveway entrance, on the ground, in the swail that holds the runoff from the rain.
Someone had vandalized it. While it’s possible someone took a bat to it, it’s more likely that someone hit it with their car.
This is the second time that’s happened. Directly across the street from the mailbox is a neighbor’s driveway. A year or so after I moved back from Vermont, the friendly neighbors who had lived there sold the house to some faceless investor. The first set of tenants were two young women who, shall we say, Liked To Party. The parties weren’t especially loud, but there were many young men in and out, and anytime I saw people emerge from the house, they were happy and usually drunk. One day my mailbox was smashed, and the tire marks in the grass pointed directly toward their driveway. Some inebriated fool backed out too far or too fast.
So I installed a nice new mailbox. Well, the mailbox itself wasn’t quite as nice as the old one, but it came with a nice sturdy metal post, which I had a handyman set in concrete.
This mailbox saw the young women go, and the house lie dormant for a good six months. Then came an older couple—he was a church deacon and a house painter, very nice fellow—and they stayed for a year and a half. When they moved, they left rather quickly, and I never knew why, or where they were going. There was another period of dormancy, and at last the current tenants moved in.
I don’t know if they have a very large family, or a very large group of friends, but there are frequently four cars in the driveway and one parked just off the street, with lots of people coming and going. Cordial when you say hello, but clearly not folks who are inviting friendship.
Last week there were a series of arguments. One woman in particular did a great deal of shouting, mainly from her driveway toward someone inside the house. She wasn’t locked out, and whoever she was arguing with never made an appearance, and after fifteen minutes or so she’d go back in, still shouting, and then all would be calm. This happened at least once a day for several days.
Then sometime between yesterday evening and today at noon, someone smashes the mailbox and breaks it off the metal post—and it lands directly in line with (you guessed it) the neighbor’s driveway. I’m guessing someone took off in a huff. I grumble and cast an evil eye in the direction of my neighbor’s house.
So this evening I head down to Wal-Mart to buy Yet Another Mailbox. After about fifteen minutes of shopping, I start feeling this tremendous sadness, and suddenly grief is washing over me. I start crying for no reason, right next to the frozen peas. Why here? Why now?
And then I remember: I haven’t been here since Mom died. I used to go there once or twice a week to get prescriptions for Mom and food for us both. After she died, there were no prescriptions to fill, so no need to travel all that way for groceries. The memory—the body memory, really—of being there, equipping myself there to take care of her, thinking about her there, calling her midway through the trip just to touch base . . . it just overwhelmed me.
I texted a friend about it. He replied, “Part of the reordering of life. It makes sense. Patterns change and the brain expects the old patterns.” I agree, but I think there’s something else afoot. A sudden flurry of blog posts after months of virtual solitude. (Re)connecting with grief after a long period of thinking I was getting along all right. Realizing I probably haven’t been all right. Maybe it’s a hopeful sign that stuff is beginning to move.
So tonight I have this to say:
Thank you for knocking down my mailbox. . . .