Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dough Ga Nuts and Mail Carriers

Padre loves to take Grandchild to Daylight Donuts. All of us will accompany them to one of the stores, just to hear, 'K', say his version of the little treat; "Dough GA nuts."

When the moment when my sis can get him to a store, all of us scramble and descend upon Daylight Donuts like a Navy Seal Op. Padre is texting other easily amused relatives, verifying times with Sister and going over past visits with Kade to the "Dough Ga Nut" shop. Everything he does, is fabulous to us.

It was one of these ops that I was walking outside the other day, make-up bag in tow so as to not miss the boat, that I met our new mailman, 'Lou'.

I have put off introducing myself to him for some reason. Maybe because for years, we had such a unique carrier. Ralph delivered smoke laden letters later in the afternoon when I was younger, I'd avoid all contact with him, if possible.

In winter, like it is now. When the temp is at a decided 11 degrees, you have to dress for the elements. For Ralph, that consisted of his United States Post Office issued hat. A blue, tan and furry on the inside, hat that covered his ears in a way that made him look like a happy, stray mutt.

(Ralph on the Runway would have been more believable as a Postal Worker.)

Ralph was anything but happy it seemed, unless he laughed, then you realized he was putting on the disgruntled act. His laugh seemed to start in the deepest, inner recesses of his gut travel up his lanky body, through his tobacco laced esophagus out his mouth where it would ring out through the neighborhood, letting everyone know you had stopped to talk to him. Or he'd stopped to talk to you.

He also donned a handkerchief that looked like a vintage version of a confederate flag or something. I honestly never zeroed in on it to be honest. This he hung in front of his face like Shaun White's iconic hanky he wore as he tore down the slopes in Canada to win the gold in Snowboarding.

Ralph didn't have a lot of gold, and didn't wear the hanky for fashion purposes but I imagine he thought about this as he was parked at the top of the streets taking several, long drags on a cigarette before venturing down a lane. We figured he was up there looking through the Victoria Secret magazines while he was at it. But really he just watched out the front window of the little Post Truck.

Ralph's medal was in the pending retirement. I know because when I returned home to live with my parents, I started talking to him more.

His wife, died a few years back, and he'd occasionally mention this when I went out to collect the mail. We'd talk about the economy, he'd complain cause it was making it so he had to work longer in order to have enough to retire. By the judge of how many packs he smoked on his route, I figured he had his remaining days calculated into the retirement equation.

I didn't recall the month, or day that Ralph stopped. I saw a few sprightly, in shape figures deliver in his stead and figured he was on vacation or something because the toned legged carriers kept switching up.

Finally, I started to see the same, ordinary looking carrier come at an early hour. This took me off guard and caused me to inquire: "Did Ralph retire?"

"Yup." the kind man said. "Ralph's delivery days are finally over for him."

I don't even think I asked his name, til today, when we were in a real hurry to get to the Dough Ga Nut Shop.

The Carrier put mail in Neva's old mailbox across the lawn on the south side of our house. I waited with my cosmetics under my arm for the man to walk through the worn down path of snow that he and papergirls and boys make every winter.
(some customers wouldn 't let you walk across their lawn and complained, can you believe that? And of course The Post Register wouldn't let ya just huck the paper from the street as you rode your bike. I would have taken state for sure in shot put, had that been the case.)

Lou, pulled out our freshly sent mail, bills and catalogs and handed them to me. I asked his name, told him mine and apologized for not doing so before. "Guess I was sentimental about our old carrier who we had for a long time."


Yeah, ya know him?

Oh, yeah. He's retired, beard down to here."

He held his hand horizontal at his navel.

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