25 April 2017

Laying Love Down in the Driveway

"What weird people.", I said as I slammed on my brakes. This crazy old man and woman were veering in and out of their driveway on bicycles. I waited, somewhat annoyed, for them to complete the action and be roadside but no such luck. Even with the multiple chances I had given, they stayed glued to their paved driveway. I was about 5 miles from being done with my work day. I didn't have time for this nonsense.
 I was on my favorite mail route, about five years ago that I first met Mr. & Mrs. P. Before I came to know who they were they seemed awful strange from the outside, and trust me, I shouldn't even judge! My first run in with them was brash and quick. The second time I ended up there was for a bit longer....
   My old blue mail jeep strikes many peoples interest. With her steering wheel on the opposite side and odometer tipping 250,000 miles she's of novel curiosity. Mr. P caught me one day while stuffing bicycles are us magazines in his mailbox. I wasn't fast enough to get away without the introductory conversation that becomes necessary when a mail customer flags you down. It's never easy to be a speed demon, like headquarters desires and to be your neighborhood Mr. Rogers like your customers deserve. I accepted defeat and put on my best "I love new people" face. I could tell by the bicycle incident that this guy was going to be a weird one.
      Mr. P was in his 80's and nothing like the conclusions I had jumped to. He and Mrs. P moved here to be alone in their latter years. Which was going fairly well until I came along. For being in a town where there are more bovines than people they lived a fairly secretive lifestyle. Besides their daily bike charades!
 Mrs. P was his true love and that was about all I knew of her. He was a coastguard, a mathematician, a mad scientist and a mechanic. He talked of philosophical beliefs and scolded me on my cold views of humanity.
"There's good people and there's bad people Sam. Don't ever let the bad guys win.", he'd say.
Instead of using my lead foot, I began to slow down in hopes that Mr. P would be outside to entertain me with a new story of living and learning. My young brain enjoyed the tales of travels these two had made since the 1950's.
The only thing that became apparent...besides how wrong I was to judge this couple by first impression, was how much he loved Mrs. P. I had actually wondered if maybe he was in the beginning stages of dementia with all his repetitive elaboration on how wonderful his wife is. I swear her rosy cheeks were some form of permanent blushing caused by sharing a life with this man.
She was a woman of few words and many smiles. Mr. P would visit with me whenever I could make an appearance. Some days though they'd both kindly wave me by. If they were both on their bikes and riding in their weird ritualistic circle in the driveway they were not to be disturbed. Not that I ever understood this, I always respected it. I also began to pull a little farther away from their mailbox so not to scare Mrs. P into thinking I was about to put her under my jeep tire.
 A couple years had passed. Old Blue and I were still delivering together but this day was a bit different. I'd been overheating for about an hour now. I knew my time before complete disaster was limited but I was down to my last 5 miles! Sure enough my radiator blew it's top at Mr. P's. No one was riding bike in the driveway today, which seemed strange because it was beautiful out. To my relief Mr. P came out to their garage when I rang the door bell. I noticed his bike in the garage on the ground. Mrs. P's was hung up in the rafters. For safer keeping I imagined.
Sure enough I was right. Paul confirmed it. For the time being though, he said I could take whatever stopleak brand radiator crap he had along with however many gallons of water I could fit into the back of Old Blue. Everything combined should be enough to get me up and down my last hill and back to the post office. Success! That's all I could ask for. While we were filling jugs from the garden hose that's when he told me. Mrs. P had died. It was so unexpected that I managed to maintain my composure and focus on the tasks at hand while he told me what happened.
     I blanked out bits and pieces though....it was much easier on the heart to focus on the water jugs. She had gotten sick since my last visit and I hadn't been back to deliver mail there in so long that I never even knew. Immense guilt washed over me. Not that we bonded much, but I loved Shirley indirectly because of how much Paul loved Shirley. I needed a sidelining topic. This was a conflicting time for me...I told Paul of my beginning stages into the abyss that is divorce. I currently despised life and any type of "investment" into another human being. What a waste. I waited for his disapproval. Without a tear in his eye or a frog in his throat he said,
 "There is no divorce in love. There's not a thought or action towards it. You cannot come close to dissolving someone that is your entire existence. You don't know what I speak of Sam because you obviously didn't have it, but do what you need to do and get it done because that is not the kind of love you live your life for. No ma'am. It's unfortunate that you didn't know this sooner and that children have been brought into it but thank your stars for the chance to get it right because if you get it right you will find someone that would literally die for you if they had to. I always thought that I'd go before Shirley. I had everything set up for her so that even though she'd have to carry on without me she could do so without any worry about who was going to take care of her or that she wouldn't have the means to get by. I took care of EVERYTHING to make sure she would be okay when the last thing I'd ever want to do is leave her and now in some sick joke life has taken her from me.
Do you know why we rode the bicycles Sam?? We'd ride here in the driveway because our plan of traveling the country after my retirement was halted by the risks of Shirley's declining condition. She'd always say we could go but it was never worth her health. So instead of biking the big roads we circled the driveway. We may not have seen all the sights the world had to offer but just seeing Shirley's bike wheel right behind mine was enough for me. She was enough for me. The world can have all of it's glory. The best time of my life was the love we laid down in this driveway. I am not a simple man Sam, but I can tell you I have found beauty in the simplest of things. Do not have sympathy for me for I know what true love is. I will hope that it finds you someday. Only then will you understand what it is."

We put 5 gallons of water in the back of my jeep. The stopleak in the radiator seemed to be holding. I tried to pay Paul $20 for all of his help and supplies....he wouldn't take a penny. He shook my hand and told me it was a delight as always, even in the darkness of both our situations.

I cried softly the remainder of my mail route. I actually didn't even realize it until I saw the dampening dots on the front of the farm magazine I was holding. Oddly enough I didn't know if the tears were for me, Shirley, Paul or something completely unrelated. I just know the realness of what I just drove out of shook me. I would never see Mr. P again.

He died shortly after I saw him. It was November of 2014. He plugged the exhaust to his car and let it run inside the garage with all the doors closed. He was an intelligent man and I imagine he made it as painless as possible. He had hung his bicycle up with Shirley's.
People called it an "unexpected suicide".
There was a request for no donations, no service. No goodbyes. Paul didn't believe that he was going to a pearly gate to be united with his long lost love in heaven but a world without Shirley in it was not a world he wanted to live in. Although any chance at seeing her again, through any means possible was worth whatever sin was in his way. Death was not going to stop him from trying. There is no divorce in real love and there's no way to dissolve it. There was more love in that driveway than there had ever been in my heart in 23 years. I did not cry for Paul the way I did for Shirley. I'd been holding on to this story for a couple years now. Maybe it's taken me that long to actually appreciate the depths of it. But when I passed their driveway today on the mail route my heart "pinged" and I realized  how much their example meant to me and that just maybe you needed to hear it because it could mean something to you too. This really happened and the people are real. The love even more so...


  1. Sam, Thank you for this touching story about, yes, my Mom and Dad. They were very private people who shared so much with the people who were in their lives. Thank you for this story - it means a great deal to me (their son)

    1. I'm honored to meet you, even just online. Your parents are one of a kind and will always have a special place in my heart. I hope I haven't offended you or your family or harmed anyone's feelings in any way. Their love was something rare. They taught me so much!
      If you're ever in the area feel free to reach out.
      We are rural...but we are friendly. :)