Although Ma died almost 20 years ago, I find myself thinking about her daily. There’s lots to think about since she was always happy, always solicitous of the people she met, and always making funny observations. What’s not to like?
What were they? Her best ones were on life and how life it’s properly lived. She once observed, for example, that whether you’re rich or poor, it’s good to have money. And she was right.
Mary Lou and I recently encountered a situation that Ma, the philosopher, would have appreciated. Having just returned from shopping one Friday afternoon, Mary Lou suggested that if I carried in the groceries, she’d walk to the corner and pick up our mail. Since she didn’t have her keys with her, she asked for mine and I handed them to her.
The mailbox has about 24 individual mailboxes in two columns, one box for each USPS customer. When the mailwoman shows up, she opens the back two doors (one for each column), loads each box with its mail, collects the outgoing mail, and locks the doors back up.
And while Mary Lou opened our box, collected the mail, and returned home, I carried in the bags and boxes. When she got home, I’d finished finding homes for our purchases and so joined her as we sorted through the bills, magazines, and advertisements she’d retrieved. That done, she left to put up the rest of groceries while I went off to pay bills. Indeed, that was what I was doing when she carried some frozen dinners to the freezer, and as she passed by, I asked her for my keys so I could run another errand.
“Sure,” she said and went off to look for them. She returned a few minutes later saying she couldn’t find them and would I help her look?
Long story told short, we turned the house upside down checking everywhere including between the sofa cushions. I even walked out to the mailbox to check inside our mailbox using her key. And I checked also around our garbage can since she might have dropped them there on her way back home.
That’s when Mary Lou suggested we abandon our anxiety producing activities, breathe deeply, and wait until Monday when we could stop by the post office. We’d see if she might have dropped her keys while picking up the mail and someone turned them in. This didn’t seem likely, but, hey, what else was there to do?
So bright and early Monday morning, I drove over to our post office and asked the clerk if anyone had turned in my keys. And he, in turn, pushed aside some papers revealing a small pile of keys -- some alone, others in clusters -- and held one up.
“Is this it?” he asked, setting it aside when I said ‘no’ and reached for another when I spotted mine.
“No,” I declared, “but the one with the fob has my key for opening my truck’s doors.”
And he handed them to me allowing one relieved postal customer to return home and share the news with his wife who smiled broadly at both being relieved of the guilt of losing my keys and once again having the ability to open our mailbox. We both sighed with relief.
My next thought was of Ma and what she’d have said if she’d been in our kitchen when I got back from the Post Office.
“Why is it,” she’d ask, “that you always find something in the last place you look?”
Hank Slotnick is a retired UND professor who, with his wife, winters in Pima, Ariz., and summers in Debs.