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Mike the Mailman, there when we needed him most

Sometimes in life, when you most need it, and least expect it, a hero comes into your life. Many times we do not recognize them as heroes, we may not even know we need a hero, but when we look back we realize we could not have made it without them.

I write this down because there is so much controversy and commentary regarding the role of the post office in our every day life. Most of the rhetoric revolves around the upcoming election and the possibility of lost or late ballots leaving out the full picture of the many kindnesses done every day be these regular workers. I speak for them.

Once upon a time, in a small town in Massachusetts, there lived an elderly couple. He was a veteran of the Korean war and she was working part time as a nurse. The kids were grown, the house was empty and he spent his days adjusting to the reality of a major stroke he had suffered a few years before.

Things had fallen into a new routine, he could still mow the lawn on the riding mower, make great french fries and enjoy the Red Sox. Time went by with everything being OK, until it wasn’t.

Many, many doctor visits, X-rays, surgery, chemo and radiation treatments ushered in a new and grim set of challenges. He was brave and afraid and she was afraid and worn out. As part of new recovery process, a feeding tube was surgically implanted to aid in his recovery — of course it was only a temporary measure, until it wasn’t.

Enter the unknown hero. We were notified that the cans of liquid would be sent directly to our home via the post office. That was quite a relief until the mailman arrived with a month’s supply on a pallet that he was pushing up the driveway on a handcart. He looked at me and I looked at him and he asked if I would like him to wheel it into the garage for me. I thanked him, secretly thinking perhaps it would be better if he just backed the truck over me.

Well, I was sure we could get through two months, “Well, some people heal more quickly than others” became the reassuring mantra that we all tried to believe. Time went by, months and then two years, and then three. We no longer believed, but we all played the same tune.

The one thing that never changed was our mailman, Mike Krause. We rarely spoke. We both knew the circumstances were dire, but over the months and years, we had developed our own method of communication. Once a month, on delivery day, he would toot the horn and I would open the garage door and he would wheel in a month’s supply of cans. He would lift them all onto a pallet in my garage and I would thank him and he would wish me a good day.

There was never a month that went by that I was not thankful for this guardian angel masquerading as a mailman. He saw a need, and understood my limitations, and without a thought for the extra effort involved, he made it possible for me to continue to have my husband at home.

Time went by, four years past, and the inevitable happened. John left us, Mike the mailman came no more and I became a member of that organization that is both an honor and a sadness, a Gold Star widow.

In the past couple weeks, there has been endless news stories regarding the role of the postal service, the trustworthiness of the postal system and there seems to be an effort to create an aura of unreliability around both the system and the ability of its workers to carry out their usual duties.

There is even some evidence that this is an intentionally created narrative aimed at sowing distrust among those who vote by mail. Unfortunately, these decent, hard-working workers do not deserve to be denigrated for such a shabby purpose and most of all, they are relied upon for many purposes. They deliver our meds, our checks, our cards and letters, medical supplies and endless other necessities, but most of all, in so many cases, they are our lifeline.

They provide the kind of communication that in the old days was provided by the milkman, the bread man and the insurance man. They know us and we know them. I sold my home and bought a condo. Now our mail is delivered to a block of mailboxes in a lovely gazebo except for Marjorie, she lives on the second floor and no longer can walk to get her mail. Every day the truck stops here and our mailman gets out, runs up the stairs and gives her the mail.

There’s a couple reasons why I sat down to thank all who do so many things for others and are never mentioned. One, we should all be grateful and, two, I was going through an old box of papers the other night and I came across a familiar-looking Christmas card. It was to me from Mike the mailman. He wanted me to know how much he admired my husband’s courage and upbeat attitude and wanted me to know that John was an inspiration.

When I saw that card, I remembered how much we appreciated his kindness and what an inspiration he was.

Marcia J. Hill lives is a frequent visitor to Northampton. Mike Krause worked for the post office in Agawam, where Hill lived at the time.

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