Having memorialized my late father, I must confess the dread, sorry truth that I kept from him as he lay on his deathbed. It was too horrible for him to face.
The dark secret is revealed at last: the door to their mailbox had come ever so slightly off its hinge, leaving the mail just barely exposed to the elements. When I walked down the long driveway and out the private road to the mailbox to collect Mom and Dad’s mail, I brushed a faint dusting of snow (or, sometimes — oh, god! — droplets of rain!) from the pile of envelopes and magazines before carrying them back to the house.
I never told Dad that the mail sometimes got damp. Knowing that would have been too great a strain on his mind.*
Shortly after Dad’s death, my brother-in-law J, a cheerful, practical fellow, rolled up his sleeves, yanked the old mailbox out of place, and screwed into place the shiny new mailbox from the hardware store! Yay!
Hey… yay, right?
Not, as it turns out, yay. At least, not according to my mother, whose disapproval of the new mailbox came out in sighs and gusts of faint dismay. The new mailbox, you see, was a bit larger than the old one, and it somehow violated the, I dunno, dimensional balance of the previous arrangement. And this was bad.
In my mother’s words, “Thank God your father’s dead. He would have hated to see that.”
My mother, whose words were in earnest, was understandably puzzled when sister Gaoo and I dissolved into (equally understandable) frantic hoots of laughter. For months after (and still occasionally, three years later), our conversations were laced with the phrase “Thank God your father’s dead!”
*And if you think I’m kidding about that, you never knew Dad, never saw him get agitated about a scratch on a tableleg, or coasterless glasses, or spots on a book jacket. A mailbox door hanging ajar, and his infuriating inability to do anything about it, would have made him wring his hands in futile worry.