I am thinking about the Postman on the way home today.
See, years ago I worked at a used bookstore. And once a week, I'd venture further west than usual, to do my Wednesday shift at the Kitsilano branch. I'd play lots of cds to help get me through the long shifts there: Elvis (the early years of course), the "Amelie" soundtrack, jazz, and mix cds (remember those?).
One Wednesday morning I was playing "I Like Trains" as the Postman walked in. "Fred Eaglesmith fan?" he inquired, and a friendship was born. I started looking forward to 11am on Wednesday mornings, when he'd come by with our mail. Even though we'd only talk for a moment, there was a nice connection there. We'd talk music: mostly Fred Eaglesmith and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings.
It didn't hurt that the Postman was very handsome in a rugged way, handsome enough to make my heart beat a little faster when he came by the bookstore. There was nothing untoward; just that spark between people that sometimes happens, an unexplainable chemistry. A connection.
I had a bit of a crush on the Postman.
Once I left the bookstore to pursue music we bumped into each other maybe 3 times: I saw him (fittingly) at a Fred Eaglesmith concert with his beautiful wife, and on the street once when I was in Kits one morning and he was on his route. I 'friended' him on Facebook just for fun, and because we'd had that connection. The little I gleaned from his Facebook feed: that he was a proud family man; that he liked to travel, liked roots-y music, took a good photograph.
Two months ago I was in the middle of recording a song of mine when I decided it needed some bass and ran down the road to Long & McQuade to rent one. To my surprise, the Postman was there, talking to a friend. He grinned wide when he saw me. "It's my birthday today!" he said, so I gave him a congratulatory hug and we stood there chatting until I remembered why I was there and took my leave. It felt like a good omen, seeing him on a day when I was already so happy, able to tell him that I was making music and loving life. Later that day I posted the finished song on Facebook, and wished him a happy birthday. I got a sweet message from him thanking me and saying how nice it had been to run into me.
So I am thinking about the Postman today, as I walk home from rehearsal. I am in Saskatoon and I know he's from Saskatchewan; I wonder if he's seen my recent posts and knows I'm in his home province. I decide to check out his Facebook page when I get home, see what he's up to.
Something about him being honoured as a baseball coach, that's nice. Wait a minute, though: "What an incredibly fitting way to be remembered?"I scroll down the page, and disbelief turns to shock.
Six days after his 61st birthday, six days after I gave him a hug and he made my heart beat a little bit faster one more time, the Postman died of a sudden heart attack and I didn't know until I thought to look him up 2 months later.
This is not, obviously, meant to be the story of my grief. I hardly knew the Postman. His family and friends must still be reeling and my heart goes out to them. I shed a few tears tonight and then I went for a run in the soupy Saskatoon heat and thought about a few things.
About how we never know when our time is going to be up.
About how we can have a special connection with people, even when we don't know them well.
About the hard-driving, twangy, tender music of Fred Eaglesmith.
Here's to you, Postman Pat. I'm sad that you're gone.