I see you never

There is a short story by Ray Bradbury–an underrated master of American literature–that I read long ago. In it, Mr. Ramirez, an illegal immigrant, and tenant of Mrs. O’Brian, is being taken away to be deported. He is a good man, and she likes him, but she is unable to help him in the face of the law. At the last moment, desperately, he cries out to her, “Oh, Mrs. O’Brian! I see you never! I see you never!” After he is gone, the woman starts to go on with her interrupted dinner, when she suddenly puts down her knife and fork, painfully struck by the realization that she will never see Mr. Ramirez again.

In winding up the details of my late mother’s estate there are large griefs and small ones. Each time I come back from her house I am spent from the turmoil of emotion. There are so many things to do: the paperwork, the bills, the wrapping, the packing, and the decisions about what remnants of my parents lives to keep and what to abandon. It is heavy work. I never liked the house itself, but the finality of each step of the parting beats on the walls of my heart.

The house will be sold tomorrow, so I was there yesterday to meet the movers. The mailman, whom I have known for decades, was on his way to deliver a package across the street, and he stopped to talk. He is a kind man, always smiling, and he delivered mail to me in my own small house when I lived in that town, as well as to my parents. I haven’t lived on his route for many years, but when we see each other we exchange pleasantries. He is, as a friend of mine likes to say, one of my life’s cast of characters. He doesn’t have a major part, but he has played in many small pleasant scenes, and his cheerful interactions have given me some of the happy little ordinary moments of everyday life.

Our conversation was light, and he enquired about the house. As we parted we shook hands for the first and only time, and I said to him something I don’t think I’ve ever said to anyone before: I will probably never see you again. I had to turn away quickly to hide my feelings.

The finality broke hard, and I cried all the way up to the house.

I don’t even know his name.

6 thoughts on “I see you never

  1. Just finishing your book. Good job! My husband and I actually have been researching a move to Washington Island after having enjoyed Door County as a vacation destination for over a decade. It has been a refreshing read. After living on a remote island in Alaska for a year, I think you really captured the spirit of island living. Good luck!

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  2. I am enjoying your first novel very much and look forward to more from you. As a resident of Door Co,(though a non native) I really appreciate your sense of humor and commentary about Illinois and city visitors, who we welcome with open arms, but cheer when the county goes all quiet. I can then get through the Pig without a traffic jam and enjoy my daily walks with my dog and never see a car. Your descriptions and attention to the small things, are wonderful.

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  3. My dad is getting on in years, and it is being discussed whether someone should live with him or whether he should be moved. Although I lived for many years in that house, I never liked it and I have strongly mixed emotions on the news that I will inherit it. As you so eloquently put it, waves of grief great and small wash over me and he isn’t even gone yet. I feel like I am being ghoulish, but I think I am rehearsing. I don’t want to get this wrong, this being there for him as the end approaches and all the rest that will come after. This post got me right between the eyes! You are a wonderful writer.

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    • Dear Melissa: Someone gave me advice that I am going pass along to you. In these critical years with your dad, as you are making decisions always stop and look forward. Someday will you regret the decision you are about to make? Or will you look back and feel glad that you did the little thing that gave him a little more comfort or a little more happiness. Those are the things that wont haunt you when he’s gone. Do that for him and for yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Beautifully said~ thank you. Right now he’s really pushing the world away but maybe I can coax him to accept some company. Thank you again. I was feeling kind of alone just now and there was your message, waiting for me.

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