One of the tasks that has shifted as a result of my wife’s recent hospitalization is that it is now my “job” to pick up the mail. For most of the time that we have lived in this house, Susan has been the one to stop by the mailbox and bring the mail to the house. It is a simple chore. It just takes a minute or two to stop on the way to the house. Our mailbox is also close enough for a short walk if one is in the mood. It is at the bottom of a hill, so the return walk is a bit more challenging, coming up the steep hill. My problem is that I keep forgetting that this is a daily task. I just don’t think about it as I drive towards the house. Sometimes I make a special trip to pick up the mail. Most of the time I let it go to the next day.

I remember when picking up the mail was something toward which I looked with anticipation. I used to love the possibility of a letter from my mother or another family member. I enjoyed the arrival of certain magazines. Even the bills we received by mail were a reminder that I was a member of a community. We’ve had several different ways of receiving our mail over the years. When we lived in Chicago there was a bank of mailboxes in the entryway of our apartment building. In North Dakota, we walked the blocks to the post office where we met our friends and neighbors on a similar errand. In Idaho the mail was delivered to our house and deposited through a slot in our front door.

These days, there is little excitement involved in getting the mail. Most social communication is done via email or telephone. Most of our bills are delivered electronically as well. What we do receive in the mail is a host of paper catalogues from businesses with whom we shop online. I don’t know why they think we need those paper catalogues. They usually go straight into the recycling bin. But since Susan was in the hospital, there has been a stead stream of cards and well wishes from friends around the world. Since we’ve been reluctant to receive too many visitors during this time of recovery, people have expressed their support by sending cards.

There is a good reason for me to pick up the mail every day, but I just can’t seem to remember that the task is mine. I’ve tried a variety of reminders, but I seem to have a mental block on that particular task. I’ve thought about making up a card with there word “Mail” and affixing it to the dashboard of my car, but I’m not all that practiced at looking at the dash. After all, I’ve driven more than 100,000 miles in that car with the “check engine” light on. I’m pretty good at ignoring obvious warnings.

I guess that one advantage of forgetting the mail is that I allow two days worth of mail to build up. that way there are more cards to look at on the days I do remember. Considering my track record, I should get into a routine about picking up the mail just at the time when Susan is feeling good enough to resume that chore. Then she’ll go to pick up the mail only to discover an empty box because I picked it up by force of habit.

One small lesson from this particular season of our lives is that it is a good thing to have our routines shaken up. It is easy to fall into ruts and keep doing things the same way and in the same order as we’ve been doing them for years and years. There are all kinds of things in my life that i do without giving it much thought. Sometimes taking time to think about it gives a new meaning to a task. And, it seems, there is always a better way to do any task.

One of the new routines at our house about which I have been disciplined and have not been forgetting is that we have quite a medication routine. I’ve been taking medications for several years now, but the routine is quite simple. I take one pill at bedtime and the others upon rising. Susan’s routine, however, is much more complex. She has some medicines that she takes only once a day, and some need to be taken in the morning while others need to be taken in the evening. Then there are pills that need to be taken at 12-hour intervals and, in addition there are ones that need to be taken at 8-hour intervals. Some of her medications require that we check her blood pressure before administering the medicine. That means that we are taking her blood pressure four times a day at present. Often her blood pressure is a bit low, so she will do a few exercises to raise it, meaning that we add another check of her pressure. In order to keep track of all of this and to keep the blood pressure recordings, I’ve drawn up sheets with charts that we fill out with pressures and checks each day. One page per day. Susan can take her own blood pressure and administer her own medicines, but there are enough of them that two sets of eyes and two people checking to make sure we’re giving the right pill at the right time is a good practice. So we’ve made a routine of it. 5 am, 9 am, 1 pm and 9 pm are medicine times. It also means that most days I make an extra trip home in the middle of the day to check and make sure medicines are given properly. That gives me an additional trip by the mailbox to remember to pick up the mail, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference. I guess I’m glad that medicine is more important to me than mail. Were it the other way around, it might be disastrous.

No worries. Susan has a medical procedure tomorrow that is sure to result in a change of medications. At a minimum there will be new forms and a new routine. That should keep me on my toes for now.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!