Mendel Letters 9: Mendel’s Complaint

Hard copies of these typed letters were discovered in an old camp trunk in the basement storage facility of one of the few buildings that remain standing in this Brooklyn neighborhood. The building is quite decrepit and is scheduled for demolition. The letters were found in November 2048 by a teenager who believes they were written by his great-grandfather. The letters are addressed to Mendel, the letter writer’s father, who appears to have been dead for at least six years when his son, whose name we are unsure of, started to write him. The son appears very agitated in some of the letters. With permission from the family, we are publishing them on the date they were written, only 28 years later.

December 5, 2020

Dear Mendel,

It’s December now and the weather has gotten a little nastier. It makes it harder to go for walks in the park, which makes the COVID stay at home lock-down even more difficult. There is a funny story that pops into my head every time the weather changes. I don’t know if you remember it, but it always stays with me.

I worked with you in your Queens luncheonette on Saturdays starting when I was 14. At 5 AM in the morning we would walk to the IRT subway stop near our Bronx apartment. But the longer walk was from the BMT stop in Astoria to the store. All winter you would complain, “I can’t stand the cold. Summer is okay, I just can’t stand the cold.” In the summer I heard, “I can’t stand the heat. Winter is okay, I just can’t stand the heat.” Finally, one year I said, “You realize that all winter you complain about the cold and say you don’t mind the summer heat and all summer you complain about the heat and say you don’t mind the winter cold?”

You looked at me, paused for a few seconds, and said “Can’t a working man just complain?”

I can image if you were here now. With the COVID infections and deaths picking up and the promised vaccine month away, “Can’t a working man just complain?”

Your son