Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day


       Good morning.  My name is Rebecca O'Donnell.  I have had the great good fortune of knowing my stepfather, Charlie Dodd, for the past twenty-six years, ever since he first met my mother.  It is an honor to speak about him today.  I’ve always considered him my second father.  I’d like to start off by reading a Cherokee poem, in deference to Charlie’s Cherokee blood. 
Do not stand at my grave and weep.  I am not there, I do not sleep.  I’m a thousand winds that blow, I’m the diamond glints on snow.  I’m the sunlight on a ripened grain, I am the gentle autumn rain.  When you awaken in the morning hush, I’m the swift, uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.  I am the stars that shine at night.  Do not stand at my grave and cry.  I am not there.  I did not die.
And here’s a note Charlie’s neighbor handed to my mom last night:  To work with him – to know him – to call Him Friend, My Friend, what a blessing.  I can still remember his kind smile and encouragement, how he cared for others, his example in living right – this I will keep and cherish forever.
The Sunday before he died, Mom and Charlie went out to eat after church.  He was so happy, sitting there eating his favorite pork dinner with his favorite lady, and they talked for a long time.  He said,  “You know, we’re all sinners.  Only one of us was pure enough to pay the price for our sins.  Only one.  His Son Jesus paid the price for all of us, and we should live our lives to show we are worth it.”  Charlie lived those words every day of his life.  So many people got to see him unexpectedly that last week, from chance meetings in the super market to unannounced visits.  It was almost as if God was giving us all one last treat before taking him home for good. 
Now, a eulogy is supposed to be a tribute to the life of those who’ve passed, a synopsis of things remembered.  So, I thought I’d begin at the beginning and share what I know about this precious man.  Charlie was born on June 14, 1922.  He first showed his incredible survival instinct when he was only a toddler, fending off a rabid dog which had been terrorizing the livestock in the area.  When the dog attacked him, little Charlie wrapped his legs around it like a wrestler, grabbed its ears, and forced its head down to the ground.  It bit both him and his dad when Charles senior came to the rescue.  After the dog’s disease was proven, they drove into Springfield to the doctor’s office.  Charlie regarded this as a treat (before the shots, anyway), because he saw his very first streetlight from the doctor’s fifth floor window.  He stood on the window ledge and watched the colors change, certain that if he didn’t blink, he’d catch that quick little magic man who was running up there and switching those lights from green to yellow to red.  Charlie thought the man was hiding behind a truck parked at the curb.  He began baking at a young age, that is, when he couldn’t charm his mom into making the biscuits for him; being worn out by farm chores was the most popular excuse.  But his generosity was already starting to show itself.  He was visiting his grandmother every Sunday to do her laundry by the time he was a teenager.  He took care of his wild and wooly Grandpa Fuzz, and bought root beers for friends and strangers alike if he had an extra nickel, which was rare.  He began dating Florence “Babe” Spain fresh out of high school, when he got a job at Krogers and Babe attended stenography classes at Brown’s Business college.  On Friday nights, Bud and Babe double dated with his pal Tuffy and his girl, driving around reading Burma Shave signs and eating at the Steak & Shake.  When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Bud and Tuffy joked about how soon they’d enlist and win the war.  Bud quit his job at Krogers soon after the fall of Corregidor and the Bataan death march, but his mother convinced him to wait a few months before enlisting.  Popular expectations at the time were that the war would only last six months now that America was involved.  By early 1942, Bud realized the truth, got the afternoon off from his state job planting trees around Lake Springfield, and went to the post office, where the Marine recruiting station was.  Always sensitive about his height, he’d been intrigued by the Marine Corps recruiting poster which read, “After All, Only 100,000 get to be Marines.”  He liked the idea of elitism, and wanted to win a secret bet with his buddies.  Since Marine requirements were at least 5’8” tall and 165 pounds in weight, his friends bet him ten dollars that he wouldn’t even have the guts to go and try to enlist.  After the recruiting sergeant measured, weighed, and scribbled on a pad, Bud was told to show up a week later at the Springfield train station, where the train would take him into Chicaco for the full physical.  Stunned, Bud asked, “But, ain’t I under height?  Ain’t I underweight?”  The sergeant stopped scribbling, looked up with a slow grin and said, “Didn’t you know?  We waived those requirements two weeks ago because of the war.”  Bud swallowed his fear, ate a bunch of bananas to gain weight for the physical, and was bundled off to San Diego before he could blink twice.  He got one trip home to visit his family and marry his sweetheart, then it was duration plus six months, the tour of duty he’d signed up for.  Deep in the Pacific war, Bud became part of the Third Marine Division and fought on Bougainville, Guam, and Iwo Jima.  While there, he suffered through dysentery, intestinal malaria, dengue “bone breaker” fever, grenade shrapnel, torn chest ligaments, skin lesions, fungus and a parade of insect problems.  He was shot twice by friendly fire, saved the lives of countless buddies, loved Boogie Woogie and polkas, stole an entire truck of army beer, risked his life to get twenty canteens of coffee for his platoon, and crawled out of his foxhole to pull a wounded man to safety during a mortar barrage.  He became squad leader on Guam, and fiercely protected his team.  They loved him as much as he loved them.  A con man refused to share a can of peanuts within the squad, and Charlie short-sheeted his bunk, filling it with crumbled saltines that stuck in the thick humid heat.  A non-commissioned officer called Bud’s squad a bunch of pantywaists, and Bud got in a fight with him.  Unfortunately, the non-com was a pro wrestler back in the states.  Bud woke up in the hospital just in time to ship out to Iwo Jima, where he saw the famous flag raising and took part in the bloodiest battle in Marine Corps history.  After the war ended, Bud traveled home by ship, cattle car, and open truck in the winter, where he saw Babe for the first time in two years and toasted in the New Year, 1946.  He got his old job back working for the state, found he could no longer bear closed spaces or talk of war, and swore he would never have a job indoors again. 
      The time between 1946 and when I met him in 1979 is known far better by most of the people here than by me.  I heard him speak of his days on the railroad, when he met his most beloved best friend Jim Wilkins, how he qualified on his postal exam, happy to have a job outdoors for always now.  His wife Florence died tragically on New Year’s eve, and some years later, friends set him up on a blind date with my mom.  I first set eyes on him as he pulled up in our drive, and liked the looks of him right away.  The twinkle in the eye, the glee and orneriness, the gentleness, generosity, and thoughtfulness of Charlie Dodd.  Anybody who’s ever known him know just what I’m talking about.  The great goodness of the man is legend.  For example, when he got money as a gift at Christmas, he’d tuck it in his pocket to give to someone less fortunate, stranger or friend.  He fed sparrows and starlings when other people fed cardinals and robins, insisting that God had made them all and they all had to eat, pretty or not.  Not blessed with children of his own, he became father, uncle and grandfather to every child he knew, including my own.  He loved my mother with all his heart, as she loved him, and they had such fun together.   He had that delightful, skewed humor, like the time he went over to Mom’s house while she was at work and laboriously wove toilet paper from the bathroom roll through the rungs of Mom’s kitchen chairs, wrapped it around the garage door knob, drew a happy face on it, and left it all for her to find when she got home.  Or the time Mom’s neighbor caught him, only a few years ago, at the tip top of the antenna on Mom’s roof, painting it.  When the neighbor yelled for him to get down from there, Charlie just grinned and said, “I noticed yours needed painting, too.  Want me to do it?”  She forbid him from touching her roof and yelled for him to come down before he broke his neck.  A few days later, she came home to find her antenna painted.  This last Wednesday, while I was cleaning out his house, I found a can of peanut brittle in a drawer.  When I opened it, three giant cloth worms flew out.  I looked heavenward, my head covered with worms, and said, “Good one, Charles.”  And he was always there to lend a hand.  He fixed countless plumbing, laid miles of electrical wire, hammered and sawed, mowed and weeded, fed and cleaned, prayed and laid to rest scores of loved ones.  Staff at the hospital thought he was a pastor, he tended to the sick so often.  No one could believe he was doing it just to be kind.  But that was the core of Charlie Dodd.  He always did it just to be kind.  He never asked for anything, and he hated suffering.  It was as simple, and as beautiful as that.  A few years ago, he was at a Marine Corps reunion, when a stranger came to his table while he was in the bathroom.  The stranger asked if anyone there knew who carried his uncle down the hill on Guam in 1944.  His uncle had been sliced open by a samurai sword, and some unknown Marine from third squad had carried him a mile downhill to the hospital tent.  The stranger had been trying to locate this hero for years.  As Charlie returned to the table, his friends asked, “Hey, Dodd, didn’t you carry Smith down to the med tent after that big banzai charge?”  Charlie said, “Yeah.”  The stranger threw his arms around him and burst into tears.  It had been Charlie.  Of course it had been Charlie.  Whether it’s Texas cake therapy, pecan pie and apple cake comfort, Wednesday meetings, polka dances or roof repair, Charlie has been in the business of saving people his whole life.  He was, and is, a prince among men.  Charles Fredrick Dodd was the greatest man I have ever met.  I have little doubt that he will remain so until I die.  There will never be another one like him, and from the depths of my soul, Charlie, I love you and I always will.  You will be missed.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Snaggle Tooth

I've had a bit of a memorable Memorial Day weekend so far.  I was at work Thursday, toward the end of my shift, when I bit into a piece of bread and snapped my tooth right off.  No pain, no hint of a problem other than that particular tooth's usual grey color looking more grey than usual.  It's been that color since I was a teenager.  Way back when, when the orthodontist yanked my old-fashioned steel torture hoop braces off, that was the tooth that had a little tube on the side of it for my headgear to fit into.  The entire bicuspid was steel grey.  I'd gaped in the mirror, horrified, but the orthodontist had just shrugged.  "That happens sometimes.  You're going to lose that tooth."  Thirty years later, it snapped off on the soft crust of a roll.  I guess I can't complain.

I walked to the convenient dentist's office across the street, where a co-worker suggested I go.  Thankfully they were still open.  I showed the receptionist my snaggle-toothed grin and she went in the back to tell the dentist.  He agreed to see me.  He poked and prodded, crammed some temporary white medicinal something into the gap and told me to come in the next morning at 8:30am for a root canal.  Leery of gruesome tales of smoking drills and excruciating pain, I nonetheless showed up the following day.  The dentist, a kindly man with a gentle voice, made light conversation while both his hands and spinning metal tools were in my mouth.  The conversation was somewhat one-sided although I gaggled enthusiastically.  There was no pain at all; the nerve had been dead for years.  He cleaned out all the mess, yanked on the jagged remainder of the tooth, and declared there was enough there for a cap.  He sprayed water, blew air, and spackled the hole.  I shook his hand, gave him one of my comic flyers for FREAK, slapped some money down and ran out the door at 9:50.  At 9:59, I clocked in at work and began to open the store.

There was a bit of flubby lip going on for the first hour, but by the time guests began to arrive, my speech was almost normal.  Conscious of the gap in my smile, grins were not quite as ear-to-ear as they usually were, and one of my buddies asked if I was sad; he didn't normally see me so subdued.  I finished my shift and went home to read a pile of comic books.  I'd bought a gorgeous hardback of famous speeches that changed history but Conan and Elfquest were calling me at that moment. 

Probing the spackle with my tongue, I gummed some cottage cheese and reminisced about tooth memories from my past.  When my adult teeth first came in, there were far too many, which were far too large, for my small palate to handle.  Some stuck straight out, some hid behind others, and one molar grew straight across the roof of my mouth.  It never even erupted.  I didn't know what it was; it never occurred to me that the roof of any body's mouth was anything other than convex.  When I was fitted for braces, they pulled five teeth, including the roof monster.  I asked my dad to drill holes in them for a necklace, which I wore to the orthodontist's.  He took a picture and put it up on the office bulletin board. 

I had a real fondness for monster movies.  Still love them, but then again, I love almost all genres of film.  I made vampire fangs for myself from the white plastic on milk jugs, securing them to my gums with my dad's false teeth glue.  Wore them to school in junior high and got in trouble. 

When my son Leland's adult teeth come in, they were even worse than mine had been.  His two front teeth looked like a pair of running legs; one straight out, one straight in.  They pulled nine teeth for his braces and he wore them for over four years.  I have never seen him in person without his braces; they were removed when he was a senior in high school, after I'd sent him to live with his dad.  Rhianna's teeth were always perfectly straight, as if she'd already worn braces, but they were natural.

My dad had terrible teeth.  A typical side effect of the Depression's poor diet and worse dental hygiene, he went into the dentist for only four extractions when I was five or six years old, but woke up without a tooth in his head.  Mom says she could hear him cussing and screaming from the waiting room.  They screwed up his false teeth and he had to gum raw hamburgers for weeks.  It was Christmastime.  He took me shopping for Mom's present at Sears.  A vain man, very conscious of his extreme good looks, Dad kept a sober closed mouth when we were riding the elevator.  It was full of holiday shoppers.  The evil imp got ahold of me, and in that crammed to capacity elevator, I looked up at my scary father and said, "Smile, Daddy."  He glared for silence but I just grinned and repeated the words.  He yanked me out on the next floor and snarled a warning, but I was way too delighted to have gotten to him to be scared.  That, and everybody in the elevator had been snickering by the time we flew out of there.  It became a favorite story of his about me.

Let's hope the rest of the Memorial Day weekend is uneventful.  I go in Tuesday to finish the root canal.  Have a great weekend, eat lots of hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill for me, or potato salad and hummus if that's your bent, and remember all the heroes we celebrate this day off for.  Take care.

Love, R

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

This Ain't a Story about Dorothy

Since the weekend, like the rest of America and a lot of the world, I've been watching the stories unfold from the awful tornadoes in Missouri and the rest of the Twister Belt.  My heart goes out to all those brave people.  I'm awed by their almost collective optimism and courage in the face of losing so much in just the blink of an eye.

I grew up in Illinois and used to watch tornadoes chew their way across the cornfields behind the house.  No twister touched down in Briggsville for over fifty years until just a few weeks before I left to come back to New York.  An F3 hopped through the town, miraculously killing no one but yanking a Casey's gas station up off its foundations and blending it to scrap in midair.  An antique store, many houses and farm equipment  were thrown about like so many Tonka toys.  My mom's house was undamaged, but I'd had to crawl under fallen branches to get out the back door.  Her yard extends to the barbecue pit with acres of cornfield just behind it.  The corn, ten feet tall by this time, was all bent sideways from the wind.  I thought we'd dodged the bullet, that it hadn't passed too closely, until I stood up on the barbecue pit to survey the field.  Then I gasped.  There were only two rows of corn left, directly behind the pit.  Then there was no corn anywhere.  The tornado had taken the entire gigantic field.  Not even stalks were anywhere.  It was just dirt with a grim confetti of leaves and tassel. 

On the news regarding the Joplin tornado, they described multiple funnels.  I'd been driving back to Briggsville when our big one hit, through the most blinding rain I'd ever experienced.  Half a mile before the Briggsville exit, the rain stopped, like somebody flipping a switch.  And I saw it.  It was so big, my mind couldn't wrap around what it was at first.  I saw the multiple funnels and the sheer wedge-shaped mass of the thing directly in front of me, but I couldn't grasp what it was.  I said aloud, "Is that trying to form tornadoes?" not realizing the whole horizon stretching mass was the tornado.  Two motorcyclists ahead of me were yanked off their bikes and thrown.  The local Walmart was destroyed but all the customers and staff saved by a quick-thinking manager who got them into the giant walk-in refrigerator, over two hundred people in all.  Oak trees that lined the boulevard downtown had their tops snapped off like dandelion heads, and cars were sucked up and found a mile away.  That tornado was by far the largest and most terrifying one I'd ever seen with my own eyes.  The one in Joplin was far bigger.  Our Big Girl, as the locals call it now, hopped.  That's what saved lives.  The Joplin one simply stayed on the ground and devoured everything. 

The thing I want to write about is the miracle of all those people in Joplin and their optimism. From the lady searching for her mother's doll collection, scattered throughout the debris, to the mother searching for her missing son, to the National Guardsman who took refuge in a bathtub, grabbing the faucet to prevent the twister from pulling him to his death; they are all symbols of everything good in the human race.  We have our Wall Street greed pigs and our Libyan scumballs, our sicko drug lords and our repulsive lobbyists, but we also have the people of Joplin, Missouri.  We have our Nelson Mandelas and Mother Theresas, our Harvey Milks and our Angelina Jolies, our charity groups and self-help supporters, our brave military and self-sacrificing, though rare, good politicians.  They are the pearls beyond price we all strive to emulate.  Given any past, our memories can make or break us.  They can become a soul destroying gravity that pins us to the ground or they can be experience that lifts us higher than we ever dreamt we could go.  It's all up to us, what we do with the cards we're dealt.  I've been both pinned to the ground and lifted high in my time.  You don't have to remain one or the other just because that's where you are now.  As they say, If Life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  And if Life gives you a steaming shitpile of misery, turn it, seed it, and grow a garden.  You can do it.  Roses are lovely this time of year.  Even something thorny can be beautiful.

Love, R

Monday, May 23, 2011


I was channel surfing today and chanced upon a "surprise party" for Oprah Winfrey.  Her show is winding down after twenty-five years.  As the stage became filled with the famous and the never heard of, I sat and listened as they all thanked Oprah for everything she had done to help change their lives for the better.  And I began to wonder at it all.  Each commercial break was sponsored by large corporate giants falling over themselves to grab a piece of the pie, patting themselves on the back as they waxed rhapsodic over how they too had "partnered with Oprah" to help make the world a better place.  Even tissues got into the act, showing how they'd put a specially packaged box of Kleenex under each seat in the enormous auditorium to help with the floods of tears from every set of eyeballs in the building.  My own t-shirt collar was soaked by the time the show was over, so I understood the sentiment.  Everyone was singing, dancing and smiling hugely, and again I wondered at it all. 

My mind started tripping over the decades of stories about Oprah, the cruel and witty, sarcastic and admiring, fearful and envious, thankful and adoring.  All over this one woman.  One person.  A girl from a dirt poor train wreck of a childhood who learned to grin in front of the camera, now a fabulously wealthy celebrity with the Midas touch.  Many celebrities have come and gone; talk show hosts who gained a cult following and burned out quickly.  What was it about this woman that touched so many?  What is it about Oprah that inspires such reverence?

There are a lot of characters who are watched religiously.  Some are good-hearted and witty, which endears them to us.  There are the silly vapid ones, who spout silly catch phrases and make us chuckle.  They have a fleeting spot in our hearts for their ability to amuse, even if it's blatantly involuntary.  There are the desperate for attention ones, who think only their beauty, sexual appeal or shocking personalities have value.  They show us their breasts and six pack abs, they do outrageous things so that we'll look and keep on looking.  They're like candy.  We watch them for just what they give us: sweet empty calories. 

Oprah stepped into this world of commercials and fashion and the latest gossip, a cute African American woman with an infectious personality and maybe a few seasons of glitter before the audience moved on to fresh meat.  I think that was the general opinion at first; here was something new, perhaps to show studio progression and nothing else.  But this woman had something inside of her that she recognized.  She knew that she could reach millions with this venue of talk show host.  She had experienced pain, loss, abuse, addicts, massive insecurity and self loathing.  Instead of allowing awful memories to keep her down, she bent them to her own will.  Jacob and the Angel, wrestling until dawn.  Her past had made her empathic even as it tried to pin her to the ground.  She understood pain and suffering because she'd experienced it herself.  She found the courage to share that pain with the world and the world nodded, teary-eyed.  It understood her right back.  Oprah became a symbol of how much one person can make a difference to the whole world.  She showed us and will no doubt continue to show us how good it feels to help others.  How important it all is to help every day, even if it's just a smile at a passing stranger.  How, when kindness becomes big enough, everybody jumps on board, even corporate giants.  Their bottom line reasoning is unimportant compared to the massive good they can do.   

We insecurity addicts have a hard time volunteering for anything.  It's not because we're assholes or uncaring, at least not usually.  It's because we think we'll suck at it.  As a teenager, I remember not volunteering, ever, to help our church in its own little Habitats for Humanity projects.  I wanted to help desperately, but was terrified I'd nail something incorrectly and a roof would cave in on a family.  Some baby in a crib would get squished because I hadn't placed a shingle properly.  I actually had nightmares about it.  That, and the terror of being seen as uncool because I was too stupid to know how to swing a hammer.  So I did nothing.  Fear and insecurity simply paralyzed me.  

Oprah Winfrey swung that hammer with a vengeance.  Through her openness, she has inspired millions, literally millions of people to look around, see what they can do, find the goodness inside themselves and the world around them.  We all know what a harsh place the world is.  We've all experienced tragedy and felt the sting of hopelessness, where cynicism and bitterness have washed our sight with sepia and slate grey.  Oprah brought a little color into our weary cynical world, a color that expanded and expanded until it was a rainbow with a pot of gold at the end.  I know she'll never stop painting her canvas of brilliant hues and golden optimism and I thank her, from the bottom of my heart, for turning her own dung heap of memory into such a magnificent garden.  Good luck, Oprah Winfrey.  Thank you for showing us that anything is possible.  Even an open, giving heart.

Love, R

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Proof of Love

I was digging around through my desk drawer, cussing a blue streak at my utter lack of organization as I sorted through piles of post-it notes, envelopes and loose paper, when I came across this little poem I wrote while my teenage son was in rehab.  I wrote it after he overdosed and almost died.  My group leader at Daytop Rehab had already lost his own son to heroin, and I'd become obsessed with the very real possibility of my own kid dying.  He'd already come very close.  So I wrote it out of me, being a firm believer in Woody Allen's line "I don't get angry.  I grow a tumor instead."  This is my way of preventing a tumor!

Proof of Love
Rebecca O'Donnell

What sad remembrance
Clouds my soul
When I think of my son?
Me, a split-pea mentality
Silly and smiling
A pod full of good memories
Hiding the truth from myself
Just a vacant vegetable
Of ridiculous rhyme
He, lost and alone,
Ate himself with rocks
And cactus and hydro
A child needs proof of love
All I offered was empty sockets
Limbs, womb, seed now gone forever
Torn away by its own misery
And self indulgence
Without my boy, all is grey
Summer has gone
And winter holds sway

We all have these dark and terrible moments.  When you're being torn apart by your own shit storm, find some way to purge the misery before you start beating yourself or cutting, something I also did.  Remember Annette Bening in American Beauty, when she slaps herself?  That was me.  Art is a great release.  Whether you can draw or write well or not, art is still a great way to get it out before it consumes you.  Writing, drawing, sculpting, mechanics, cooking, gardening; anything can be an art.  Lose yourself in creating something.  It's like antiseptic and a bandage on a cut.  Create and heal when you're suffering, my friends.  Create and begin to heal.

Love, R

Monday, May 16, 2011

Brazen Bunnies and Badass Birdies

My last post was premature; as soon as I finished typing it, my computer went nuts.  I hauled it into the shop and have only just gotten it back, speedy and now, hopefully, digi-crab free.  Perfect timing to tell you about my bizarre creature morning of yesterday.

Remember the sparrow that decided to fly onto my head last summer and sit there for a few minutes?  Singing?  This isn't quite so dramatic but still worthy of being relegated to the "weirdo animal stories" category.  Once again, I was walking into work.  It was morning and the sky was doing that hissing sound, the kind when it can't make up its mind if it wants to rain or not.  I love moody weather, and was grinning up at the sky and stumbling a bit while simultaneously reading a text on my phone. 

I glanced ahead and saw a rabbit sitting, bold as brass, in the middle of the sidewalk.  It was about ten feet away from me.  I stopped, enchanted, waiting for the usual low-earred panic and dash that usually comes with such an encounter.  Instead, he just sat there, seemingly unconcerned, and stared at me with big bunny eyes.  He wasn't crouched, or tense, or nervous in any way.  That made me nervous; I remembered being chased by a crazy raccoon years ago and didn't want to be attacked by some vorpal bunny with rabies.  But he wasn't foaming or twitching or acting sick.  He even started grooming his fur, exactly as if there wasn't a six foot tall human right in front of him.  I kept up a gentle stream of cooing, admiring his lovely coat and handsome ears, and he paused occasionally to look at me, then kept primping.  Finally, I glanced at my watch and said, "Sorry, Bunny Bunny, but I've got to get to work."  I stepped sideways onto the street so as not to scare him, but he remained laid back and fur vain.  Grinning, I passed by and continued on my way.

Two or three blocks later, I noticed something in the middle of the road.  It was still early so there weren't any cars around, and I squinted, trying to see if the tiny lump was what I thought it was.  A few steps closer and I was sure.  A robin sat almost smack dab in the middle of the road, settled down as if nesting.  It didn't hop away or appear nervous at the sight of me, and I knew something was wrong.  Robins generally gork and skitter when a human approaches.  I talked softly, recognizing that it was not a fledgling but still young.  His feathers were clean, eyes clear and blinking, but he wasn't standing.  He wasn't listing either; just looked like he was nesting.  I bent down and petted his back.  He still didn't cringe away.

I've seen plenty of stunned birds in my time.  I've often sat in the backyard with a handful of feathery fluff; dumb ass birds that fly into the patio window and knock themselves out.  They sit just like that for a time, then fly off.  I've even seen robins, especially at this time of year, when the "pootie juices are flowing" as Charles the Man used to say, knock themselves cold diving at a car side mirror.  Maybe this little moron had done something like that.  He didn't look sick but there was definitely something wrong.  I bent and gently picked him up, heartened by his immediate shrieking and struggling.  Well, that's a good sign.  I straightened up and got dive-bombed by his mate or mom or whoever, cussing a blue streak at this big human with their darlin in its hand.  That was an even better sign.  I carried the pissed off bird to a neighboring pine and set it in a "V" in the branches, where it could be balanced and not fall off too easily.  The attacking mate dove right in and glanced my head.  "I'm not hurting him!" I said, and backed away.  The injured robin immediately settled down and the mate hopped right over to him.  Good.  Best thing for him.

When I got to work, I scrubbed my hands vigorously, then dunked them in sanitizer.  Creepy crawlies from feathers are not my favorite thing, ever since my ex showed me microscopic photos of bird ickies.  Gross.  But I'd been there to prevent Mr. Robin from becoming street pancake, as he most assuredly would have if I'd left him.  When I walked home after work, he was gone.  No sign of feathers or tragedy, just a splat of bird shit on the trunk.

A good deed in a wicked world, and all that.  Walked home the rest of the way whistling.

Take care.

Love, R

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Digi-Crabs and Big Pink Croissants

I have not written on this blog for almost a month now.  Forgive me!  Circumstances conspired to prevent my tippy-typing for a number of reasons.  Firstly, my computer began acting strange, becoming veeerrryyyy sssslooowwwww and freezing up constantly.  After a thorough search by people far cleverer than me, I was told that I had a virus of some sort.  It took some time to fix, much to my frustration, but now seems to be working all right.  Secondly, I was once again chomped on by a vicious little spider, in almost exactly the same way as was described in my memoir Freak.  It crawled across my scalp, leaving a trail of bites or whatever, as I slept.  By the time I woke up, feeling it skittering across my forehead, the damage was done and I began to swell.  The eye was almost closed by the end of the day and blisters appeared around the same time.  I looked at myself in the mirror, peering cleanly with one eye and squinting with the squishy other, then walked into the living room where my roomie was lying on the couch.  I threw back my head and yelled, "Adrianne!!!" but since she'd never seen Rocky, the reference was lost.  So I was sick and feverish for another week, but am finally on the scabby mend at last.  I told people my face looked like a big pink croissant.

Mother's Day is coming up, the one holiday that still messes me up in regards to my son Leland.  I'm fine on his birthday, my birthday, all other holidays, but Mother's Day still has the power to turn me into a mess.  Last year I went into work and promptly passed out.  Literally passed out.  This year, I hope for better.  I feel stronger than I did so I think maybe it'll be all right.  We'll see.  One of the strange things about being a passionate nutball of an artist is the fact that I'm a passionate nutball of an artist.  I remember a story I read by, I think, Edna Saint Vincent Milay, where she stood on a dock when a ship was just about to leave for a long jaunt at sea.  The emotions of everybody there simply overwhelmed her and she passed out cold.  I have an affinity for that woman.

I'd be fine with Mother's Day if my son had contact with me, but I haven't even heard his voice for eight years now.  Still, like the counselors at his rehab told me, way back when, if his hatred of me is what he needs to stay clean, then let him hate me.  And so far, so good.  But Mother's Day is still hard.  I'm an optimist though.  Each year the holidays have had faded pain.  It'll be the same for Mom's Day eventually.  So let's hope I don't embarrass myself and have worried friends call the paramedics again.  That was an amazingly beautiful thing that came out of that emotional day last year: the overwhelming proof of good friends who care about me.  So wish me well, my friends.  I'm shoring up my courage and fortifying my emotions to face a day that is simply one out of 365, and a sacred day at that.  I keep thinking of the line from the movie The Crow: Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children.  It's a day to celebrate and cherish, whether your kid loves you or not.  My daughter Rhianna loves me and I bask in the glow of that.  And even Leland loves me, almost as much as he hates me.  I take comfort in that.  Most importantly, I take comfort in the fact that I'm very lucky in my friends and loved ones, and my beautiful daughter.  So good luck to you, my dear Leland.  I wish you well. 

I sent him a card a year or so ago that read simply: I still love you.  I'll be glad when you pull your head out of your ass.

Maybe that was a bit undiplomatic.

Take care!
Love, R