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Toots and her bird

I laid on the floor with my new furry child.

The one that won my heart at a dirty shelter. On, of all days, the 6th anniversary of my fathers death.

The one that wandered the isles of the pet store with me as I searched for tempting chew toys. Toy after toy was refused. This bone was no good, nor that, or this next one. On to the next isle... maybe a stuffed toy. Try this ring shaped toy. No... No good either. She just chewed the tag. I stood in the isle looking at all the store had to offer, trying to put myself in the mind of a dog... ‘What would I want if I were a puppy?’ Frank searched the other isles. Toots stayed with me. I turned to check if she was okay, only to see that she had picked a toy of her own. ‘Oh, good!’ I thought. ‘That worked well.’ I bent to see what she had. To my surprise, or maybe not, it was a bird!

Now for the sake of all of you that need to be brought up to speed, I am going to veer off for a moment.

When my dad was in the hospital we had a conversation. It was the conversation you never look forward to, but are glad that you had. We knew the end was coming, at least the end as we know it. I wanted to be sure we didn’t loose ‘touch.’

Dad had a great love of nature. We always had together moments sharing Lawson Deli breakfasts and coffee at Bay Park ...watching the flocks of geese on the water. Even watching them at my home, which at the time was on the water, only there it was flocks of Brant. We would listen to the murmur and purr the flock was conducting like an orchestra of sorts. It was peaceful, comforting and allowed us to just quietly be.

I said ‘Dad? Remember how we used to watch the birds?’ He nodded. ‘I will always know you are with me when I see the birds fly.’ He smiled and nodded securely... this was fitting and a perfect sign for both of us.

After dad was gone, I sat at my kitchen table with my blinds wide open. Try as I might, I could not find one bird. I was so mad... and so sad. How could this be? There are always birds. ‘You said you would be with me. Where are you!?’ Clearly I was having a moment. I sat there crying, waiting for the flocks to appear... it wasn’t happening.

Then a ‘funny’ thing happened. This little bird - one lone little bird - flew straight for me as I sat at my table. I flinched, for a moment thinking I was going to get hit. Only it wasn’t me that got hit, it was the window. The little bird dropped to the ground in an instant. In the same instant I was outside trying to revive this poor creature. There I was in my pajamas and pink fuzzy slippers, holding this bird now crying and laughing. Thank goodness it was early, for the funny farm would have surely been put on notice. I could see so clearly my father laughing his demented laugh. Dad and his odd humor, there were many times that he was the only one that understood it. But this time, I got it. If the flock was there I wouldn’t have known if it was him or just coincidence. This was no coincidence.

Frank and the kids were still sleeping. I couldn’t share this with them now. But James would be awake... My brother-in-law, more like brother, would surely offer some mental stability right now. James has been a part of our family forever. The relationship started when his Mom had trouble getting him to go to school. Dad was summoned as the morning taxi driver/probation officer. Every day we would take him to school. Then as the relationship grew, it merged into taking him on our family trips. Soon our trips were not complete unless James was with us. There are many wonderful memories that I will surely chronicle at a later date. But for now it’s about this phone call. The phone call that started it all. I knew he would be up... he’s like me in that respect - always up early and he would have his cell phone. ‘James! Your not going to believe this!’ I told him what just happened. He was a bit more surprised than I was use to. You see James is the guys guy. The guy that chops the heads off of chickens with Chickie in PA. The guy that broke - with his bare hands - the neck of the deer that mistakenly ran in front of his truck. There was nothing around to put the poor animal out of her misery. So after he sat on the side of the road hugging the wounded animal - one by the way he is allergic to - he did the only merciful thing he could think of. Not that he didn’t shed a tear - for I know otherwise - he did something many could not. So now here is James quite excited about what I was telling him. ‘Nancy, you don’t understand. The same thing just happened to me, only my bird flew away!!’ We both were in awe, and although we were immensely sad by the weight of the day, we laughed at Dad and his humor from beyond. This is how I got through my fathers funeral. I kept that poor little bird for six weeks. It was the proof I needed that it really happened.

Then there was the time we all were fighting... to the point of not having Easter together... and just then a bird flew into the window.

Or the time I went to a distant family members funeral - after reconnecting by a random phone call ...which came about from this overwhelming feeling I had to look in the white pages for any other Hagenmayer’s... only to find that they were just talking about us and ‘What in heavens name prompted me to call!!’ I though for sure I would get shit on by every bird imaginable for cavorting with people that Dad left off with so badly.

On the drive home I called Frank to tell him how everything went. I was on Nassau Blvd. when a squirrel ran in front of the car. It stopped in the middle of the road, and stayed there. So much so that I had to tell Frank to hold on so I could navigate around it. This squirrel just stared me down. It was as if it was making sure I was looking. Usually they run off, you know that whole ‘road kill’ thing. Not this one. And to boot it had something in its mouth. Guess what? A live bird! Yes! The poor bird. It was flapping its one exposed wing, the other was being held by the squirrel. It sure seemed that once I noted what I saw, and only then, did the squirrel run off. Well at least I didn’t get shit on... Dad was having fun.

There was also the time Frank was placating me for thinking my father was communicating through birds. I was folding laundry, he was standing there watching. "Okay, honey, whatever works for you.’ I was frustrated by the tonality of his comments. Still I had to wonder - I must be crazy. Just then the sound machine - the one across the room, the one that is always on white noise - turned on all by itself... on guess what? Chirping birds! Yes! I never have it on chirping birds! Frank just looked at me. What could he say. The argument was over. I laughed, dropping my laundry. Frank looked around the room, called out ‘Hi Charlie!’ and waved to the spirits hiding in the air. He then turned and left the room. He hasn’t placated me since.

Then there was the time that Alex was upset because Pop Pop didn’t get to see all that he was learning in school... especially speaking Spanish. I had to comfort him so he would go to school. When he came home he was crying again. Here’s the conversation. ‘Mommy, you are NEVER going to believe what happened today during Spanish class! A bird flew right into the window and DIED!!! It was disgusting. Its eyeball popped out and stuck to the window. The teacher had to call the janitor to clean it. Kids were getting sick...’ He continued... but I couldn’t hear... because I was too busy laughing. Imagine Alex’s perplexed face. His mother had seriously lost it. I knew that was once again my father... in his own demented, yet humorous, way telling Alex that he WAS seeing everything.

I could go on and on. But I will only tell you one more for now. I was having a particularly hard day missing dad. On this day I also had a new client. Such a hard thing to do - go to work when you just want to curl up into a ball. But here I was. She was a Doctor so I really wanted to give a good impression. A blubbering idiot would simply not do. As my tears ran down my face I maneuvered so they wouldn’t fall on her, she was face down and couldn’t see me. I tilted my head back as I worked, partly to stop the tears and partly to look at the lighting in the ceiling. In my head I had this conversation. ‘Dad, I really need a sure sign. I swear I think I am going crazy. Could all these bird things just be odd coincidences? Have I gone mad? I need a bird to fly in this room. Oh! I really have lost it! Look at this room...’ My treatment room was small. The light had one of those typical grates covering it. This is where I wanted the bird to fly out of. Was that too much to ask?

Be careful what you ask for... isn’t that the saying?

Well my clients phone began to ring... or should I say chirp. Lots of chirps. A wonderful plethora of singing birds. I never heard of that for a telephone ring, but there it was. I started to cry. So much for professionalism, and now I had to explain to her why I was crying. I felt such the fool. She wasn’t upset by my lack of professional behavior, however, she was upset by my story. She, too, started to cry... for only moments before this appointment she fidgeted unsuccessfully with her phone trying to find how to change to different ringers. She couldn’t figure it out, and she didn’t want to be late for her massage appointment so she left it till later. She didn’t even know that she had the ‘singing bird’ tones on her phone. It was very moving. Leave it to a cell phone to make me feel connected.

So now back to the dog choosing a bird. You can see my surprise... or the actual lack of surprise. I am back to wondering if Dad had some input with this dog. The coincidence of the date, even the freckles on her ears.... and now this. All day I see my puppy with this bird... this stuffed, quacking each time she bites it, bird. Dad is still up to his tricks. I am glad he switched to stuffed toys... the real birds have suffered from him enough.

Back to the start of this tail :) I laid on the floor with my new furry child. She was excited that I was on her level. Last night she fell asleep next to me with her head on the pillow. I moved only after she started dreaming... I was afraid I was going to get bit in her dream. Tonight I laid on my back. She was so excited I had to cover my face. I patted my chest to see if she would put her head on me. She climbed her whole body on top of me, like some want-to-be lap dog. This was cute but not working for me. I slid her to my side. She licked me and quickly rolled over onto her back mimicking my position! I laughed out loud. This dog is not normal. I started to massage her chest and paws. She was loving it. In return she affectionately chewed the fingers of my non-massaging hand. I faked a whimper. She nuzzled me anxiously as if to say ‘Sorry,’ then went back to nibbling, only this time with even less pressure. I once again am left wondering about my sanity. Is this for real? ‘Bird brain’ is starting to sound quite fitting. Either way, outside influences or not, this fuzzy puppy has managed to capture my attention and my heart ...maybe now the birds will be safe.