A Bird on the Doorstep

On hump day last week, my dad and I completed our 3-day driving trek from Iowa to Massachusetts. He is a man who likes his feet on the ground, so I flew to Iowa last Monday and rented a car. My brother delivered Dad to the airport, and we started our drive – within an hour of my flight touching down. At nightfall, we anchored in Fremont, Indiana, just as it started to rain. We had knocked nearly six hours off of the 20-plus hour trip. Tuesday was a long driving day and Wednesday was a shorter one; rain, mist, and fog made much of the landscape look the same from mid-Indiana through Massachusetts. Both of us managed the trip relatively well. We stopped every couple hours for a stretch or for food. However, the adrenaline crashed about 20 minutes after getting home. Dad was stretched out on the couch. I was in a bit of a fog looking around in my house, thinking, “Did we really just do that?” And that was the short of hump day last week.

I thought Dad could use a day of rest the first day back. I had a quick doctor’s appointment in the morning that took me away from the house for two hours. Dad was settled in with the remote and a couple newspapers. I smile thinking back to my return: Dad was pacing. “Do you have anything to drink in this house?” The front row of the fridge drinks included chocolate almond milk and soy milk. “I couldn’t even get a glass of water!” Dad said as he flipped the faucet handle up and down. Not til then did I realized how counter-intuitive that thing is. Down and out to the right is cold; up and out to the right is hot. And, to top it off, he had been stuck on CNN Headline news for two hours. A week into the trip, we have conquered the learning curve.

Sunday Bill took Dad and the boys out for lunch. I had a hair appointment then went to the grocery store. Lugging five bags of groceries up the steps, I saw a little ball of feathers on my doorstep. At first I thought perhaps a cat had left a gift, but as I got closer I saw that the bird was alive, just perfectly still. I gingerly stepped over him into the house with the bags then returned. To have a chat with him. It was one of the most peaceful conversations I had all week. I asked if he had flown into the door. If he was OK. Then I thought, I’m talking to a bird. A little junco wearing a black cape.

I decided to give him a few minutes to come to. He really did look stunned. In the house, I listened for the car as I started laundry. My mind whirred with possibility. Running into the house, one of the boys could inadvertently trod on him. But my time-traveling brain saw something much worse: an Englishman and and Iowa farmer standing over the bird. The Englishman thinking something like, “Poor thing,” while the Iowa farmer put the poor thing out of its misery with the stamp of a work boot.  It would be the sequel to the mouse story that happened on Iowa soil some 20 years ago.  And it would happen in front of two young non-farm boys. Yes, I must definitely intervene.

I needed gloves. Honestly, for a split second I turned expecting to see the bannister at Mom and Dad’s where at least a half dozen farm gloves would be. I grabbed a rag from the laundry room and went outside. This time when I talked to the bird, he cocked his head so one eye could see me, and he listened. I warned him of the impending danger – the rationale for having to pick him up. Then, I gave him a little scoot with the cloth and he hopped. Ahh, indeed he had been in a daze earlier, but his rapid head movement pointed to a full recovery. I shooed him to the corner of the deck where he would have more privacy and could regain his flying wings.

Monday I drove Dad out to Crane’s Beach. At first sight of the Atlantic whilst standing atop the boardwalk, he stopped. And the scene was more than an Iowa farmer overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I saw the land mass of Iowa pushing through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts until its nose touched the dunes of the Atlantic. Stunned at the sight.

At the water line, Dad’s work boots were chased by the incoming tide as he went about collecting clam shells. Indeed, he had been in a daze earlier, but his rapid feet movement at the water’s edge pointed to a full recovery.

Happy Hump Day.