Earthbound


He’s finally sleeping.

I understand why they gave me  one of those spoon/fork combos, but it was nearly impossible to cut the “grilled chicken” that occupied the styrofoam plate alongside an extraordinary pile of bright green broccoli.  They cannot offer knives to mental health patients.  It was a parent tray, though.  I wouldn’t have used a knife to cut anything but the chicken, but still I was denied.  Sometimes big things happen that make the little things hard, like the simple act of eating my dinner.

This is the third day.  My mind swirled with thoughts, as something had to occupy the space.   There was still much garden work to be done.  I am missing my annual “day off” with my longtime friend, and my son is missing his childhood.

Dan and I switched places for a few hours.  I hadn’t seen my seven-year-old in nearly twenty-four hours.  He opened the door to the van and slipped into my arms, exclaiming, “Mama!  I missed you!”.  I missed him, too, and I miss everything.

We have been in this very room before, but never for this long.  Hours pass, and the door to Room 6 has not been opened.  The rhythm varies with the shift change; an occasional nurse takes more interest to see if there is anything that we need.  My little son requests a box of Kleenex, but really we are desperate for so much more…so much more than anyone can provide.

Maybe there is a mental health crisis of some sort; clearly, funds for appropriate care must be lacking.  But it is hard to find sense in this great pause: Day Three, still “no bed available”.

Again, he is awake.  I have been reading a book about spiritual healing that was shared by a good friend.  I am hoping that might be the ticket, as this clearly is not.  We’re stuck.  We can’t get out.  We are bound, because there is nowhere to go.

I see him, playing games on a phone to pass one little mark of time in this massive abyss.  He adjusts his position in the easy-clean recliner and sometimes laughs audibly.  His wide grin makes me smile, too, for this moment.  And then I remember.

“I hate being stuck in this little tiny room.”

I can hear his breathing.  It sounds thick and a bit labored, as if he may have caught some sort of germ from this extended stay at the ER.  He goes back to playing his game.  He needs to be out in the fresh air, throwing his football to the high heavens.

He has been mostly quiet here since he arrived by ambulance from school, where the inner turbulence had spilled out to the point that he was a risk to others, except for the times when his blood was drawn and when he was told that he would have another hospital stay.

My head hurts.

It’s so hard to put the pieces together.  If we leave him alone within our company, asking nothing of him while nobody sets him off, he is happy.   When the teacher accidentally mixes up his name with that of another student, when he has trouble pulling up his socks, or when he is blamed for throwing the football onto the school’s roof (which he did), his mind and body rebel to the point that nothing in his path is sacred.   There is screaming, fear, destruction, suffering, and, like this time, there are sirens.

I think they are still going off in my head.

He is calm now, as the need for intense care is reassessed.  We know though, that the trials will begin again at the first perceived conflict.   Again, we wait.  

This time, the spoon/fork is for vegetable soup.

The prospect of staying a third or fourth night here seemed less appealing than the inevitable stampede of verbal and physical angst.   I think we would be okay to take him home. We have lived this way for so long.  

The time was still as the stale air that surrounded us.  The door opened abruptly, and the caseworker sent forth the news in the tidy proclamation that I had been dreading, that I had been waiting to hear.

He was calm and cooperative.  His eyes took him elsewhere, almost to another realm, a safe distance from the reality in front of him, as he climbed onto the gurney.  It was time to go, and he knew it.  

It was hard to see through the fog as I drove home, alone.  I thought of him, also alone, on his way to another attempt at calming the forces so far beyond his control.   

I am home, where I will be able to use a regular knife to cut my food.  I am home, where holes have been kicked in the drywall in moments of frustration and where his absence gapes through the halls.   

The voice deep inside tells me that we are close, that things will get better, and that we will soon find what has been elusive.  On this day, though, we are held tightly within the cruel grasp of what is beyond our control.  We cry, we pray, and we wait, all the while standing, bound to this earth, hoping to see what’s next.

The sun peeked from the clouds for a moment in time on this Sunday, well after the church bells had stopped ringing.  I had a little chance in the garden after all, before the end of a weekend which had offered the unexpected in so many ways.   There may have been just enough time to rake away the remains of the garden before night fell.  

I pulled out a few spent corn stalks and some overzealous creeping charlie.  As I was raking up the last fallen green tomatoes, I noticed the top of an onion that somehow escaped the season’s harvest.  As I freed this prize-of-the-patch from its place in the soil, I could feel the roots release their hold, a hold that had nearly kept this onion from the dinner table.  It was robust and beautiful, all the more so for having had a bit more time to grow.  

There’s still hope; there’s still something.  When the skies open up and the day comes, I know he is going to be free.  And I can’t wait to tell him about that one last onion.

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It’s Okay If You Stay Here


He’s orange, and he has orange eyes.  He seems to be inhabiting the outskirts of the farm until well after the sun goes down.  One of the little boys named him “Macaroni”.  We don’t see him very often.   If darkness has fallen by the time I bring food to the barn cats, he will often emerge from the edge of the corn field and wait for a chance at the stainless steel bowl of Meow Mix.  If I toss, however carefully, a handful of food his way,  he will retreat.  He doesn’t trust me.

It always seemed like such a project to put the hose away after I had finished watering in the yard.  This was a task that offered no gratification, brought out my impatience, and left me with dirty hands.  No matter how careful I thought I was, in my haste to move on to other chores, I would never get the hose wrapped up properly after the job was done.  It seemed far easier not to have a hose holder of any sort, but to leave the garden’s lifeline in an abandoned heap on the grass until it was needed again.  

“His perception of reality appears seriously impaired.”

It’s okay if you stay here.  Someday, though, someone may tell you that you cannot.  It’s not that I don’t want you to; it’s just that eventually, this place won’t hold you anymore, and then we will know that the time has come.  

I can’t tell if Macaroni wants to be part of our family.  Once, I caught him during the day admiring the chickens, so we have that in common.  

The days are shorter now, as the seasons turn and we look back to see that we have grown older and our bodies have slowed, but we know much less than we did before.

“…More failed medication trials than any other patient”.  

It’s so hard to hear the words that have been there all along, forming inside my head; words that have been waiting years to offer a disheartening sting where the pain should have been dulled long ago.

“Have you ever considered…”

No.  Well, maybe I have thought about it, or at least tried blocking out the thought.

There’s really no time for a good cry.  There are too many people around.  Or, the tears begin to flow, and then I remember that I had somewhere to go.

“…Afraid one of you is going to get hurt”.

Are the days defined by your presence?  There’s a small sparkle, and now the rhythm has changed.  We are here for just a moment of time.

It’s okay if you stay here, right in the space where you are, for however long.  There you should stay until you no longer need to, until you know, even when we don’t.  

In just a month’s time our smallest boy will be off to preschool.  I have been asked what I will do when I no longer have children at home to define my days.  What I will do is what I may not have done well for the last two decades: I am just going to stay here for a while.

I forgot to water the apple trees at the west end of the property.  It hadn’t rained in a while.  There were two hoses connected together, but still they were not long enough to reach the apple trees.  I had to fill a bucket and haul it to where it was needed.  The young trees would not survive, though, if they were not given water, no matter the presenting challenge.

“You might not be able to give him what he needs”.

Or, he might need more than we can give.  

Sometimes, the space in time stands still.  It asks nothing of us; it holds us until we are ready.  It’s not time to face what’s next, or even to know what that might be.  I’m just going to stay here for a little while, in this hole of time that I know.  It’s a bit uncomfortable; at times it’s even painful.  They know me here, though, and I’d like to stay.  

We didn’t yet have a place to put the hose at the farm, and I think I was okay with that.  Then one day, Dan brought a metal holder home and set it in the ground.  The two connected hoses were just right for being wound onto the holder in a series of hula hoop-sized rings.  Now, there would be no reason to leave the hose in the grass.  At first it may have seemed like an obligation; one more thing to do.  I found, though, a kind of serenity, a sacred pause, almost a meditative quality, in this simple act.  I don’t think I will ever see this as a chore again.

I don’t know what’s going to happen.  There may come a day when there is nothing out there, nothing left to try, and nowhere else to go.  It’s okay to stay here until you have to go.  And still part of you will always be here, like the others that have left their marks and certainly part of their souls here.

They grow, and they find their own ways.  They leave, because they have to, in that moment of time.  And when their paths bring them back home, they will find me here, perhaps arranging the garden hose while I wait for the car to come up the road.

I hope that the orange cat will stay; I hope that one day, he will learn to trust and know that we are on his side.  I hope that you don’t have to go.  If you do, though, I know that you will be back, one day.

After Wendell


I’m getting pretty good at chicken burials.  

It’s no secret:  I didn’t want him in the first place.  Maybe that’s not really fair to say; the truth is that I wasn’t confident that I would know how to care for him, and I was intimidated by the thought of having a rooster.

I have heard it said that we don’t know what we need, that we are given what we can handle, and that the right people make their way into and out of our lives.  I’d like to believe that this is also true for chickens.

There’s too much here.  There’s too much detail.  There have been too many thoughts for there to be nothing beyond, for it just to be over when our jobs are done here on earth.

Sunny, beautiful, and perfect; a whole Saturday with nothing much to do.   My chicken helper opened the door just ahead of me.  He closed it suddenly, turned to me, and stated matter-of-factly in a voice uncharcteristically devoid of emotion, “Wendell’s dead.  I think Wendell’s dead.”

Indeed he was, lying in the sand tray, not really on his back but not really on his side, at the opposite end of the roost from his usual perching spot.  He no longer reflected the glorious presence of the Cornflakes rooster; he had a grayish dusty stiffness about him, and the sharp red of his comb had transformed to a sort of garish purple as the hours after sunset turned the sky.  He had gone out on us as we slept, and the new sun rose, but not to the sound of his characteristic crow.

Wendell was dead.  My sunny Saturday became cloudy at the prospect of digging a grave for this chicken who came to us at two days old, and who grew into a robust rooster that spent his days pacing near his flock, afraid of spurring no one.  He would tolerate no threats to his hens.  Young Kitty May, the only chicken hatched at the farm, though ostracized and often ignored by the flock, knew to run to Wendell when she felt vulnerable.  Now, her refuge and the protector of our chickens had dropped dead in the roost, and we didn’t have time to say goodbye.

The days are full of things that are hard, that make us hurt, that frighten and sometimes hollow us.  They are also filled with grace, beauty, and wonder to the ends of the land.  We know not what the tomorrows will bring, but surely there must be something greater than what we have known.

Hypatia, the socialite of the flock, spent the days after Wendell left us in search of her comrade.  I found her calling from the far edge of the property, in the grasses by the township drive, well out of range from her usual territory.  She had been perpetually by his side, except for the times when she was trying to get in people’s cars, and now he was gone.  I remember making a point to find her after I had left the car open while unloading groceries.  At some point, though, she found her way into the van, where she spent her last moments among the forgotten French fries and discarded apple cores.  It seems she died in her favorite place, but without her beloved Wendell.  If one might die of a broken heart, I suspect that she did.

I watched Dan from afar, but he didn’t know.  His steps have slowed just a bit, and though he works at setting flagstone, tilling the garden beds, and painting trim until his projects are done, I fear that the years may be taking a toll.

I, too, can feel the passing years each time I stand from kneeling among the runner beans or fairy roses.  I am tired, and time is catching me.  

There would be no way to replace Wendell, the rooster that we didn’t want in the first place, but that we now so desperately missed and mourned.   Roosters can be mean, scary, and aggressive.  I had to put Wendell away when the little boys ran around, and I was forever looking over my shoulder while I weeded patches around the farm.  

A few days later, I buried Hypatia with my little boy by my side, scooping an occasional shovelful of dirt and asking repeatedly, “Are you sad?” to which I had no response.  Hypatia was settled in a shallow grave near where Dan buried Wendell, and under the same evergreen where we had buried the baby chick that had died the year before.

A Lavender Orpington rooster from Whitewater, Wisconsin caught my eye in a Craig’s List offering.  Yesterday, I packed up the boys, and we went to see him.  

“He has a good disposition, and he never approaches people.  We have over 200 birds.  He doesn’t have a name.  There are just too many for individual attention.”  The man caught the rooster at the tops of his wings and placed him among the pine shavings in the container that we had brought for the transfer.  He was massive and majestic at the same time, adorned with silver lavender feathers.  Right then, we decided to call him Ben, and he was coming home.  I gave the man’s wife twenty dollars. 

This afternoon, I had mercy on our new rooster in the sunny run alone.  I watched closely as he stepped out into freedom just seconds after I opened the door.  The first to approach him was Kitty May.  

All of the chickens went to the coop at sundown, and it seemed as if Ben had always been here.  He did not sit in the spot that Wendell had vacated in the roost.  Perhaps he knew; perhaps he felt it would be irreverent.  Or, just maybe, he was claiming his own spot in the coop.  

We may not miss the days of being chased down by Wendell; I may find my moments in the garden just a bit more peaceful without worrying about being approached by an ornery rooster.  I know, though, that we will always miss our Wendell, our surprise and slightly terrifying introduction to farm life, who certainly showed us that we were meant to have him in our lives.  

“Spread your wings, and I know that when God took you back, he said ‘Hallelujah, you’re home.'”

–from Ed Sheeran, “Supermarket Flowers”

Rest In Peace, my dear Wendell, until we meet again…and we will.

What Lies Beyond


Jenny has always been a little bit edgy.  She’s my chicken.  It seems she is always trying to sit on an egg or two, and she will make an awful noise and even snap at me when I reach under her to check for eggs.  Today, the egg had been cracked, and she was sitting in a sticky, bright sun-colored mess.  She didn’t want to get out of the nest box.  She wanted to stay a little while longer, though her egg, along with her hope of brooding a baby chick, was broken.

Bright butter and lavender together blended to nearly a muddy brown, nondescript, until I slowed a bit and let my eyes see what was really there.  Each flower is unique to this earth.  I could take these wildflowers that grow by the side of the road for weeds, or I could celebrate the fleeting beauty of Queen Anne’s lace in a mason jar on my family’s piano.

“They’re lucky to have you.”

No, really, they are not.  To be taken from everything they have ever known; to be transported into the chaotic, confusing rhythm of another, very different family; to eat, sleep, and breathe in an entirely new, unfamiliar circle; to have unthinkable things happen; to be delivered to places and people that they do not know; and to always, always be at the mercy of others…that’s really not lucky.

There isn’t going to be a breakthrough.  There won’t be a moment when everything is right.

And it’s very different for my boy, a boy who is no longer so little.  It’s different, and he is definitely not lucky.

“I want to go somewhere else.”

And he did, for eight days this time.

The storm clouds had been there the whole time, but I could look the other way to see just an icing swirl of gray atop the majestic splendor of a cloudy, late summer sky.  On my drive through the countryside, I passed fields of corn, expanses of wildflowers, and apple orchards almost ready to open their gates.  Taking in the season’s turn, I thought that it really was time to put away the hummingbird feeder as I hadn’t seen a visitor in a string of weeks.  

“He’s ready to come home.  His behaviors have been stable.”  

The corn has grown so tall by now, anticipating fall harvest, that from the edge of the farm, I can no longer see anything but clouds and sky beyond the stalks, to know what might be just ahead.  I think I like it this way.  There is much comfort in not knowing, before our eyes are opened and we have to see.  

“You really should plan ahead, just to be safe.  We can’t say for sure because we really don’t know.  You need more services.  You’re going to need help into the future.  This is how it’s going to be.  He’s probably not going to get better.”

That’s not lucky at all.  

I thought of Jenny, who looked almost bewildered as she jumped from her nest box to join a couple of the other hens at the feeder.  Her egg had cracked, and it had broken.  There would, though, be a new day, another egg, and another hope to hatch a baby chick.

Two hummingbirds visited my feeder that day, the day after I had thought of taking it down.  I am glad I hadn’t.  Instead, I filled it with fresh sugar water.  It’s not too late; our cups need to be filled again and again, no matter how late in the season.

A sparkle of sun shone through the mostly gray clouds, though the rain had not yet passed.  We looked for rainbows the whole way home.  We didn’t see any, but still we kept looking.

At least he’s home for now.  And that’s lucky.

 A Good Place to Hide 


Inside my days lies unspoken beauty that asks for no description, and at the same time a darkness of unknowing, of where there can be no answer now, and maybe never.

The lingering smell of a new coat of blacktop added an offputting layer to the earthy freshness of the morning prairie path before me. Things have to be done; I understand.  We don’t want well-intentioned joggers slipping on the loose gravel of an unkempt trail.   

When you have been to most of the places, when you have tried as much as you know how, when there’s nowhere left, you have to go deep inside yourself.

The woods adjacent to the path had grown thick enough to be its own backdrop, as long as one did not look too hard.  Just on the other side of the dense grasses, weather-beaten     trees, blooming thistle taller than me, and even what may have been an obscured fox den, I could see a garden shed, a whirling miniature windmill, a series of intentional annual plantings in a perfect parade of red and yellow, the remnants of last night’s marshmallow roast in a sand-and-stone fire pit, and a lonely tire swing.  I could see the backyards of people that had no names or faces, at least not known to me.  

There was a wooden bridge that stretched from the edge of one of the backyards into the woods, just to the other side of where I stood.  Another had a worn patch of grass and some stepping flagstone that led away from the yard, toward the prairie path.  These people could slip right from their own properties onto this path, for a morning run, to walk a dog, or to get lost, as is my habit, in a mid day reverie. 

A dark thought passed through me even as I squinted from the brightness of the sun.  Something sinister could happen; someone could be lurking between the woods and the family homes.  Maybe nobody would even know.  How do you know when you really are safe, when there are no ill intentions, and when you have served all of your time?  I could go there, and nobody would see.

Perhaps we don’t realize how influential someone has been until they leave us.  There is time for so much, but no time at all.  If you fully give in, offering all that you have, can’t there be more?  Won’t it keep going?

Every so often, there was a tiny flash or a sparkle of some sort.  A butterfly, the bluest I’ve seen, and a tiny ground squirrel.  These are the fairies in the woods, the spirits of those who walk there, those that are unaware that the darkness may sometimes fall.

When I know I am not strong enough, when I am sure that this must be the last time, when I just couldn’t keep it from happening, even as it tears into my skin and wreaks havoc on my aging body, it somehow lessens, and though there is no softness, it is not as dark, and it is not time.

When I am feeling vulnerable or strong, I am just to the side of the other. I am just a step away from what might be unthinkable, yet there are wild geraniums and foxglove all around.

I can’t go anywhere else; no one can, because this is today.  Past the clearing, the new blacktop meets the sidewalk where the grass has been clipped.  Cars pass by along the city road, and the people that I do not know have gone from my thoughts.

At just the right moment, though, there will be a woodland sprite peeking from a hollow in the brush, and I will see him, no matter where I am.

Bird Street: Retrospective 


It’s a bit different now.  We haven’t lived there in nearly two years.

Though not exactly a historical scholar, I have always been drawn to things of the past.  Four or five thrift and vintage stores are now part of our sleepy university city’s downtown.  I found myself alone in the bustle, if even there is one, of the lunch hour, with a little time before I had to get my son from camp.  There is a just-opened store in the first block of town, and I was startled by an unsettling bell as I, now distracted from my admiration of a hand-painted cast iron doorstop that would have been perfect for our bedroom at the farm, passed through the door.  I would have preferred that nobody had known I was there, and then I could have continued my reverie.  

“Can I help you find anything?”  The woman’s voice was neither brazen nor friendly, neither shrill nor bellowing.  

“I’m just looking, thank you,” I responded, being careful to avoid eye contact and invite further conversation.  

What I may have said, though, is, “No”.   No, I don’t think you can help me.  I don’t think anyone can help me find what I am looking for.  I don’t think you can help me find that clearing in the park near the conservatory, the one where we shared a picnic of grapes and muenster cheese with our toddlers who are now grown men and women.  I don’t think you can help me spot my young twenty-four year-old husband as he returns to the train platform from his commute to the city.  I don’t think you can save me a place on the bleachers where I can, just one last time, watch my son pitch a baseball.  I don’t think you can tell me that they are all, in this moment, okay,  and I don’t think you can help me find an afternoon where the shadows go into hiding, and where I can forget that we have taken on a lifelong search for the elusive.

I had just a few minutes left.  I was looking for a mug, one like the one that proclaims “Always Drink Milk” that I had gotten for five dollars from a shop that no longer stands just a block from here, a shop that had treasures piled so high that I knew the shopkeeper must have been unaware of anything beyond the first layer.   I always look for that mug, and three times so far I have found a similar one.  It may be nothing special to anyone else, but it means something (what, I’m unsure), to me.  

I do like milk.

My mind continued it’s plea to this woman: Please help me uncover the years; take me back to when I could drink coffee with my grandma, to the time before my friend lost her child, to when my college comrade was not facing an overwhelming diagnosis, to the days before my sons left me in the wake of their childhoods.

“Thanks for stopping in.”  Her voice was the same, and I hadn’t found the mug.  Not this time.

It wasn’t hard to sell our house this time around.  It’s a beautiful home, and we hadn’t stopped loving it.  It’s just that we found our farm, and it was time to go.  I am fearful of walking through it for the last time, though I know I want to spend my remaining days on these acres, watching sunsets of violet, tangerine, and pink with my chickens, and with anyone else that will stand alongside me.

It was the only home where every child of mine, all twenty-three, lived for at least a short while.  I will walk on the weathered oak floors for the last time, and I will remember.  I will remember when Juliet, then just a kitten, perched herself atop the bird cage and knocked it to the floor, startling the birds who flew frantically through the house and evaded me for hours as I tried to get the children out the door to school.  I will remember kneading bread with little ones, coloring Easter eggs at the kitchen table, keeping vigil at the bedside of sick children, listening to the sounds of Sam’s ukelele, and playing catch in the backyard.  I will remember hurt, but I will also remember great joy.  I will hear the music of their younger years.

Tears are for missing, and we pine for not just the good, but also the hard, for that, too, has made us what we are and has brought us to today.

There were bright lights that flashed against the brick, hosting a carnival of chaos and having no mercy in the dark hours of an August eve.  The sirens were loud, and they startled into my very being as the chocolate chip cookies burned on the tin.  There were screams, tears, and sleepless nights. There were calls when we should have been tucked in bed, strange voices, sounds of fear, and doors opening before dawn.

There were balloons, presents, and all sorts of things to celebrate.  There were questions without answers, and paths that didn’t really make sense.  There was a whole lot of life that happened in that house on Third Street, or “Bird Street”; the autocorrect on my friend’s message would always make me laugh until my stomach hurt.   

We met as foster parents, and our friendship was fast.  We took placements of each other’s children’s siblings when we had no room at our own homes.  She brought me chocolate when I was sad (and no one else knew).  She even climbed through a window when we were out of town to make sure the cat had enough food.  It made perfect sense that her family would move to our Third Street house when we left for the farm.

It may have been easier to see her children swinging on the trees where my children had played.  She could have tended my roses and hydrangeas and picked grapes from the arbor that Dan had built.  Her children would have warmed their fingers and toes by the fireplace that brought such warmth to the winter evenings.  

Maybe that would have made it easier, but that’s not what happened.  Someone else is going to move there.  I guess it’s not supposed to be easy.  It’s just supposed to happen.  

When we give up the keys at the end of next month, we will be closing that chapter, only to continue another that has already begun.  

When I have time to go downtown again, I will still be looking for my milk mug.  I will probably always be looking for a milk mug, not because I have nothing to drink from, but because I am reminded that my cup is already full, full of life through the trials and the blessings alike.  

I think my friend drinks milk, too.

Ponies and Cupcakes: All Grown Up 


There was nothing magic that happened at the end.  It just trailed off quietly and uneventfully.  I’m not sure what I expected, or if I expected much of anything at all.  Now, though, it’s all done, without fancy sugar-sparkled cupcakes, rainbow-maned ponies with golden hooves, or a ticker-tape parade.  The hopes and wishes have faded out with the passage of time.

How could a mother do that to her child?  Why would a mother do that to her baby?  How could it possibly be okay?

We delighted in watching Fried Chicken, one of our hens, care for baby Kitty May.  The tiny chick that surprised us all with her arrival as a miniature fluff of downy gray in the nest box was guided through every “first” by her proud mother hen.  For this new life, one I knew nothing about, I worried constantly and consulted my mom many times with each potential new obstacle.

Where will she sleep?  How will she get down from the coop?  What if the laying hens eat her food?  Will she range around the property with the rest of the hens?  And, of course, what will Wendell the rooster think of her?

We looked hard to find the good.  Even as each day seemed an impossible chore, the years picked up speed and pretty soon we could see lights.  Not the bold, confident type of lights that blare overhead in the supermarket.  I am not sure I would have been able to tolerate those anyway.  We saw little sparks, glimmers, and an occasional burned out bulb, not with the predictability of the rise and fall of the sun, but the brightest bright when it was good.

“You think you’re such a good mom.”

“You don’t even take care of the kids.”

“You don’t do anything for me.”

I watched as Fried Chicken lowered her beak into a saucer of water, lifted her head skyward to drink, and then urged Kitty May to do the same.  When I set a plate of cottage cheese out for the flock, she used her foot to scrape some over the edge just for her baby chick.  

During the first nights, Fried stayed with Kitty May in their makeshift nest on the floor of the coop.  When the time came, the mother hen helped her little one up to the perches where she kept Kitty May warm alongside the rest of the flock.  Fried kept Kitty May close as they explored the farm each day, and she led her to the safety of the coop at sundown.  I remember hearing loud squawks one afternoon as Fried called Wendell to defend Kitty May from the curiosity of one of the barn cats.

She was her baby, and she took care of her.

There were times when she wanted so badly not to need me that she made me believe that she didn’t.  

When she moves out on her own, is she going to be okay?  Will there be someone by her side, someone to watch over her, to laugh with her, to understand her?  Will she notice if there is?  Will she know if there isn’t?

I could hear the loud peeps as Kitty May seemed desperate in her search for her mother, who appeared deliberate in her attempt to keep a distance.  Though the little one continued to seek out Fried Chicken, it was clear that something had changed.  

When I check the chickens every night, the laying hens and Wendell are in their familiar spots at the top perch.  The four teenagers have claimed one side of the lower perch. Then there’s little Kitty May, in her own spot, on the rafters above the window.  She’s all alone.

There are times, too, when my grown child spends idle hours as her own best company.  Perhaps she likes it that way, as she has passed on many invitations to play “Go Fish”, to pick cherry tomatoes, and even to go for frozen custard.

Will she feel alone?  Will she close the door to the farm for the last time, never once looking back to wonder what a Saturday morning might bring?  Does she know I love her?

As I stand, bewildered by ambivalence while somehow struck by something deep within my soul, I knew there would be no breakthrough, no moment when all of a sudden everything thing is right.

I didn’t think Kitty May was ready to forage on her own.  I wonder if my daughter is ready to find her own way to adulthood.  It’s hard not to let the tears rush like the wild rivers; the reality of today contrasts sharply with my starry-eyed vision from days past.  I hope she is ready.  I hope I am.  I hope I did the best I could.

I hope that one day, she will think so, too.