Wednesday, November 20, 2013

For the birds


My grandfather was many things across his decades: a high school teacher, an antiques dealer, a naturalist. He was passionate, I think. He called his wife, my grandmother, "Lover," even in front of the little kids. I'd be six and my brother would be four and he'd yell to my grandmother in the kitchen, "hey, Lover, have you seen my slippers? I can't find my slippers." It sounded salacious when I was little, before I knew what salacious meant. She never blushed; it was an ordinary part of their patois. "Look in the closet."

I never lived in the same state as any of my grandparents, so I always knew them as much by my parents' stories as by my own experiences. Any time we passed an interesting bird, either soaring the heavens or perching on a nearby branch, my dad would say, "your grandfather would be able to tell you what bird that is." He was a birder. My dad told me once that my grandfather was far-sighted, that he could see the markings on the distant creatures. I'm strongly near-sighted and this tiny fact fascinated me, a detail I can't imagine in my own experience, like speaking Chinese or finding myself suddenly blonde and right-handed. I can only scrutinize the things I hold close. My grandfather formed his observations at a distance. And if you care to draw analogies, I grew up at a 300-mile distance.

We have about fifteen trees in our backyard, and our three adjacent neighbors each have a similar quantity. We see a rainbow of birds across the seasons just by eating breakfast and looking out the window. Our branches nest blue birds (they're really in the forsythia, which isn't a tree at all, is it?) and blue jays and three families of cardinals and robins and orioles. The oriole is not a bird I knew how to recognize before moving to the greater Baltimore area, but the little guys in our backyard look just like a certain famous baseball mascot. There are other birds, too, but I don't know their names. I can't recognize them by their calls. My grandfather would have been able to identify the orioles and all the other ones, as well.

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Thank you all for your kindnesses about the death of my grandfather. I'm doing what I do best; I'm keeping on writing. And it's NaBloPoMo. And book club night. Don't think the association to be gauche, okay?

This post was inspired by Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Man, a memoir by Brian McGrogry. When Brian left his bachelor life to move to suburbia and join his girlfriend with her two young daughters, he had no idea that he needed to win over their rooster, too. Join From Left to Write on November 21 as we discuss Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Man. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.








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