Tag Archives: bluebird

Moving On

After Richard died and left our house to me in his will, many people assumed that I would be selling it.  As one friend put it, “It will be easier for you to move on with your life if you’re not still in this place.”

I didn’t want to give up our house.  Yes, it was too big for just me.  Yes, it was a lot to maintain on my own.  Yes, every corner and crook held a memory of our time together there.  But I didn’t want to give up my house.  One blazing hot July afternoon, I came home to an HVAC unit that had been struck by lightning, a green pool, and a leak in the basement.  I stomped around cussing and pouring chemicals and mopping and panicking.  I didn’t want to let myself start crying because I wasn’t sure how I would stop.  I remember glaring up at the brick face of the house as I turned the hose on and shaking my fist at it.  To be so huge, it was hugely empty–just me and three dachshunds.  That night, as I watched the Atlanta news and ate my dinner all alone in the den, the anchor introduced a story about kids who needed to be adopted.  Three siblings who hoped to stay together.  It’s hard to find a house with that much empty space–but I had one.  A part of my wretched heart opened up at that story because it dawned on me that maybe the house would give me options down the road that I wouldn’t have otherwise.  Like any gift, my house held possibilities.


One of the dearest things about Richard’s gift to me is that he knew how much owning a home meant to me.  He had grown up with a home–his parents lived in the same house from the time he was in elementary school until after he was out of college.  He loved the little yellow house so much that he was furious when the next owners cut down “his” azaleas.  My childhood memories were scattered over several places–the trailer in Greenville, the brown house in Hollonville, the old plantation house, the tin-roofed house on the Circle.  By the time I was an adult, neither my mom nor my dad lived in a place where I had ever had a room of my own.  I didn’t have a childhood home to go back to.  Fartbuster and I had bought a house together, but it never felt like a place to put down roots.  I didn’t know any of my neighbors there…or my husband, for that matter.  When we divorced, I felt like I was being forced into the decision to sell.  I rented two more places on my own before Richard and I bought our house.  After he left it to me, I had a place I would never have to leave unless it was my choice.  So I chose to stay.

Within five years, all the bedrooms were full with three siblings.  Not those sweet kids from the evening news–my kids.  Yesterday, two of them and I were playing in the backyard when I witnessed something that taught me a new lesson about moving on.

The very idea of “moving on” is an illusion.  We put together our lives not by moving away from the past, but by integrating the past into the present and the future, regardless of where we might be.

bluebirdI’ve told the story before about the bluebird who appeared at our backyard wedding (A Tuesday Kind of Miracle).  Well, yesterday, as I sat in the sun and watched Vivi and Carlos playing in her wagon, a pair of bluebirds flitted out of the forsythia bushes on the far side of  the yard.  I thought I was seeing things.  One perched on the fence down by the river–in the exact spot where the wedding bluebird had sat almost nine years ago.  As I was marveling at the beauty of the bluebird–and the memory I associate with them–Carlos caught my eye and chirped, “Hello, Mommy!”  Time collapsed in my backyard as my son stood in the same place Richard and I had stood to say our vows, and called me by my new name.  Mommy.

If I had sold this house and moved in to a new place, I would have missed that moment.  I would have missed seeing my Now blend so seamlessly with my Then.  As I sat there being happy, it dawned on me that that is what HOME is–being somewhere long enough that stories have time to come back around.

Wordless Wednesday–Bluebirds

Today is my first day of this new year.  I am so glad.  


The Navajo identify the Mountain Bluebird as a spirit in animal form, associated with the rising sun. The Bluebird Song is sung to remind tribe members to wake at dawn and rise to greet the sun:

Bluebird said to me,
“Get up, my grandchild.
It is dawn,” it said to me.

“Just Out of Sight, Out of Reach”

Two of my friends have lost parents recently and I thought of them when I read the poem “The Underworld” by Sharon Bryan.  It’s featured on Garrison Keillor’s “The Writer’s Almanac” today.  To link there, click on this beautiful print of a bluebird by John James Audubon.  Peace to you AFH and TJH.


A Tuesday Kind of Miracle


Bluebirds have had a special place in my life since March 5, 2005.  That’s the day Richard and I got married under a white tent in our backyard, down by the river.  During our vows, a little bluebird perched on the fence behind us and listened in.  Our small band of family and friends saw him, but neither of us did because we were looking at each other.  When we talked about it afterwards, most of us there marveled that we had never seen one before.  And I still hadn’t.

The bluebird made another appearance at the reception, resting on the bare wisteria bush, while we were making toasts.  Again, I missed him.   We were laughing so hard in that moment because my 102 yr old grandfather downed three glasses of champagne before the first toast could get started!  He couldn’t hear what was going on and just assumed my brother was standing at his elbow refilling his glass to be hospitable.  Strange to think that Pop outlived Richard.  He made it another year and Richard made it 11 more days.

The next day, we were back to the routine of transfusions and infusions and confusions.  I still hadn’t seen a bluebird, but I believed in the magic of  it.  I knew that we had been visited by something truly special and rare.

I did see the bluebird a few months later.  Richard’s parents had come down to do some paperwork on the estate.  We were seated at the dining room table sorting through the piles of bills and payments.  It’s like swimming through molasses, that kind of work during that kind of grief.  I was feeling overwhelmed and far too young to be in that moment when I looked out the window at the very instant that the bluest flash I’d ever seen flitted past and landed on the dogwood tree.  He was real!  He was there!  It was just the sign I had ached for.

The path of grief is not a straight line.  You don’t start off in the deepest slough then climb up each step to get back to peaceful.  Grief moves forward, but in a looping line.  You’re going along, making progress then you hit a loop and your stomach lurches and everything is flipped upside down and you land right back where you were a few weeks or months ago.  Eventually, the loops get smaller and spread farther apart, but they’re still there to…well, to throw you for a loop.

That’s how I found myself in despair one late summer day.  I was hollow, made of smoke so thin that I might fly apart at any loud sound or sudden move.  It had been months.  I was back at work.  I was going to the grocery store and to the movies.  I was rattling around in our big house with my dogs and our cats.  I was living and it hurt.  I stepped outside one day, looked up at the sky and whispered, “I could really use a bluebird.”

The next evening, I let the dogs out on the deck and what do you know, there sat a blue bird.  A bedraggled looking blue parakeet clutched the back of the patio chair.  I blinked pretty hard, a couple of times.  I walked back inside and watched it through the window.  Still there.  I locked the cats in the bedroom.  When I approached the parakeet, it jumped right into my palm.  I cupped

Blue_male_budgie (1)

him gently between my hands and took him to the bathroom where he would be safe.

My dad is a veterinarian, so I called him for advice.  “Do I need to put up signs around the neighborhood to see if someone is missing a parakeet?”  He chuckled and said, “Nooooo.  Somebody’s mama got tired of cleaning the cage and left the window open.  Just go get you a cage and enjoy your new parakeet.”  I asked him what he could tell me about parakeets and he said, “Does it have a colored strip over its beak?  If it’s colored, that means it’s a male.  Or a female.  Hell, I don’t remember.”

I bought a little cage and he made himself at home in the bathroom.  Every evening, I’d lock myself in there with him (with 3 cats scratching at the door) and let him fly around for a while.  He liked being held and would perch on my shoulder so we could look in the mirror.  He sang whenever the water ran or the toilet flushed.  I could tell if people washed their hands because the little bird would sing longer!

The moral of this story:  accept the gifts that come your way, even if they aren’t EXACTLY what you requested.  I asked for a bluebird but I got a blue bird.  I named my little friend Tuesday to remind myself that miracles happen even on the most ordinary day of the week.