Wednesday, July 11, 2007

tell me when it's over

How quickly we become accustomed to what is out of place.

We'd heard the crying creature on and off for three days going on four. The first day I had resolved to go look for what it was, on the instinct that something was in distress. But it stopped for a while and after I got Isaac down for his nap I became distracted with whatever I'd chosen as my nap activity. Likely food or paying the past due bills.

I'd gone out eventually and located where it was coming from – just the other side of the fence by or in my neighbor's tree. The calling stopped when I got close. I'd settled on baby bird waiting for its mother to return and went back inside.

On the fourth day, Judy would be the one to find her.

A baby raccoon had gotten one of its back paws wedged in the slats of the fence and hung head down, its front feet resting on a crossbar.

“Stuck?” Isaac repeated over and over again. “No walk,” he told us, paddling the air with his hands in the ASL sign.

I dialed numbers, and more numbers the people at the first numbers gave me, pacing my garage, cursing myself for not investigating more closely, panicked that I had figured it out too late.

The SPCA wildlife division arrived within half an hour, but not before we tried to feed the little bandit a chopped up apple by broom handle.

“Stuck?” Isaac continued, but he refused to go and see for himself. He just wanted it better “Help,” he told us, “help.”

Yes, they were coming to help we assured him.

The thing is, I get it. In truth, my own gander at the critter was brief. I pawned off the apple on Judy and she took broom handle duty.

There are stories my son once loved that he won't let me read anymore, or at least he stops me before the conflicts arise. There's P.D. Eastman's Are You My Mother? in which we must skip past the pages showing the “snort” truck that scoops up the baby bird, and Mama, Do You Love Me? which threatens with its page showing the Mama angry.

When I was little, I would leave the room midpoint during the Flintstones. I couldn't stand to watch when Fred messed everything up or while the other set the stage for mishap and misunderstanding. – I just needed everything to work out and for someone else to get it to that point. I'd reclaim my seat on the couch for the happy ending.

You could say occupations like ER nurse never really occurred to me. I'm a poet who's afraid to look. I live with the irony. But what to teach my Isaac?

The baby raccoon was recovered successfully from the fence and I'm hoping to read about her release back into the wild of our neighborhood garbage cans in the next SPCA newsletter.

To witness suffering and help stop it, you must have compassion without caving in, you must hold the other's story gently as if it were your own while remembering it's not.

Isaac is small now and most of the world is out of his control. It's almost unfair to ask him to watch such things, a trapped animal, a scary snort. Life is unfair. I don't know how to nurture his sensitivity while cultivating in him the strength to take action when he can. There is another gap in my parenting knowledge, about the length of a broom handle.


David Weinstock said...

Oh yes! I hate suspense. And not just contrived sitcom suspense, where Fred pretends to own the bowling alley. Any suspense. When my copy of Harry Potter Book 7 arrives next Saturday morning, I'm going to open it straight to the next-to-last chapter to see who dies.

This may be why we are poets, not fiction writers.


Anonymous said...

How Awful! And what an unfortunate coincidence. I just finished reading your blog- yes because I enjoy it- but also because I am avoiding the situation at hand. My beloved cat-the one born on international women's day, the mate to my soul- just attacked a baby bird. I didn't see it. I had just strapped my daughter in her carseat because her father offered to take her to lunch to give me a break while our newborn is napping. I was still deciding whether I should be enjoying the extra attention my daughter has been giving me, or whether I should be feeling sad about my daughter's need to be clingy since her brother was born three weeks ago...when Bob comes around the corner from the back yard announcing, "We have a problem."

Oh boy! Then he explains how Stepper (beloved cat) has attacked a baby bird and how its parents are perched on the neighbor's roof screaming at him. "Is it dead?" I ask. "No" he replies. "Is it hurt?" "I think it's back leg is injured, but I don't know what to do about it", he says as I see him scoot the remains of my daughter's peanut butter and fluff sandwich in what I can only assume is the direction of the unfortunate baby bird, "because you can't touch them, right?"

Again...Oh boy!

So I corral the cat inside, and Bob and Eve take off for lunch. I have been spending the last half hour torn between the feeling like I should look, and just *really* now wanting to see the misery. What the hell am I supposed to do? I can't just leave the baby bird there. My daughter's swing set and sand box are out there. I guess I'll go look and see (hope hope hope) it flew away or its parents came to rescue it.

Like you said, "tell me when it's over"


Anonymous said...

correction, "really *not* wanting to see the misery"

Oh boy!

Anonymous said...

"Compassion without caving in,holding the other's story gently as if it were your own while remembering it's not." That's what we need more of. Jude

Kitty said...

David, I had a short story writer tell me just recently that she didn't have the patience to be bored - i.e.. write novels. I thought that was brilliant. She was an able defender of her genre. I suppose I should come up with some like dig for the poety people.
(though I am still planning on firing up the grill for your comment on my other post...)

don't tell me what happened.

Kitty said...


Tis the season. My friend's cat has eated two robin's eggs and two hummingbirds. I think everyone should have winter babies so that the hormones aren't raging just when the animal kingdom is also reproducing vulnerable young. If your baby is born in the winter (or, in a wild rain storm as mine was) you only have to avoid all those movies in which harm comes to youngins. (I still haven't made it through "Ray.")

Anonymous said...


Ok, I won't tell you what happened, but it was a happy far as I can tell.

I haven't seen "Ray", and it's probably a good thing since Eve and Isaac were born around the same time of the year, both being Pisces.

In fact, I can count on one hand the number of movies we've seen since our daughter was born four years ago. Life really does change after kids!


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