We found a dead bird under my father’s mattress. It’s the second dead bird since he’s been gone.
The first was the week following his death. It lay in swirls of peach blush and red feathers, sprawled on the outdoor sectional’s cream cushions like a puffy Renaissance nude — an Audubon Society pinup — anticipating a quick nap. Only the nap was prolonged due to a picture window kamikaze mishap.
And then last weekend, the second one. Also red, no blush this time, all sleek and secret under my father’s upstairs master bed mattress. We unearthed it while diving for dumpster deposits in preparation for an estate sale. The mattresses had to go. No one wants to sleep on a dead man’s mattress. Especially a decades-old one. The mattress, that is, but so too, was the man.
And then a third bird — a robin this time — flew headlong into our screened door on Sunday and knocked itself senseless. It hung out for a while on our porch, ruffled and pouring shat like a cement mixer, before finding the wherewithal to fly away.
I’m a big believer in signs. And birds… they’re symbolic. And things in threes — they’re like the Holy Grail of signs and should never be ignored. But what do they mean?
Well, birds are symbolic of souls. Of souls ready to fly. They can be souls bound for glory or souls bound for freedom. Sometimes those things are one and the same. Sometimes they’re not. Here’s hoping they’re not — at least not in terms of that third bird.
Pretty sure the first two are representative of my father’s soul — a soul flown to glory. Especially considering when and where each was found. A bird in a house symbolizes a trapped soul. And when that bird doesn’t make it, it symbolizes death. So, too, does a bird hitting a window.
So here we are… three birds: two dead, one dazed and confused and shitting on my back porch. In a year already swollen and battered by anxiety, I can’t help but worry.
But that third bird… that robin (the species itself a harbinger of spring and new life)… I want to believe that bird symbolizes freedom. Freedom from this pandemic. Freedom from the ungodly stress and hit after hit this year has delivered to me and mine: my kids, husband, extended family, students, school.
This week has been particularly awful. We’ve had upheaval after upheaval. Our boys have croupy colds. My daughter’s boys have croupy colds. My other daughter endured a traumatic patient loss. And then there’s my husband’s and my work week (and it’s only Wednesday).
We have students sitting social distanced in hallways watching class from computer screens, and students sitting quarantined at home watching class from computer screens, and students sitting in class watching class from behind masks. And none are eager to participate. It’s all just too overwhelming.
And then there’s us. The teachers. We have teachers teaching their own students — in a myriad of ways — and teachers teaching other teachers’ students — for a myriad of reasons. We have teachers getting their temperatures taken twice daily because of exposure risk, and teachers taking anti-anxiety meds twice daily because of exposure risk, and teachers getting sick because of exposure risk, and teachers taking early retirement because of exposure risk. It’s all just too overwhelming.
And then there’s my father’s estate. I’m executor. And road blocks and delays are waiting at every turn. None of it’s been easy. Then multiply the “not easy” times a thousand because I am not a financially-inclined, legally-minded sort of individual. Not in the least. So it all keeps me forever off balance. And honest-to-God exhausted.
And any way you look at it, we are all, all of us, taking punches right and left, and the universe just keeps swinging.
It all feels so overwhelming and so honest-to-God impossible.
So here I sit, dazed and confused in a pile of shit not of my making, as the blows rain down upon me, and I pray there is another way. That there are indeed, better days coming.
That robin on my back porch regrouping while the wind whipped around it — I really need it to symbolize me. All of us. My family. My students. My school. My community. My country. All of us struggling under the whiplash of all the screen doors slamming us sideways right now — but still fighting our way toward freedom. Toward rebirth.
Bruised, battered, and split stem to stern, though we may be, I need to know we can rise above the monumental, excremental existence we’ve been living for far too long now and learn to soar. Again.