I’ve always considered seeing a cardinal to be a good omen. When I watch one blaze across the sky in holy flames I feel I’ve been chosen to view the sacred. They were also my mom’s favorite bird, which endears them to me forever. I remember her calling the females, Lucy Lipstick, because of their bright orange beaks, which still makes me giggle. Since her passing, 17 years ago, I always think of, Ma when I see a cardinal.
This week my aunt needed to head north due to a death in the family and asked me to dog/house sit while she was away. Death has a way of equalizing life, causing priorities to slip effortlessly into place. I quickly packed up and headed out to the car. Once there, Jack, a feral cat that we feed, stopped by for his daily meal. My husband, Mike unlocked the car for me and then headed back to the trailer for some cat food. I waited in the hot car, leaving the door open to allow some air flow.
In spite of the sad occasion, I was looking forward to my stay at aunties; after all, there would be space, something severely lacking in the trailer, plus I’d have a pool, privacy, and two of my favorite dog people to keep me company. I was lost in thought when a dreadful thud called me back to the car. It was one of those moments when my head and my eyes couldn’t agree on what they were seeing. There was a rusty fluttering of helplessness, and then a shiver. It was Lucy. Soaring through our driveway she had hit my car window. Jack appeared from the bush, keen-eyed and crouching. I turned away, unable to wrap my head around the situation. Injured Lucy was no match for Jack.
I carried the heavy of this scene around in my belly all day, trying to grasp its meaning…but it was useless. So I self-medicated with brie and cherries, as I moved into auntie’s house.
About 7:00 pm the phone rang. It was a man’s voice, sounding as far away as Mozambique, and very official.
“I’m looking for a, Leah Griffith. Is this she?”
I usually host a mini version of 20 questions before admitting who I am, but after the cardinal killing I was totally off my game.
“Yes. This is she.”
“My name is Sgt D. Hall with the San Francisco Bay police dept. Do you know Eric G.?”
“Yes. I just spoke to him Sunday. Has something happened? Is he alright?”
“I have some very bad news ma’am, Mr. G. was found dead in his apartment this afternoon. He was sitting at the kitchen table slumped over a bowl of soup. I suspect it was a heart attack. I’m still here with him now waiting for the medical examiner and it doesn’t appear that there was any struggle. I doubt he suffered.”
Not our Eric…
the genteel giant, and dignified Baltimorean, with Clint Eastwood grit and a Mr. French accent.
the story teller whose hearty laugh was as irresistible as a chocolate bar.
the meticulous journalist who kept a daily account of his life from the age of 18 on, noting the little things with the same reverence as the monumental.
Eric… a sixty something bachelor who offered love, sought kindness, and whose high IQ, and awkward social skills, set him apart from most of humanity, often repelling the very thing he craved the most...female companionship.
Uncle Eric had been a member of our tribe since 94, when he spent three years living with our family, witnessing the reality TV insanity of our lives as we raised teenagers.
I remember he phoned me late one morning, and with his hoity-toity accent, he stated, “I’ve been incarcerated.” It was a silly seat-belt ticket that he had ignored. Being a big man he found seat-belts suffocating and he refused to wear one. Bailing him out was an honor…and hilarious.
Eric loved us all
just as we were.
People willing to do that are rare.
I feel like a bite has been taken out of my soul
because I know
I shall never find another, Eric.
I hung up the phone
fighting for air.
I ‘m still not sure how to wrap my heart around any of this.
I certainly can’t erase it.
Sometimes life whispers
sometimes it sings
And sometimes life simply breaks your heart.