Just spoke to Mom. No mention of a counselor yet, but she sounds in good spirits. She told me she just received a card from Coach Shula. Years ago, my mother had been Shula’s late wife’s friend and counselor. The card she explained, was an anniversary card. For eighteen years now she has been a water aerobics instructor at Shula’s club in Miami Lakes. She began attending a class there a year after her hard won recovery from breast cancer. Before long, she was teaching it, and at age eighty-one, she is still actively instructing.
My sister in-law, Lee was there with her when I called. She brought some homemade oatmeal cookies to my parents. It warms my heart to know that she is so close by. Lee met my older brother when he was stationed at a military base near her home in Korea. After my brother died, she remarried, and thankfully remained close to the family.
I’ll never forget the first time she introduced her new husband to the family. Bob was twenty years her senior and over six feet tall. When they arrived the entire family was already seated at the dinner table. He looked around nervously and then smiled, “Sorry if I seem little... surprised. This isn’t exactly what I was expecting.” We all looked at one another other wondering why. He was speechless for a few seconds, then he apologetically attempted to explain. “It’s just that I was expecting more of a... well a traditional little, Korean family?” We all busted out laughing and as soon he joined in, from that day on, he was officially part of the family.
It’s hard to believe that all that happened over thirty years ago. Just last year, after a long struggle with declining health, Bob passed away. Despite the differences of, language, distance and time, Lee and I have always shared a special bond. She was the only one who really understood when I married Jack, who was also twenty years my senior. Seems ironic somehow that our losses coincided as they did. Our husbands died exactly one year apart, to the very month.
I couldn’t help but to ask her on the phone just now if she had been visited by any red birds lately. She sounded very excited that I asked, “No, no red ones.” She replied. “Only mockingbirds and blue jays. And, one very special little handicapped blue bird.” I’m not really sure exactly what this special bird’s handicap is, but it seems his beak is deformed and and apparently she has to chew his food for him so he can eat it. Evidently, she has been caring for this little blue bird since he was a baby.
I was surprised to learn that since Bob’s death Lee had taken up caring for a group of birds in her back yard. How interesting that it was the caring for these birds that brought her out of the house each morning and helped her to begin facing the world again. Lee and I shared our cardinal experiences, and while they were similar many ways, it appears that her cardinal, came in blue.