How a Thimble of Fluff Kept Me Sane

Desiree
gambels-quail-817302_640Tomorrow my daughter returns from a week in California on her senior class trip. It's also her 18th birthday. Before she left, I asked her what sort of birthday cake she wants. This year, she opts for a cheesecake -- something I've never made, but I will give it my best shot. I found a fairly easy recipe, got my ingredients, and settled down to start.

Then the phone rang. It always does.

It was my dad, sounding distressed. Could I come over, to sit with Mom so he could go buy some Miralax? Okay, but what's going on? Should I just get some, and bring to them? And why's it so urgent?

Mom was up all night with abdominal pain and a fever. (Which means, Dad was up all night too) She seems to be seriously constipated. Maybe impacted even. While we were talking, Mom took herself to the bathroom. And proved conclusively that constipation was not the issue. But the pain and fever did not abate. Dad said he was going to call Mom's dialysis  nurse, get her opinion. He promised to call back when he knew more.

An hour passed, during which the cheesecake did not get made. Another hour, and I was just about to call him, when my phone rang. Mom's got peritonitis again. He's going to drive her to the hospital. How's that going to work? I asked. You can't  carry her down the front steps. (They have no ramp, even though hubby and I have offered to fix that.) She says she can manage it, and I can help, he said. For God's sake, just call 911! I said. Let them take her down there. If you drive her, you'll be sitting in the waiting room for hours, it's a Friday afternoon, the place will be busy!

Nope. She doesn't like that. And, gotta go, she's waiting.

I just stood in my kitchen, feeling waves of rage and despair wash over me. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. And then I heard a soft peeping sound behind me.

It was the tiny baby quail my next-door neighbor had found, sitting alone in the middle of our road. It was so young and new, it still had its egg tooth. A peeping ball of grey and brown striped fluff, no bigger than the end of my thumb. My neighbor brought it to me, knowing that I'm a bird person. (Other neighborhoods have crazy cat ladies. We have a crazy bird lady.) Well,  he was correct to do so. I have raised many baby birds over the years. Chickens, cockatiels, doves, robins. And now a tiny Gambel quail. The sweetest, most adorable little thing. And, as it turns out, friendly and charming. Likes to snuggle in my hands to nap, and sip water drops from my fingertip.

Today I realized that the baby creatures I have rescued and raised -- birds, kittens, puppies, and so on -- they are such a tremendous gift. I've been doing this for my entire life, and I've gotten fairly good at it. The little creatures find their way to me somehow, I take them in, feed and care for them. And they always, always find their own way to return the favor. They never complain, or make me feel inadequate. They just snuggle in the warmth of my hands, look up at me with trustful eyes, make their soft little noises.

And bring my blood pressure down, and my stress level down, and my emotions to a much more joyful place. Because I need them, maybe even more than they need me.

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