When we were on Vacation a couple of weeks ago on the North Fork of Long Island we took a day trip to Shelter Island. I borrowed a bike from our host and we rented one for Danusia at a Mobile station on the island, probably the only gas station there.
After our exhausting but beautiful ride through the very hilly island we were returning the bike and picking up our car when we heard a commotion above our heads.
There was an Osprey nest on top of a power line support, and in the nest was a young Osprey.
There was another Osprey, and we saw for just a second as this one landed on the nest clutching something in its talon and immediately take off again, circling the nest as she clutched her catch and calling repeatedly to the other bird. The bird in the nest cried franticly and flapped its wings, but remained in the nest.
“What are they doing?” Danusia asked me.
“It looks like the one flying around is the mama and she’s trying to get the fledgling to fly.” I assumed this, I don’t actually know what the birds were doing, I know that Eagles play with their catch (they play catch!) and Ospreys are sort of like Eagles, but this bird wasn’t letting go of whatever she was clutching. It looked like a mouse, I know Ospreys are fishers, but if a mouse is convenient, why not? The assumed mama bird flew in wider and wider circles, and landed on a tree about a hundred feet away, still clutching and calling. The other bird continued to flap its wings franticly and cry back.
“Why won’t the other bird fly?”
“Because it’s scared.”
We got in the car and left, I didn’t want to miss the ferry and I knew if the bird wanted to eat it was going to have to fly.
The incident brought back memories of my youth, and in retrospect I believe I was lucky, the tree was cut down right from underneath me and I had to learn to fly.
My mother died when I was 23, and her death sent me into a dark depression that I treated by the copious consumption of drugs and alcohol. Within a year I was at my father’s door asking for shelter, because of my inability to hold a job or keep and apartment. After a few months of this, two men wallowing in their self-pity and long held resentments on both parts, my sister who’d moved to Detroit after my mother’s death showed up one day and helped my dad pack all his belongings into a U-Haul hitched to the back of her car. She was taking him to Detroit.
“By the way, I told the management office dad’s moving out” she told me as she started the engine and drove off with my survival mechanism.
It was a hard lesson, and it took some time, but I was finally able to hold jobs and pay the rent on time. It was either that or wander around the streets of Brooklyn mumbling to myself.
Many years later, my 21-year-old son called me from Santa Fe, NM to complain about how difficult it was to live with his mother and stepfather, who’d moved out west soon after our divorce was final and they’d gotten married.
“As long as you live with your mother, you’ve got to play by her rules” I told him.
“If you don’t like it, get a job and your own place and you’ll never have to listen to her criticism again.” I believe I used a different word, but you get the point.
Javier that summer
After a few more phone calls I had an idea.
“Why don’t you come to New York for the summer, I can get you a job, you can save some money, go back and get your own place.”
This we did, I bought him a ticket, got him a job, fed him, and nurtured him to the best of my ability, making up for the years we’d spent apart. Then my dad died and my son Javier suddenly quit the job. He spent all day in his room playing video games. I gave him a month to find another job or go home.
A month went by and I saw he’d made no real effort to find work. You don’t go on job interviews in shorts and tee shirts. I bought him a ticket to New Mexico and told him to pack his bags. The day before he was scheduled to leave he called his mother. After that conversation he seemed really freaked out, and asked to talk to me in private. We were at a picnic; a memorial for a good friend who’d died the day before my dad did.
“Dad, I talked to mom and she said, where are you going to stay, I’ve turned your room into a studio.”
“Where are you going to stay indeed?” I said.
“Look son, I bought the ticket and you’re going back. If you can’t stay with your mother, use some of your money and get a cheap motel room, get yourself a job. I gave you a chance and you didn’t take it, you quit. You’ve got to learn to take care of yourself.”
He looked scared, all of a sudden very pale and shaken. I slapped his hard muscular shoulder and said:
“Don’t worry son, it will be OK. You’ll see, and thank me one day. If you can’t find a job, I’m sure they have homeless shelters in Santa Fe, probably a lot nicer than the ones they have here!”
That was four years ago, and I’m happy to say Javier has a job, he works in a car wash; he has a place to live, a house he shares with I don’t know how many other twenty-something’s, and the last time we spoke he’s trying to buy a car so he can get around in Omaha, NE where he lives. If he succeeds, he’s have one up on me, I don’t even have a driver’s license, much less ever owned a car.