Just A Poultry Encounter Finale, Part 3. Happy Turkey Day!

About Thomm’s dream…
“Of course.” He sat up in the car seat. “I think what influenced the dream was the feeling of hopelessness, or rather, I could almost feel meaning and purpose drain out of me as I hitched rides away from home. So, as I dozed off or dozed on or rode the horizon of R.E.M., I had this dream. My Uncle was in it. He was plucked, stuffed, and golden brown on a platter right next to the cranberry sauce! I gasped in horror! Actually in my native tongue it would have been an annunciated “blullullla”. The table was long and the people were plenty with their heads bowed and hands folded in their lap…except for some of the children staring at my uncle like he was Turkish Delight. Then I realized even though uncle Thommy was missing feet, talons and all, his spindle neck and bald head were attached AND ALIVE! He cricked his neck and looked me right in my eye, my right eye, and began to speak.

“Thom Thom, oh how I’ve missed you! How you’ve grown. You have a nice beard there. I’ve been worried about you. I know there is reason to run, at least it seems the reasonable response to the recent events in your life. But I am here to offer another possibility, so don’t start molting like you’ve seen the ghost of Thankgiving’s Past. This is only a dream, but the scene is a reality that many of us have the privilege to enter. For many of us it is our manifest destiny.”

“Destiny! Destiny? Butter basted, extra crispy, stuffed with who knows what, and taken from the free range to the range oven…just what kind of destiny is that?”

“I know how you feel.”

“Do you now!?”

“Yes I do, because you are looking at last Thanksgiving at the Hubble’s house. For a brief moment I laid in the middle of a family taking time to reconnect at an annual meal. Meal time for American’s used to be the time of day, every day, for communication and communion. Eye to eye contact, body language, common courtesy, and a physical reminder of belonging. Now those special times are reduced to a few times a year.

When I was your age, an older, wiser, Tom took me aside and gave me ‘the talk.’ The talk I never made the opportunity to give to you. I procrastinated, and I kept seeing the chicken scratch writing on the wall but….” His voice trailed off. “I’m so sorry I didn’t prepare you for this. I hope you will find a way beyond this and forgive me.” He then shook his snood and said, “This is my chance, and as weird as it might be to listen to a succulent, organically raised bird speak to you from the dead, I will not pass this up.”
*
His head and neck then disappeared and a translucent uncle Thommy floated above the Hubble family table. He hovered over grandpa’s comb over, Lauren’s pigtails, Kelsey’s cornrows, and grandma’s poofy grey arrangement. He saw the horn of plenty and the expanded double leaf table full of entres’, and there in the middle his body. The center piece wasn’t the candied yams or the mashed potatoes. It wasn’t the salad, cranberry sauce, or the green bean casserole. It wasn’t the cherry, mintz or pumpkin pie. It was the body of a bird raised free.

“Oh Thomm Thomm“, he began, “Take a good look. This family is bowing and thanking God for the gifts they are about to receive and I was one of them. I was the one in the middle to be carved and given to each. This is why I was raised. Look at them. Before they sat for prayer I was able to float around the house and listen in on conversations. They have their dysfunctions and differences. They have their favorites. They have their spoiled last borne. See that little one over there. Her name is Emmy and she took special care of me when I was just fluff. Thank goodness she lost track of who I was!

It would be arrogant to tell you that they gather just because of me. No, it’s their God given desire for connection and the God-image in them. This holiday is just one reason they make efforts to come together. It’s a human thing, we wouldn’t understand. They pray to One bigger than their collective experiences. We fulfill God’s design for us. We feed, but more than that, our species in America feed thankful bodies, thankful hearts. Your destiny is at hand. You could be in the middle of all sorts of possibilities. Redeeming moments, forgiving moments, loving moments, joyful moments, meaningful moments, all basted in the juices of thankfulness.”

“It was then I woke up and looked east and rousted my roosting. Time to head home I said to myself. It is my time to walk through the door of destiny. No more running. I figured if I got back soon enough I could be a part of someone’s thankful day this year.”

I was without a word. Did a turkey really go there? Nobody’s going to believe this. I don’t believe this. I’m on my way to Berrien Springs. I’m a turkey taxi. There’s a turkey in my baby’s car seat who just gave me a lesson in religion, philosophy, manifest destiny, and the difference between free range and PPP turkey farming. What passed through by lips was “thanks for sharing.”

“Thanks for caring and carrying for that matter!” he responded. “It felt good to process the story to you. It was like getting the stuffing scooped out of me. I feel lighter.”

“Hey, I know this is sudden, but why don’t you come to my house for dinner! I mean, I have a couple of punk mass produced turkeys in the back I can give away to two families in Mattawan. You’ve got to be thirty pounds dressed. You are what I was looking for earlier…a nice, fat, Thomm Thomm! We both laughed. If you’ve never heard a turkey laugh before you’ve never split a gizzard.

“I would be honored to be front and center at your house on your Thankful Day. Blullulla!”

Just a Poultry Encounter Part 2. Part Three This Evening

He gulped hard which gave his snood a wiggle. “Well, being from a free range ranch I had a great childhood. There was lots of freedom, lots of friends, and lots of room to run. I even enjoyed short flights from time to time. I hardly ever got pecked on and when I did, it was my buddies having some good, clean fun. Yeah, we used to stay up late and talk about our adventures, like when we would wheel dodge. We saw how close we could strut in front of cars or tractors without getting run over. We had chicken fights in the watering trough. We had snood flapping contests until our gizzards hurt.

My uncle Thommy, in whose honor I was named, would tell us of his days in the PPP, the Poultry Processing Program, and his daring escape aided by some animal rights group. He was like a father to me. He would always find a way to help me appreciate life. I remember the way he puffed out his chest and made eye contact. That was his listen up son body language.” Thomm then changed his voice to sound like his old uncle. “You weren’t raised to fly but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.” He smiled, although I didn’t think turkeys could with a solid beak and all. “I will never forget that,” he said. Then Thommy looked out the window and sighed and his wing covered his mouth as he continued.

“About a year ago my uncle Thommy went missing. Here one moment, gone the next. I was so fouled up and sadness accompanied my search for him. I wanted to pull my feathers out as I hopped and flapped over every square yard of the range. I walked the entire perimeter of the property for compromises in security. If there was a sag or a hole in the chicken wire fence he might have fallen victim to the coyotes. I never found him but I did find I had grown up through the loss. I wasn’t some little punk of a poult any more and things were going to be alright, even without my uncle Thommy to wing his wisdom and legendary stories my way. It was me and my buddies now, at least until about a month ago.”

I noticed his face starting to pale. I don’t understand how a turkey could get any paler, but he did.

He continued slowly with a Star Trek Captain Kirk cadence.

“They…just…all…started…to…vanish!”

“Who did?”

“All my friends…Wing Man, Tommy Boy, Hook Beak, Pencil Neck, Bird Turd. My whole crew… gone!”

“You say it was about a month ago? Well I think…”

“I know, I know. At least I know now,” His tone of voice changed to resignation. “I was so naïve. I thought our ranch was different from all those other PPP type places. I had to get out of there. I had to leave on my own terms so I made a way of escape. Last year, I noticed an area of the fence which hung a tad low. I thought if I could get a running start there might be a possibility. After all, I was the champion wheel dodger. So from twenty five yards back I dug my talons in and pushed the throttle to full on….and here I am!”
“Wow. That’s quite a story, even from a turkey…ehem, no offence,” I said.
“Quite all right.”
I notice we were approaching the Mattawan exit and saw Thomm sitting there with his belly sticking out with his wings folded over it.
“Hey, how ‘bout I give you a ride to Berrien Springs?”
“You don’t have to…”
“It’s a holiday!” After I said it I felt bad knowing which holiday it was and my present company. How could I be so insensitive! “I’m so sorry!”
“No worries, I’ve come to embrace this time of year as a point of destiny, not regret.”
Hmmm, this Thom Thom grew up in a hurry or he has gotten his feathers all fluffed up with poultry traumatic stress syndrome.
“I think hearing about the dream would help me understand why you are going back to the ranch.”

To Be Continued…

Just a Poultry Encounter Part One. Part Two and Three Later Today.

Highway hypnosis took over the minute I finished the onramp to I-94 west. Destination, home. The back end of the van sagged with holiday food which included not one, but two frozen turkeys. I scored a couple of fifteen pound weaklings. I felt like kicking sand in their faces, of which they had none. I set the cruise at seventy three, pulled the arm rest down, and turned off the Christmas music.

I saw something short, white, and moving along the rumble strip on the right near exit sixty eight. I cancelled the cruise and coasted. It was a bird! It was a rotund bird trotting with the traffic. A left wing was stretched in the air. I tapped the brake and as I got closer its tail feathers reached for the sky and spread like a Geisha’s fan. “It’s a turkey!” I said, “A suicidal turkey!” Come to think of it, a nice fat turkey like that, suicide would be a viable option rather than wait for the chopping block or hope for a pardon from the President. I put my flashers on as I passed him and pulled over the white line. In my mirror I saw him put his wing down and start running for my van. I got out and went around the back of my vehicle and this out of breath bird approached.

“Thank goodness! I know there is a trust issue in this country for picking up hitch hikers, but, come on, how much harm can I do in my condition?”

I stopped short with my hand to my chin. I’ve heard a lot of people talk turkey, but a talking turkey!? I shook it off.

“Where you headed?”

“West.”

“I can take you as far as Mattawan,” I said.

“Thanks, I was sure I was going be the next entrée on the Road Kill Café menu. I mean really, if people don’t want to give me a ride they should just drive on by! They were honking and swerving and yelling out their windows! Geez, it’s like they’ve never seen a hitch hiking turkey before.”

“Well I…”

“I’m just trying to get from A to B you know!” He said as his snood flapped from one side of his beak to the other.

“Hey, let’s get in out of this holiday traffic,” I said. I moved up one of the kid’s car seats and positioned it in the middle of the bench behind me and buckled him in. Under forty pounds, have to be in a car seat. I got back in and adjusted my mirror so I could see him. He had a long scrawny neck and a not so handsome head attached. His head was stubble bald with a three inch orange-red snood draped over his beak. The hanging red caruncles waved back and forth like a dancing double chin every time he turned his head. “Do you have a name?”

“Tom. That’s Tom with an h, T-H-O-M. I was named after my uncle Thommy.”

I had an Uncle Tommy once. Come to think of it he would have made a nice turkey on many different levels.

“I’m Jerry with a J. Are you running away?”

“I was, but now I’m heading back to Berrien Springs,” he said as his head bobbed and weaved.

“What’s in Berrien Springs?”

“The free-range turkey ranch I’m from. I was raised there from a wee poult.”

“Why the turn around? Why are you going back?”

“Bad dream. Well, it wasn’t a total bad dream. It was a wake-up call kind of bad dream. I mean it had an epiphany inserted in it. I mean I had an epiphany while I was dreaming. No, no, when I woke up and assessed its meaning… I was taking a snooze behind a rest stop near Detroit and had a half-sleep non-R.E.M. dream.” He stopped short and took cleansing breath.

“I saw his head down with his snood hanging dead center off his pale yellow beak. Hey, it’s okay, do you want to tell me about it?”

“Yeah, maybe talking about it will help me process it better.” I raised an eyebrow at his choice of the word process.

“Why don’t you start by telling me why you ran away in the first place? I kind of have an idea seeing what time of year it is in America, but I don’t want my assume anything.”

To Be Continued…

The Gift of Restlessness

It isn’t fully received,
a rose bent over at its neck.
Thorns spaced so holding the stem
is an intentional act but not a grasping,
clenching affair.
Thumb and fingertips
lightly turn the bud bowed
in the prayer of sacrifice, red petal
winged tears glide and rest in our steps,
and we go on another walk.

Choking On Air. A Poem.

Scenes within get stuffy, crowded,
and I don’t want to breathe on anyone
let alone choose words to place in
run-on sentences while my fingers

shuffle through party crackers
and cheese the size of dice.
The jazz music wandering though
it all only served as a “should.”

I used to be comfortable being
shoved around by “ought.”
Now, I would rather step outside
and see what the sky is up to.

It’s not their fault, really.
Sometimes I avoid people by
helping them, instead of eating
cheese, I set it ornately on trays.

The folding of chairs or arms
is body language which neither sits
nor embraces connection.
Yet solitude is what I crave

in a crowd sometimes.
Please be near me but do you
mind if we brush cold shoulders
and eat cheese?

No Poem. No Memior. Just Pasted Thoughts Of Large Adoptive Family Shtuff.

When life gets more real and raw, sometimes the answer suspends in mid air just out of reach. In my head I gather facts and history. The moment to speak is now and all that comes out is stuttering and behind the eyes a fear of no answer, grasping at air.

The raccoon is dead and we drive past without blinking. I often tell whoever is with me, “That’s a weird place to take a nap.” Or about the car in the median after a blizzard, “That’s a funny place to park.” There is a context in which each scene lies and I neither take the time or energy to investigate. Animal control comes to scoop up a carcass. The State Police slows traffic as the tow truck pulls the vehicle out.

But the scenes in a family, of which I am part, come with the context included. Each scene touches another like the beginning of rain on a glassy pond, the expanding circles from each impact cross over one another. It’s my choice to absorb the context of the situation.

I am often oblivious to the context of little (or BIG) extended plays of power and their struggles. What is a pulling on a toy between two children in my view is exactly what it is: Power struggle. I don’t see or choose to invest the time for the context of each child’s history in this family of adoption. My worn-thin wife, who chooses to embrace the context and operate out of it, is emotionally stretched thinner. I often find her parked in the median. It’s my choice to investigate the contextual framework for the big picture. She saw me drive on by too many times.

So history repeats and the expectation for help, or at least her hope for validation is weak. I don’t blame her. It’s a set up and I set it up for her. I understand men and women are wired differently. Men lean toward boxed and compartmentalized containment, while women integrate and thread all the aspects of life more naturally. There are advantages to both paradigms at times. They can also appear as dead animals on the edge of the road when placed side by side.

Honestly, I know people who live holistically, who have seemingly seamless transitions from one facet of life to another. Barbara, my wife, is one of them. When I consider the two paradigms as mentioned, I would rather move closer to my wife’s “whole pie” perspective than her sidle up to my “one piece at a time” mentality.

I suppose all marriages feel this anomaly tug on each end of a frayed rope, at least any marriage of consequence and extended history. Then enter children and the differences increase in volume as parenting seeks solidarity. Then enter adoption…

To be continued…

In the mean time, Anne Lamott handed me a compressed effective prayer…Help!

Any adoptive or blended families out there…here’s a shout out to you!

Breaking Away. Bike Rides.

When I think about going for a bike ride, sometimes I remember the dirt track in our yard. The path running tight around the skirt of our two story house was worn down. Roots stuck up like varicose veins. On a dry summer day dirt and dust flipped off our tires as we negotiated the corners. My brother and I and some neighborhood boys raced like Mario Karts with the perimeter as close to the house as possible. Stationary objects flew by us as we peddled on the straightaways and leaned on the imaginary banked turns like we saw on Roller Derby.

When I think about going for a bike ride, the time I lost control on our tricycle on our front hill bumps into view. I went from grass to curb to an asphalt body skid. The blood burned through the embedded tar bits and pebbles on my skin. Palms, knees, forearms all became brake pads and I came to rest face down in shock. The first responders, a few of my siblings, stood over me while one was sent to fetch Mom. Mom’s bed settled my crying as I tried to lay still and wait for scabs to form. Her Big Ben wind-up alarm clock beat like a heart in the recovery room.

When I think about going for a bike ride, I remember when I was in the best shape of my life. At the end of high school into summer and fall beyond I saddled up if I wanted to go anywhere. My coccyx had calluses back then. That was when I worked for two weeks at the best paying worst job of my life. A friend had gotten me into Checker Motors loading parts on a assembly line. I rode to work as the sun set behind my downhill coast to drudgery. Then around midnight, relieved of duty, I hopped back on the red fifteen speed to peddle up hill home.

When I think about going for a bike ride, my brother John’s recumbent cycle rides along side me. We entered the Wurst Half Century tour in Ohio thirty years ago. The bratwurst festival got our dogs pedaling. It was the furthest I rode in one day. We rode twenty seven miles from John’s house to the tour, finished the fifty mile tour, and rode back to his house. I imagined being in the movie Breaking Away and tried to talk in an Italian accent all day. If you haven’t seen the movie and you’re a cyclist, find it. The story will encourage you to push through saddle soreness.

When I think about going for a bike ride, my therapist tells me to warm up on the stationary bike right next to Bucky the life size skeleton. She tells me to ride for ten minutes to get my blood flowing. One day I rode at a faster pace thinking I would hit ten minutes sooner. Without coffee my brain cells don’t rub together too nicely. When I closed my eyes I could be riding anywhere. I rode the Tour De France, Kal-Haven Trail, or round and round my childhood house.

I like thinking about going for a bike ride.

Vacation, Power Out and Powered Up.

Vacation week. Family week. Family weak. I mean, I feel weak concerning my connection with my wife and children. This time of year it only gets worse. Christmas and the cultural material grasping intensity have a direct effect on me. The Big Brown and its elves get all the truck shelves filled like a sardine tin.

This year will be different because my eighteen year old daughter will be jumping for me. Jumper is the UPS term for driver helper, its version of Two Men and a Truck let’s say, only this time one man, one woman, and a truck. How about one dad, one daughter, and a truck? It shall be fun and bonding moments I am sure.

Anyway, this week I have taken over the chauffer duties for my wife Barbara. Tuesday I watched some children hit the gymnastics floor. Simply observing my children, really observing, has gained me further insight into what is relayed to me from Mom in the evenings after a long days work.

The beginning of this week a storm knocked out our power. Sunday night the singing by candle light began. Sunday night the screens entered into a coma and everyone gathered in the common area to play games. The big table wasn’t for eating, but for shouting across the eighteen inches at each other. Laughing at nothing (Don’t you think that kind of laughing is the most contagious?).

I got to work with my son Nathan too. The generator was working fine but the cord that led to the auxiliary breaker box didn’t jive with the outlet of the generator so he fetched the right plug from Menard’s. I watched him cut and strip the wires and begin to replace it with precision. He studies stuff before attacking a project. I left to figure out how to transfer the power to the auxiliary box and when I returned he needed a third hand to thread in the wires. We also spent some time putting up some insulation together. Then I taught him how to play rummy and he beat me hands down. Simple things really, but I felt connected to him in a way I hadn’t felt in a long time.

Yesterday I took the kids to Battle Creek all day for co-op classes. I saw two little girls of mine in their ballet lesson. Lots of smiles exchanged. Two other children had a fencing class and I heard the soundtrack to the movie The Mission in my mind and imagined Robert De Niro lunging with sword in hand. I saw seventeen year old Elisabeth poke an opponent in the chest. Her first time scoring and she smiled and let me know. Then off to the ranch for horsemanship to watch three daughters ride and trot and circle horses. The two little ones were so proud they rode alone with the reigns in hand.

I am thankful for the first-hand, real time look into Barbara’s busy life. Her every waking moment is an investment into family. A line forms right from the beginning of the day, usually with a child snuggling with her. If someone were to ask me what my wife does for a living my response would be she lives life, transfers life, and shows life to our community called family. We have a code we use to touch base. It’s called the EMP. I ask her how her Emotional, Mental, and Physical state is on occasion. Yesterday, after spending all day with a portion of my children I found my EMP was near EMPTY. More understanding for her depleted evening EMP will be there when I get back to the Christmas rush at the Big Brown.

IMG_1452
Emily and Zoe happy to be near horses.

Something’s Missing

A few days ago the sun cracked
a half smile like my father did.

The clouds were like eye patches
and I remember his weeping eye.

Partially sewn lids of paralyzed sight
gave him shallow depth perception.

My brother-in-law’s Bell’s Palsy
grinned at me yesterday.

One corner down, one corner up,
his mouth surfaced memories

of my father’s permanent condition.
A tumor stole half of Dad’s face

decades before he died.
I was frustrated I couldn’t find

one of his fifty percent photo’s,
portraits of two faces in one.

I found myself trying to get
Tim to laugh throughout

the day as we worked
just to incite a smirk or laugh.

I wanted to see my Dad’s
look again and again.

By the end of yesterday
I found I missed him.

Long Shadows

As Elton said,
“Don’t let the sun go down.”

Last night as it rested briefly
on a grove of trees
a melancholy hit me in the
eyes right below the visor.

If only I could hold it up
with a tripod of candy canes.
The shadows roll out like cookie dough.

I wanted to pull the truck over
and grab garbage can lids and old pie tins
and child shaped cutters.
Cookie cut my children
out of silhouette of my truck.

All the evenings out helping Santa’s cause.
So many winking suns separate
from my children’s anticipation.

So now you golden sphere
I ask you for a continuance, please.
Give me a minute to cut them out
and lay their joy within
the light of my heart.