Friday, October 14, 2011

A Bracket of Cardinals

As I pulled into the driveway of my Nana's yard I saw a male cardinal perched in the bush nearby to where my mother keeps her bird feeders. In the gloaming his bright red feathers were still easily visible. I though how appropriate it was to be greeted by this bird, for it was my Nana's favorite, and though this is her home, she has been dead for 12 years now,and October was the month she died in. To me, seeing the cardinal there now is like having her presence here in her yard.

I shut the car off and start to unload my suitcase and my birding gear. Everywhere I go I bring my binoculars and since I plan on going on a birding outing with the Birders who Blog, Tweet and Chirp on Saturday, I also have my camera and various other equipment or clothing I may need for that outing, including the infamous camouflage rain poncho I acquired a few years ago for the New River Birding and Nature Festival. Hopefully I will not need it this Saturday.

After hauling all my stuff inside and greeting my Mom, I set out to refill the bird feeders, which are empty. I bring the two from the back yard to the front of the house where Mom keeps the seed and get down the one front yard feeder and refill them all. Night has almost fallen now. The sky is dark and gray. Street lights have come on, and a steady line of traffic is moving down main street as people return from work, or hurry to the stores and restaurants. I've learned to ignore the sounds of modern life for the most part and I concentrate on listening for birds and listening to the crickets chirping and the late autumn chorus of what I think are peep frogs. It is a peaceful occupation, a calming thing, to refill feeders and watch autumn leaves fall.

When the feeders are full I accompany my mother outside. She is going up to her church for a special program tonight, so I come out to say good-bye. As she walks towards her car the air is ripped by the sound of screeching tires and then a woman's screams! I hurry down the stairs so I can see around the corner of the ell to the street. Across the darkened park we can see a group of people gathered. The woman's voice rises frantically above the din, "Oh My God! OH MY GOD! SOMEBODY HELP ME! OH MY GOD!"

Mom and I rush inside to grab a phone. My mind is rushing to try and figure out what the tragedy is. I want to call 911 but I need more information. I poke my head out the front door and tried to see across the green through the darkness to the street. What I think I am seeing alarms me. I think someone has been hit by a car. As I start to dial 911 I only get to the 9-1...when we hear Mom's scanner go off. The call has already gone out and we hear that a person HAS been hit by a car on Main Street.

I know that the police and ambulance with paramedics and EMT's will be there soon and I try to think how I can help. I know that one of the first things to be concerned about in this kind of trauma is shock, so I ask my mom for an old blanket and run across the street.

By now a crowd has gathered. There are people trying to help the injured man who is lying on the asphalt. Chinese food is strewn along the curbing and out into the street. The first police officer arrives just as I am throwing the blanket over the man. Others there spread it out. The officer comes over and cradles the man's head in his hands, stabilizing it. I know my limitations and I hear the ambulance coming so I step back and let others do their jobs. I look to see how I can help and position myself by the frantic woman, who turns out to be the man's wife. She is kneeling in the road by his legs. She is understandably screaming and crying. I put my arms around her and try to offer comfort and calm her down. Soon an officer arrives and moves us off to the edge of the green, not only so the EMT's can do their job unimpeded, but also to try to calm her down so she will not distress her husband anymore.

The woman is hyperventilating and I try to get her to slow down and breathe. Her words come in a tumble and she vascilates between trying to give the officer medical and personal information and describing what she saw, and crying out for them to save her husband, and yelling to him that she is right here, to calling out to God and praying, to wanting to call her friend. She finally pulls a phone from her pocket and scrolls through the numbers 'til she find the person she want to call. Her voice is so frantic and her words so jumbled that I ask if I can take the phone and talk to her friend. I tell the man what is going on and ask him to come for her. She wants him here.

The man lying in the road is 59 years old and has had 6 bypasses. He is on his back. I can only see the sea of bodies gathered around him trying to work. Most of my attention is focused on the woman, but as they start to put the man on the stretcher, I see his right foot and ankle bent at a 90 degree angle. Someone straightens it out and they lift him up. However, I did see his chest moving in steady breaths, and his hands moving in a purposful manner, as if with conscious thought. One of the emergency personal tells us that it looks worse than is appears.

As the man and the woman are bundled into the ambulance for their trip to the hospital I stand on the curb with another woman about my age who has been there helping all along. I discover that she is a nurse. She thanks me for stepping in to help. I tell her it is in my blood. My grandfather was the Fire Chief in this town at one time, and my cousin is still a volunteer fireman and EMT. All my family holidays as a child were permeated with the sound of the siren going off and all the male relatives jumping up to leave. My mother still keeps a scanner for this reason and she prays for those who are in trouble. It is in her blood too.

In the flickering and flashing lights from the police cars, which still have the street blocked off, I can now see the pool of bright red blood lying where the man lay just a few moments ago. It looks like thick red paint spilled on the road. I am amazed at how much it looks like thick red paint. The car that hit him is stopped in its gruesome tracks. The windshield on the passenger side is fractured from the impact into a thousand spider veins. An officer asks myself and the nurse to step out of the way so he can photograph the scene. Others are already starting to do their cleanup job. I take the used blanket and toss it ove my shoulder and head back to Nana's house.

It is late when I finally go to bed. After that kind of adrenaline rush it is hard to calm down. It is long after midnight before my eyelids grow heavy and I reach up to shut off the light.

The next morning I awake to the sound so of wind and birds. I pull back the covers and grab my bins and head for the window over the kitchen sink. Though the glass is old and thick and wavy I still try to focus on the bird feeders in the back yard to see what I can see. At first there is just a titmouse, a chickadee and a house sparrow. I put the kettle on to make my tea, and then I hear the chip note, the short, sharp call that I am waiting to hear. This time a pair of cardinals has come. I see the bright red male and the soft red and brown female in the bush by the garage, coming to the feeder. I feel that Nana and Grandpa are still here in this yard watching over me and my mother. I feel their strength inside me and I am thankful.

In punctuation brackets are a way to set off a thought or an idea. They are a pause in the running dialog. In today's blogging and texting world, some people use they to indicate a hug. I feel like I have been encompassed by a bracket of cardinals with a traumatic event in-between and a reassuring hug on either side. I do not know what happened to the man or his wife and I know I would not be able to find out, but I can only wish him the same grace that I feel here in Nana's yard. I wish him a Bracket of Cardinals.

Note: I am in Connecticut at my mother's house for today. Tomorrow I am heading home but on the way I am going birding with the birders who Blog, Tweet and Chirp. Today I am going to see The Big Year Movie with Jeff and Dawn Fine. Currently it is 68F and pouring rain outside. Autumn leaves are falling carpeting the yard and the streets. It's a good day to stay inside and watch a Birding Movie. I expect the computer situation to be resolved by Monday and I will finally be able to post pictures to my blog once again! I hope you enjoyed today's story.


  1. Hi Kathie

    It sounds like quite an experience, I know something like that can be quite a shock and I wish you all the best.


  2. Guy, I am fine. After all the things I have been through in my life, I take events like this in stride. I had the feeling that the man is going to be alright. Thank you for your concern.

  3. I could feel the love from Nana's yard and know you needed that after such a traumatic event. You give and receive as should be. Hugs to you. And fun with Dawn and Jeff. Can't wait to see the bird film.

  4. Wow, what an adrenaline rush! Enjoy the serenity of the cardinals in your mom's yard. Enjoy the movie!

  5. With regard to the accident you did a great job Kathie.

  6. Wow,you handled that just wonderfully Kathie! I would be a wreck and too nervous to even be a help. I love how the birds came to give you a hug. The birding outing and the movie sound like a great day. ENJOY!!


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.