It all started with a meme of an owl that someone posted on Facebook. It was warning against the use of poisons on rodents, as owls kill rodents, and we don’t want the owls dying. It was profound enough for me to repost it on my own page.
My older brother Tom felt the need to not only comment on it, but to elaborate on how he and some friends of his, back when they were about 13, found an owlet in a nest in a barn behind our house on Minaker Dr.
“The stuff we did to that owl makes me cry to this day. Yeah, I’m a man alright.” His comment, although stemming from clear remorse, blindsided me, and my initial thought was, “What the hell is up with him and all of this drama, of late?”
Shaken, I immediately deleted his post, but the image was already ingrained in my head, as I knew that boy back in the mid 1960’s, and how trigger-happy he was with a BB gun. His friends could be even more cruel, and all I could do from that point was to fight back the tears, thinking of this mother owl, coming back to the barn to an empty nest, then finding her baby tacked up and obliterated.
I immediately shot (pun well-intended) Tom a message, “I deleted your “baby owl” comment from my post. Sorry, Tom, but that stuff is too depressing for me, and I know most of my friends would feel the same. I, myself, try not to think about how disposable animals were when we were young, and I do my best these days (as I know you do on most counts) to make up for the past by treating animals with more respect. That said, sounds like you have some issues that a good “40 Days of Writing” project might help to bring out. Not a slam at all; it’s good therapy, and it gives you a chance to exercise some creativity as well. I’ll let you know when the next one is coming up, if you’re interested. I have had a number of friends participate. Love, K.”
He immediately replied, “I don’t give a rat’s ass about the owl thing and I don’t give a rat’s ass about the ring thing. I DO give a rat’s ass about family. I believe it’s time we part ways. Take care Sis.”
(The “ring thing” was a separate issue we had been discussing regarding some family rings that were left to me — and not him.)
Feeling somewhat exuberant, I tapped out this response, “You know what? That’s a good idea. Goodbye and good luck.”
This exchange was just a portion of the familial unraveling that would begin not long after the death of our mother. Prior to her death, Tom had been exhibiting strange quirks via email and Facebook that were making all of us family members (including a couple of cousins) somewhat uncomfortable.
During a phone conversation with me about three months before she died, mom expressed her disgust, “That Tom…he gets a few drinks in him, then gets on Facebook and makes an ass of himself.”
On one occasion, between the time of Mom’s death and the “owl” exchange, Tom and I were chatting on Facebook, talking about my childhood cat, Puff. He kept referring to her as “Fluffy,” and I kept correcting him.
He then continued with, “Mkay….anyways….one day Mom says, ‘Get rid of that cat,’ so I grab it and take it really, really far out Lone Tree Way in my International Harvester van. Many claw marks later I get it out of my van. Guess what cat showed up at home few weeks later?”
Very funny story, Tom, thanks. Gotta go, now.
Like I stated before, “…disposable animals…”
Back to the owls. I couldn’t shake the story, the thought, the heartbreak, and before I knew it, I was sobbing on the comfy sofa in my therapist Lynn’s office, clutching a pillow while relaying the story to her, and lamenting the cruelty that seemed so characteristic of my bloodline.
“Have you considered working with wildlife,” Lynn asked, compassion in her eyes, “where you could possibly help injured birds and other species?”
“It’s a nice idea; maybe I should look into it,” I said, slowly pulling myself together. Deep down I wasn’t sure if that was the right path to take toward my healing, but it planted a seed, regardless.
Owls resonated with me from then on, but mostly in the form of pendants that could hang in their place of honor, close to my heart. Although associated with wisdom and intuition, they have since held a more personal affiliation with me.
The first owl pendant I found was at a boutique in Ventura, while visiting my friend Cathy. It happened to be hanging next to an elephant pendant, and since — due to my extensive memory — my nickname to some friends is “Kellyphant,” (pronounced “Kelly-Font,” like the elephant character in the old Kimba cartoons) — I snapped it up, as well.
(“Don’t tell her anything;” my friend Diane laughingly warns new friends and acquaintances, while shaking her head and rolling her eyes, “she’ll spring it on you years later…”)
I wear an owl pendant several times a week, gravitating toward my collection as I am getting dressed, while considering what kind of day, afternoon or evening I have in front of me. However my older brother chooses to get through the guilt, and heal from his torturous actions from long ago is all on him, I’m afraid. I have my own healing to do, and numerous times I have found myself gently clutching an owl pendant I’m wearing and saying to an imaginary mother owl and her owlet who never got a chance to fly, “I am so sorry. Where, and who I came from is not who I am, now. Animals are not disposable, and cruelty toward them has no place in my life. Never forget that.”
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