“Dad Bird” Revisited

Adult Cooper’s hawk. Photo by J. Melfi

I was sitting here on my balcony a few minutes ago literally thinking, “Well, it’s Father’s Day, I wonder if I’ll see my Dad Bird.” (I wrote about my connection to my dad through a Cooper’s hawk last year – it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever written.) And then I started typing up a story about my dad that I have been thinking about lately, and a Cooper’s hawk JUST THEN swooped in front of me, landed on a tree branch for maybe five seconds, and then swooped again out of sight. I jumped up and just stared after it, my mouth hanging open, tears running down my face, because even though this happens regularly, it takes my breath away every time.

I still want to tell the story that I sat down to write.

I recently got my car detailed by the nicest man in my old neighborhood—he goes by Dr. Detail and has an actual PhD and is a teacher who does detailing on the side “for fun,” is ridiculously affordable, and has my business for life. As I drove away, marveling over my miraculously clean car (it had been a DISASTER, thank you slob children), I thought about my dad.

Caring for my car had been one of my dad’s love languages for me. Every time I came home from college or Clemson or Columbus, he’d pull my car into the garage, change the oil, meticulously dust and Shop-Vac it, wash and wax the outside, and probably curse me a little because, let’s be honest, keeping a clean car was never my thing even pre-kids.

He would have the Indians game on the radio, or maybe some ZZ Top, and would be at it for hours, sweating away, but always had a smile for me when I would apologetically check in to see how it was going. It was just this thing he did unfailingly for me, and it felt like love—it WAS love—and I felt wrapped in that love as I drove away back to wherever was home at the time.

Juvenile Cooper’s hawk. Photo by J. Melfi

So I’m driving away from Dr. Detail thinking about all this, and I very deliberately thought, “I haven’t seen my Dad Bird for a while.” I probably don’t have to tell you what happened next. I came home, was in the living room when I heard a bunch of bird chatter from the house sparrows and jays outside, and I look out to see a Cooper’s hawk on the fence. Of course. Hi, Dad.

Then the next day, same thing—I hear the cacophony of bird alarm calls, and I rush out to the balcony, and it’s another Cooper’s hawk—this time a juvenile! A very clumsy juvenile running around under the shrubs like a chicken, unsuccessfully trying to nab one of those sparrows hunkered down inside. It was quite comical and made me laugh, something my dad was very good at.

I miss my dad, Father’s Day and every day. I hope anyone who is missing their dad feels a connection to the love they shared, whether it’s through a favorite memory, a sunset, a bottle of salad dressing in the fridge—whatever pulls your heart close to his. I believe in messengers, and I believe in signs, and I believe in love that lives on beyond our realm of understanding.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *