A good friend calls and shares:
“Whenever things got too hard, Mom hit the couch. I see her covered in all kinds of blankets. When we got wealthier, it was the hand-knitted, beige throw. Before that, years and years before, it was the bright-red, pilled one. That was the one she’d put over her shoulder to hold the parakeet when it landed.
“Looking back now, I can’t believe my parents would ever have agreed to keep a parakeet in the house. Not with my father’s European spic-and-span approach. But we had guinea pigs and hamsters too. I guess young fathers can put up with all that kind of stuff.
“But we’re older parents, though we have quite a few young ones left. We’re already tired, and less tolerant. But we’ve learned at least this much:
“Animals live outside.
“And better not to bring home kittens or baby chicks, ’cause they grow up to be cats and chickens, and every time, you have to heartbrokenly find a way to give them away with out too much trauma to the child.
“Like that baby chick that followed me around the house behind my every step. We said it needed friends, so we dropped her off at a farm down the road one day. The guinea pig we said missed his mom, so we brought him back to the pet store.
“The goldfish got rid of himself when no one changed the water.
“And every so often, the younger ones come home begging for a hamster or a dog, and I agree only to a goat because it’s kosher, and I won’t have to wash my hands all day.
“And everyone thinks, ‘Mom’s joking,’ but I’m kind of not, because though I look whatever I am, and I just had another birthday to add on to the 48 others, I’m a kid, no pun intended, and I’d gladly get a goat and feed it all the leftovers and then not have to feel so guilty all the time for throwing out food.
“But my husband says the neighbors wouldn’t like it, though I think they would, because then they’d have where to send their kids, no pun intended.
“And then we’d have goats’ milk, which everyone says is healthy, which I’m sure it is if you can swallow it. And when no one’s home anymore, I’d have someone to feed.
“So, so much for the goat.
“So, every time a major event happened, like me or my sister moved out, my mother would hit the couch. And I used to wonder why she did that. But the other day, when my youngest was packing to move out, I hit the couch.
“And I had something like a blanket that was a cross between the red, pilled one and the hand-knitted, beige one. And I just kind of lay there, feeling paralyzed and frozen from separation pains and understanding my mother more than I ever had before. But then I made myself get up, because I don’t want my child to remember that I hit the couch when storms come.
“Better we get up and escort, help, and support.
“So, I got up.
“And escorted and supported and waved goodbye all the way down the path, making sure she was far off until I headed back inside and hit the couch.
“And I thought, I’ll never get up again.
“My bones were heavy, like lead.
“While I lay there, I recalled these words from a friend, when she told me, ‘Just like a cow when it falls doesn’t make an accounting about how hard its life was, or is, or will be, but just stands back up again, and goes on.’
“So I said to myself, just get up, and go on, be a cow. I just kept picturing that cow, and it helped.
“I got up.
“Hope I didn’t bore you too much with all this talk about cows, kittens, cats, and chickens.”