Sunday, September 9, 2012

A White Porpoise, A Red Tailed Hawk, and Terrible Loss for my Good Friends...

            It’s been a busy few weeks since we last leaned on the fence and chatted about what’s on my mind. I’ve gone begrudgingly back to work after the end of the Summer of Kim. The kids and my amazing wife threw me a fantastic birthday. I’ve learned a bit about the enormous difference between going back to school as an employee and as a parent.

            Something else has happened which has had a larger impact on me that I want to admit. I have spoken of my friend/mentor/adopted big brother, Capt. Tony Daniels before. The Capt, as we like to refer to him and his family has had an enormous impact on my life. I went to Young Harris College with Tony. After he graduated, I met his sister, Dawn and the friendship blossomed. His parents were often around in those days and other periods of my life so I felt like I really know the Daniels pretty well. Matter-fact, when I think of my window at YHC, I realize the Daniels were a major part of it for me.

            It hit me pretty hard when I found out on the Facebook how their mom, Mrs. Daniels, lost her battle to cancer.

            I’ve spent the last week trying to figure out what to say or how to say something to maybe help with what they are going through. I got nothing. Except that I love them and I am here. Then my birthday came and something happened that rocked my world so hard, it has taken me bit to process it so I could write about it.

            I realized it was time to finally share the Hawk story.

            A few hours had passed since Mom, Mary, I and our entourage had returned from Hillcrest Cemetery to lay the Big Guy at rest. I had set up shop on the deck staring at the marsh and heavily trying to self-medicate on Camel lights and anything in a bottle.

            Our neighbor, Ron Bebee, (as mentioned in the last blog) dropped by to pay respects and say hello. As is custom with Ron, he walked up nursing his obligatory bottle of Bud Lite in one hand with a spare in his pocket even though we always offer to share our coolers with him.

            Rags, Gid, and a few others sat in silence on the deck as we all tried to find words to get something started but no one really spoke much. Some grief is just too thick.

            Ron finally broke the silence. “Shit, Rob. I don’t know what to say but I am so sorry. Bob was a helluva guy.”

            I nodded, faked a smile, and lit another Camel. I put the pack on old wire spool we always used as a table.

            Ron went on. “Sherry and are sorry were missed the service. We showed up late due to traffic and didn’t want to interrupt. We just stood off to the side and waited. “

            “Thanks, Ron. Means a lot that you guys would even come out. I know ya’ll got work.” I forced myself to keep it together.

            “The funny thing, Rob, is that something wild kinda happened so I am glad I had to sit off to the side.” Ron popped the second Bud Lite. “We were watching the service when I noticed this large bird fly up and land on the power lines over by where your daddy’s plot was.

            I didn’t think much of it at first but after a few minutes I began to pay more attention to that bird and I realized it was a red tail hawk. That bird sat there on that power line and I swear to God, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Bob’s service he watchin’. When the service was over and ya’ll were leaving, the hawk flew away.

            It stuck with me the whole way over here and I remembered how much your dad used to love to watch all the hawks we have out here. He used to talk about those birds all the time when we’d catch up out the yard.”

            It was true, Out on the property, we have a quite the menagerie of different animals that pop up from time to time including to alligators, deer, and a few families of red tail hawks that live somewhere across the creek on Isle of Hope. On many occasions, the Big Guy would come and find us to drag us from whatever Mary, Mom, and I were doing to point out what the Hawks were doing. It was almost a passion of his.

            One time, Dad tore us away from Mary and I’s late brunch to share Momma Hawk teaching her baby how to hunt. All of this was in our front yard. Momma Hawk stood big enough to carry off a hobbit. The damn thing could have easily come up to my waist; it was a powerful image and the moment where I fell in love with them too.     

            By this point, we were all sitting on the edge of our seat. Ron had our full attention. I only looked away so I could better grasp the plastic cup I was drinking bourbon and cokes out of. Ron wrapped up his story,” Guys, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that bird was your daddy’s spirit watching over all that to say goodbye but you can take this anyway you want.”

            And I have. Mary, Mom and I have noticed that at many junctures in our lives, a hawk shows up at moments when we need it. I have come to take it as the Big Guy saying, “Hey, I may be gone but that doesn’t mean I am not going to stop watching over you guys.”

            It is not an unusual occurrence where one of us will be catching up and the other mentions how they were going to work or doing something then look up to see a hawk watching them. We have gotten to where we refer to as, Hey, I saw Dad today.”

            Week before last I coolest thing to happen to me where I called Mary and shared. It was my birthday and half way through preplanning ant school. I was working on some US History test prep with my buddy, Billy Walker when Dave Westbrook came running in.

            Dave was elated to share, “You guys are not going to believe this. There is a hawk out next to the shrubbery. He just standing there is doesn’t seem to be afraid of people. We had six people standing around it and it had no fear.”

            Billy and I go out to see this and sure enough, out on the walkway was a red tail hawk. He was about a little over two feet tall and just standing there. At first, I thought he was hurt because we got pretty close and nothing occurred, Until I stepped forward by myself.

            I could hear Billy off in the background saying to be careful but something inside of me told me I would be fine so long as I approached carefully.  I was about three feet away when the hawk turned his head and peered at me. Our eyes locked. As weird as this sounds to say, I swear I felt as if that hawk was looking inside of me instead of “at” me.

            I am sure it was only a few seconds but after what felt like an eternity to me, the hawk leapt up and flew to a low hanging branch on the live oak I often admire as I walk to class. We spent the next hour or so watching him bounce around the front of the front of the school. All said, it was a pretty impressive afternoon.  
My good friend, Paul Sidney took this with the school camera

These were with my cell phone

            In spite of all this, I consider myself an individual with above average intelligence and very analytical mind when it comes to processing information. I am well aware there are very logical explanations to everyone of these occurrences. I have read up enough on these hawks and have a pretty good base of information on how animals act to make plausible explanations to why these hawks show up

              It doesn’t change the fact of how much comfort I get when one of these beautiful creatures pop into my life and reminds me that I am not alone. As I drive deeper in middle age, I find myself taking life pretty responsibly. If I want to allow myself my one moment of acting like Shirley MacClaine for the sake of comforting a devastating loss then I will. I don’t think anyone can fault for that if they do, fuck ‘em.

            Tony, Dawn, and Mr. Daniels, I am so sorry for your loss and wish I could be there as the hard part begins. Moving on. I wrote this over the past few weeks in hopes of that maybe it would be of some comfort but also to remind you that Gloria is not gone so long as you find ways to remember her. As I type this, I can’t stop thinking of the creativity you guys have and I realize that Gloria is going to be immortalized in many ways. I look forward in hearing about you guys finding your voice on this.

            For some reason, it always go back to Pat Conroy and a crowded parking lot at way too many Buffett shows when I think of you guys. This quote just feels appropriate so please indulge me.

            “The white porpoise comes to me at night, singing in the river of time, with a thousand dolphins in radiant attendance, bringing charismatic greetings from the Prince of Tides.”


As I crank up the blender to toast the memory of your Mom, I hope, that in some way, you guys discover your own white porpoise. We found ours and it has made life a little less empty.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lady to go and toast.


  1. thanks, brother... I will tell you this, for what it's worth... after mom's memorial service, I was standing outside the church, looking for a moment or two alone.... I sat down on a bench and lit a cigarette... and this big yellow butterfly landed on a rose bush about three feet away from me... it sat there, not skittish at all about the fact that I was as close as I was... I sat there for about five minutes, just looking at that butterfly...

    When I was done, I stood up, and, as I did, the butterfly took off... it did a fluttery little circle around the rose bush and just went on it's way... but I think about that moment a lot here lately... Maybe someone was trying to check on me, make sure I was doing okay, and, once that someone saw that I was, it decided to move on....

    That being said - maybe it's because I am more conscious of it now, maybe it's a coincidence - but I seem to see a lot more yellow butterflies than I normally do...

  2. And I hope you see many more, my brother. I somehow suspect you will for the rest of your life.

  3. Robby (and Tony),
    When my Dad died, my cousin's church sent a beautiful plant. It had green and yellow speckled leaves, and there was a yellow dragonfly stuck in the plant as decoration. My dad's favorite color was yellow, and I have always liked dragonflies, so this was just perfect to me. About a week after the funeral, I was sitting in my car at lunch and waiting for it to be time to clock back in, and a yellow dragonfly started circling around my car. Now, I have never seen a yellow dragonfly before. Blue, green, bluish-green...but never yellow. And no, this isn't a bright yellow, more of an ochre color, but it is definitely yellow. And for the rest of that summer, there was one at work and then one showed up at my house. We've never really had dragonflies at my house much, but we have a yellow one now. And this spring, they showed up again. And they have been around all summer, at work and at home. And it seems like they show up when I am missing Daddy the most. And if you have ever seen the move "Dragonfly" starring Kevin Costner, well, that just kind of cemented the idea that Dad is still here with me, watching me and making sure I am OK. I know it isn't rational (much like you stated), but I have chosen to believe. And every time I see my yellow dragonflies, I smile and remember my Daddy.