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.
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.
About the Author
Jessica Vaughan is Assistant Editor for Bird Watcher's Digest and Watching Backyard Birds. She is the mother of four young birders and lives in Columbus, Ohio.