There are no words to describe what this man meant to me as a child … or how much I have missed him over the years since 1960.
Several years ago I wrote a story … a fable … that somewhat explained my love of Cardinals … and why I might have been upset at seeing my cat at the time walking in with a half dead Cardinal in her mouth.
And yes I know she was teaching her kittens how to hunt. But it didn’t matter. It was a Cardinal. The cats had to go.
So today I am going to share just a part of the story I wrote. The end of it is not something I am ready to share … yet. At least not here.
But the first part I will share here today … and maybe it will explain a little bit about a little girl … and her Grandpap.
The Cardinal: One Safe Place
A Story of Being Loved the Best
This story begins as all good stories begin … Once upon a time … a long, long time ago … and goes from there. It is not always a happy story, but please, dear reader, know that there were happy times.
Once upon a time in a small town in Pennsylvania, there was a very happy event in a pretty happy family in a somewhat happy place. A little girl was born. She was not too skinny, with really curly dark hair, a big toothless smile and crossed eyes. And she was loved the best. By her mother and her father and her Grandpap. Her parents loved her because she was their first child.
But Grandpap loved her just because.
Maybe it was because he had lost his wife when she was young and he wasn’t even 35. Maybe because he raised his daughter from age 14 all by himself. Maybe because the baby was whole and just starting life and he was missing his leg.
Maybe because she reminded him of a loved one back where he came from years ago, leaving everyone behind. Or because she smiled when she saw him. But no matter. He loved her the best. And she felt that love.
As time went on, the little girl grew. Her eyes got fixed, mostly, her smile got toothy, pretty much, but her hair stayed really, really curly. And her Grandpap loved her the best.
Then the little family had a new baby brother. Who was a boy. With straight eyes, and straight hair and, well, he was a boy. And his mother and father loved him very much. And oh yeah, the little girl. They loved her too. The Grandpap loved him too, but he loved the little girl the best. She could tell.
And when relatives and everyone else were astounded about the little boy, and marveling at how smart he was, the little girl could go downstairs where her Grandpap lived and curl up in his big safe lap, and be hugged and held in his big safe arms … and be safe … because he loved her best and he was her safe place.
And when the thunder and lightning was loud and scary, she could go to her safe place and be held. And be safe. Because he loved her best and he was her safe place.
And when the mother and the father yelled at her and didn’t like her very much, she could run to her safe place. And be held. And know that somebody loved HER best. At least it felt that way to her.
And when the kids in school teased her for being smart, and for being skinny, and for wearing glasses, and for having really, really curly hair, she could go home and crawl into Grandpap’s lap. And be held. And know that she was loved the best. By at least one person.
Time went by and Grandpap got sick and died. And the little girl cried. And cried. And cried. And prayed to God. And asked why her Grandpap had had to go. And she prayed that somehow she could know that he still loved her. And she heard a sound.
A bird. With a very special song. Then it stopped.
“God? Could that be my Grandpap?” she prayed. And the bird sang again. And stopped. She was stunned. And afraid to believe that God would allow her to know her Grandpap was in Heaven and still loved her.
So after a while of not hearing anything, she timidly prayed again. “God, if that was REALLY you and you were REALLY letting me know Grandpap loves me, could you make the bird sing again?”
And the bird sang again.
Again and again over the next several days, she prayed and asked about the bird. And again and again the bird, having not been heard in the in between times, sang when she prayed. And she believed. She wanted to believe.
And as time went on a strange thing happened. Even though she rarely heard the bird song, when she was in trouble or was very very sad, the bird song would play and comfort her.
When she was in junior high and high school, the kids teased her because she was skinny, and flat chested, and awkward and wore glasses and had very very curly hair (they called her Medusa). And nobody stuck up for her. Not the teacher. Not the other kids.
But just when she needed it, she would hear the bird song and know that somewhere, somebody had loved her the best and he was in Heaven still loving her.
She thought it would be possible some day to find someone who would love her the best. And hold her. And be her safe place. Someday. But it never happened. At least not permanently. That’s the sad part of the story.
It wasn’t until she was much older that she learned the bird was a Cardinal, but that’s what it was. And she has had much happiness and much heartbreak.
But always there was the Cardinal.
When there were times that just seemed too overwhelming to her, there was the Cardinal.
When there was death that devastated her, there was the Cardinal.
When it seemed like nobody in the world cared, there was the Cardinal.
And even when things would make her believe that maybe, just maybe there might be someone who would love her the best, there was the Cardinal.
She still has hope that some day there might be someone who will love her the best. And she is pretty sure she will hear the Cardinal then, too.
I wish for all of you to have Cardinals in your life. And I wish for you to have someone who loves you the best.
Happy Birthday Grandpap.
And yes, the Cardinal is indeed singing right now as I type this.