Monday, November 26, 2012

Looking Back, Flying Forward

We have just returned from the annual North American Falconers Association (NAFA) Meet, held this year in Kearney, NE.  This is where a bunch of falconers get together, fly their hawks, visit, eat, buy/sell stuff, and so on.  It's fun and I've been to about a dozen meets over the years, although we had a gap in attendance between 2000 and 2010.  David was born in 2001, Derek in 2003 and we were just too busy raising kids to do much falconry.  In fact, although I had a few birds during this time, I'd pretty well dropped out of falconry and was probably going to quit altogether.  In 2010, though, I took Derek to the meet in Dodge City KS (just 4 h down the road) and he got really interested.  That's when I decided to try for a wild peregrine falcon, rebuild my hawk house, and all the stuff you can read about earlier in this blog.  

Falcons in the weathering area
A red-naped shaheen

Derek loved this little merlin
Dead 'possum.  Derek had never seen one.
All above photos by Derek

I missed 2011 (more on that below), but we made plans early to attend this year’s meet in Kearney NE.  The last time the meet was there, I lived in Boise ID and drove solo in an old beat-up blue Toyota 4WD pickup that burned a quart of oil every tank of gas.  On the trip home, I was approaching Casper WY when I realized I was the only person on the completely frozen-over Interstate.  A gust of wind suddenly spun the truck around and and I did 2 complete 360’s before coming to rest backward in the median.  After putting the truck in 4WD, I made it to Casper where I planned to spend the night, which just happened to be Thanksgiving Day.  I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and driving past a 7-11, I figured I’d check in to the Super 8 and then come back and get a burrito or something.  When I came back, though, the 7-11 was closed!  Back in the room, I pooled all my change and came up with just enough $$$ to get a “Grandma’s”  cookie and a Coke for supper.

The next morning, the wind was blowing so hard that the flags were like painted boards stuck to the flagpoles.  I got some real food and headed home, taking the scenic route across Wyoming to Jackson Hole and then into Idaho.  It was so cold in the old truck that I drove wearing a full-length winter coat I’d bought at Cabela’s for Georgia, a hat, gloves, and my winter boots.  I’d stop to take a nap and wake up freezing an hour later.  I finally made it back about 4 am.  When I woke up around 9-10, I noticed a big indoor car sale advertisement.  Long story, short, I ended up trading off The Blue Peril for a much newer and nicer Isuzu Trooper II.  I later had some driving adventures in that rig, too, but we’ll save the telling of such for another time.

Going to this year's NAFA (falconry) meet reminded me of last year's meet.  The plan was for Georgia, Derek, and Brianna to go down south to Pinon NM, and me and David to go north to Vernal UT for what would've been his first falconry meet.  Unfortunately, he wasn't responding well to transfusions and the last place I needed to be was 600 mi from home, so I cancelled and he and I stayed home.  We went to town on a Wed to get his blood checked.  It turned out to be one of the lowest results we'd gotten to date.  With the Thanksgiving holiday looming, and a weekend after that, both of which would've required an ER visit rather than his normal doctors, we all made the decision to push for ABQ on Monday.  Georgia arrived home on Sunday, took one look at David, and immediately re-packed and took off for ABQ.  I didn't see them again for 10 days and when they returned, David was on the steroids that gave him an unexpected and unexplained boost.  He didn't get another transfusion until the week before he died in May. 

The period between early December, when they returned from this long hospital stay, and his death in May was the only really hopeful period we ever had.  David responded to the steroids with never-before-seen energy, strong appetite, and good mood.  His blood levels stayed up for several weeks before slowly dropping and we were all hopeful that this course would buy us some time to find a definitive diagnosis and a cure.  In spite of the steroid’s boost- and we could see him getting puffed up and bloated, not a healthy look at all- I still had a strong sense that his time was going to be short and I tried hard to make the most of it.  I wish my feeling would have been wrong, but it wasn't.   I remember telling Georgia sometime in April that, whatever happened, I was just thankful that we'd gotten to see David strong and happy.

This time, last year: David with his new Ruger .22 and 1st prairie dog

This time, last year: At Ronald McDonald House during The Long Stay
It's a hard thing to say, but David's death freed us to do all the things we suppressed when he was with us.  Since his passing, we've gone to Bandelier Nat'l Monument where we climbed the tall ladders, gone elk hunting in the mountains, gone to the falconry meet where we beat the bush for hours, gone swimming in the hotel pool, and so forth... all things I couldn't or wouldn't do with David.  He would've tried and he would've given it all he had, but these things would have exhausted him or exposed him to too many germs and, for his sake, I would not have suggested them.  So, I dunno… doing these things is a mixed blessing.  We’re glad to be doing them again, but the reason we are is because David’s no longer with us and doing them reminds us of that fact. 

In retrospect, this time a year ago, we started moving down “the final stretch” of David’s life and I’m sure I will be thinking about this over the next several months.  David passed many milestones in these few short months- participating in 4H, shooting his first rocket, learning to shoot his Ruger .22, shooting his bow in competition, reading and writing extremely well, and so on.   As we pass those milestones a year later, I’m sure they will bring back those memories.  I also feel that when we reach the 1 year anniversary of his passing, that it will bring closure of a new kind.  From that day onward, we will be moving forward in a time in which 365 days previously David wasn’t with us.   Until then, every annual event we do reminds us of what we were doing last year, with him.  So it was with this year’s NAFA meet.

For now, though, we are, once again,  "waiting on winter."

Psalms 30:5 NKJV  …. Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.

Dad and Derek discuss birds at Bosque del Apache

Derek exploring at Bandelier Nat'l Monument

Looking down the ladder at Bandelier

Shades of Jacob's ladder