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Knocked Over By A Feather

But It Didn't Keep Me Down…

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stories

Aunt Mildred and Her Owls

When I was growing up, our neighbors to the left of us were an older couple, with grown up kids. They were always around though, coming and going. I remember that their son had an orange Chow who enjoyed scaring the hell out of me through the fence in our backyard. I could see him snarling at me, between our tomato and green pepper plants.

He was a mean dog who wanted to eat plump little me if he had gotten the chance, I’m sure of it.

My mom became tight with the woman of the house, forging a strong friendship despite their age differences, which only proves the fact that age means absolutely fucking nothing when it comes to relationships.

My brother and I called her Aunt Mildred, out of respect for our elders. It wouldn’t have been right to call her Milly like my mom did, plus she did have an “aunt” kind of vibe about her.

I have many memories of Aunt Mildred. One time, while we were all at a store, I pointed to a box of Summer’s Eve disposable douches and asked her what they were.

She got all flustered right before my young eyes. “Ask your mom, Merry.”

My mom said that it wasn’t anything that I needed to be concerned about for a long time, now go walk the yellow line and get outta my hair, kid.


yellow line
We 80’s kids knew how to live on the edge.


Aunt Mildred was a quiet, sweet, kindhearted woman who moved to northeast Ohio (for some reason) from Alabama. She had a bit of an accent and a gentle lilt to her voice that was soothing to listen to. I always hovered around the adults when I was younger, listening intently to their conversations, hoping for some magical insight on what being an adult was all about.

I also hoped to catch a swear word now and then.

It all seemed pretty swell to me. If I had only known the truth, maybe I would have spent more time walking the yellow line like my mom always told me to do.

In jest, I’m sure. Um…it was a joke, haha.

I think.

Anyways, the main thing that I remember about Aunt Mildred was that she loved owls. She collected them. She had owl knickknacks, coffee mugs, wall art, clothing, throw blankets…anything that you can think of that’s inside a home, there was an owl on it.

When she moved a few cities away, we stayed in contact with her, until one day, we didn’t. Life happens as it does and people fade away from our life.

I hadn’t thought of her in years until the other night when I was coloring on my smart phone, which is now a new nightly habit of mine.

While I was searching for another picture to bring to life, I came across these owls. She instantly sprung to my mind and I decided to start working on it, taking my time to make it perfect.


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“The Who”


According to my calculations, there’s a chance that she’s still alive. If so, she’d be in her early 80’s by now.

At any rate, I colored this in her memory. She was a lovely person and I’m glad to have known her.

It’s amazing to me how little things like a love for owls can trigger a memory of a person that touched my life so many years ago.

*My mom corrected me below in the comments. Aunt Mildred was younger than I thought, she’d be in her early 80’s now. I had originally said that she’d be in her early 90’s. Thanks, mom.*

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The Stoic One

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The first Christmas holiday season after my father died, my younger brother stopped talking.

He completely shut down. He did what he had to do, of course. Go to school, do his homework, eat dinner, watch television, say his prayers silently before bed and go to church.

But he did all of these things as mute as can be.

He even stopped talking to me and at the time it really hurt my feelings. We were close siblings back in those early days. I was his elder by 4 years and his big sister, so there were never any secrets between us.

I was worried about him, like I imagine everyone else was. But you can’t squeeze juice out of a turnip and you can’t make a traumatized 8 year-old boy talk if he doesn’t want to.

Once the holidays were finally over and done with, he woke up one morning and started to talk again.

But he wasn’t the same, not at all.

My sweet, sensitive little brother was gone. In his place was a new version of his prior self, extremely stoic and, if I’m being completely honest, a total shithead.

My kid brother went through some sort of metamorphosis during that timeframe, while my mother tried to put together a festive first Christmas without our dad.

We all deal with grief and trauma differently, of course. We had both watched as our father died right in front of us, but my bro was able to somehow mold himself in such a way that he never showed emotion anymore, rendering him safe from the onslaught of mental illness that would swoop down and take me into its ravenous claws.

I like to joke around and say that he’s “emotionally constipated.” It’s not a joke, though. He really is. I think that I’ve seen the guy cry maybe once since my dad passed away and that was now over 30 years ago.

I’m not saying that he’s a total asshole or anything, he’s a wonderful father and husband. Our own father wasn’t the overly emotional type either, but he did love us more than anything. My bro, deep down, is a swell guy.

He’s just not in tune with his emotions and I firmly believe that watching our father die at the tender age of 7 was what made that change occur. Call it a survival instinct or what you will, but nobody will change my mind on the subject.

The little kid who emerged after those 4 weeks of being speechless wasn’t the same kid that I knew like the back of my hand anymore.

And you want to know something? I fucking envy him.

In the Strangest of Places

“There’s no bible!” my daughter exclaimed in mock indignation.

I opened the drawer on my side of the king-sized bed in our cheap, no frills to speak of, but clean, hotel room.

“Nope, no bible over here,” I reported.

“I’m calling the front desk,” she said, although I knew that she was just messing around, the kid is agnostic and couldn’t care less about bibles.

We were about 40 miles south of Cleveland, getting ready to attend a Green Day concert. My friend Cheryl bought two tickets back in January for her birthday and since none of her friends wanted or could go with her, she was stuck with me, good old mom.

Thankfully, I’ve been a fan of Green Day long before she was even born, which irks the shit out of her.

In retrospect, she could have driven us home afterwards, but I wanted to make the trip extra special for her. Plus, I knew that I was going to be fucking exhausted and wanting a bed to sleep in sooner rather than later.

I’m just self-centered that way.

I was nervous about how the situation at the venue was going to turn out, but it was needless anxiety. They treat disabled people extremely well at Blossom Music Center. We had lawn tickets, but were informed at the front gate that people in wheelchairs get to sit in a special spot inside the pavilion.

My daughter was ecstatic. I haven’t seen her that happy in a long ass time.

“You better be nice to me for the rest of the evening,” I told her.

And she was. She bought me a $5 dollar pretzel and let me share some of her $3 cheese cup.

The show itself was great, so loud that I could feel the music thumping inside of my chest. The air was soupy, with the smell of reefer slightly detectable on the delightful summer breeze.

I was bummed that nobody shared.

I sang along to the few songs that I knew, mostly their older stuff, only standing a couple of times to take some photos with my iPhone.

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My daughter stood for the entire two and a half hour show.

Ah, youth, health and energy! You are all sorely missed!

My daughter cried when they first came on stage. Seeing Green Day in person had been on her bucket list and it was awesome to witness one of her dreams coming true. I could relate, I felt the exact same way the first time that I saw Sir Paul.

And the second and the third time.

Afterwards, they told us handicapped people to hang around for the golf cart that would take us up the hill and back to the front gate. Coming down the hill had been both scary and exhilarating. I figured, if I was going to die, at least I’d be flying.

After about 10 minutes of waiting, my daughter started getting antsy.

“I’ll just push you,” she said, irritated. I knew that she wanted to get herself another overpriced T-shirt. I shrugged, not wanting to argue, for I was also starting to get impatient, waiting for our ride to show up.

About a quarter way up the steep hill, a man in his 30’s (I reckon) suddenly walked up beside us.

“If you guys help me find my drunk friend, I’ll help push,” he kindly offered. “I have some extra energy.”

At first, my stubborn daughter said no, but the man insisted. She finally relented.

“I’m really heavy,” I joked, but he shrugged my warning away like it wasn’t nothing but a thing.

Between the both of them taking turns, we finally got to the top, now easy sailing for my daughter the rest of the way.

“Good luck finding your friend, God bless you!” I said, truly thankful for his help. I’m pretty sure that my heart grew 4 sizes or else I had heartburn.

“Thank you!” my daughter said to him.

“No problem ladies!” Then he was gone, our knight in shining armor, heading off to locate his missing companion, who was probably hurling in some bushes somewhere.

We hadn’t exchanged names, but he proved to both of us that good, selfless people still exist in this world and sometimes you find them in the strangest of places.

We got back to our hotel within 10 minutes, first stopping at a 24/7 drive-thru burger place called Steak-n-Shake. It was a little after midnight already and at that moment I was fucking glad that I had booked our shitacular room. I was beyond miserable, my pain meds had worn off by then and I could barely keep my eyes open.

We both got into our bed and ate our greasy burgers and fries, turning the TV on while we rehashed the concert.

Well, she did. I mostly just nodded and smiled, trying not to zonk out with a mouthful of food.

For someone like me who rarely goes anywhere, it was an exciting experience, regardless of having to cater the entire time to my illness. Not being able to walk long distances is something that I am slowly starting to accept. Being pushed in a transport chair makes me imagine that I must stick out like a sore thumb, but each time that I do it, it becomes easier.

The important thing is, I got to spend some quality time with my daughter. We had fun and made a memory together that we can talk about in the future.

“Remember when we saw Green Day? And the shitty hotel that we stayed at and there was no bible?”

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