Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Hummingbirds Are Back

A long time ago I was in high school and I had a boyfriend named Mark. He and I met at a friend's birthday party where we played spin the bottle. Mark was the guy I ended up kissing and he left quite an impression.

He was a boyfriend as much as one can be in high school. We went on a few dates, went to prom together. He was a regular guy, looking for his dream car, which was some Acura something that he couldn't really afford with his $3000. He played Magic, liked rap music (ugh) and was a devout Christian. He was normal except that he was in remission from Leukemia when I was dating him. When we started going out I made a promise to myself to treat him like any other guy. Unfortunately that meant that I dumped him when I lost interest. Over the brief time we dated I realized that we really didn't have much in common and he wanted me to be more committed to him than I was. The final straw was when he made fun of the kind of music I liked when I had tolerated his sexist rap crap for hours at a time. I broke up with him unceremoniously and didn't return his stuff until weeks later.

Regardless of my short tenure with him he remains imprinted on me. He told me stories of how he got cancer and how he tried to survive chemotherapy. He held the hummingbird in high regard. If I recall correctly, the hummingbirds appeared in his back yard just shortly before he was diagnosed, and they appeared continuously through all of the seasons during his treatment. The were a symbol to him of faith and his belief in god and his will to survive.

Mark and I lost contact after I broke up with him. I felt guilty about it. It didn't seem very nice to heartlessly break up with a cancer patient, but I felt it would be just as wrong to stay with someone I had nothing in common with out of pity.

A year later I got word that Mark was in the hospital. My friends urged me to visit him, but I thought he really didn't want to see me. I thought I would be a reminder of the pain. I couldn't imagine that he would have forgiven me for hurting him. I excused myself from visiting him, thinking that he was a survivor and that he was too young to die.

A few weeks later, I returned home from labor day camping to the news that he had died. It was such a shock to me. It didn't seem possible. It made me feel worse for the way I had treated him. I attended the funeral with friends, and I couldn't help feeling like a fake, that I was the bad friend. I didn't even visit him in the hospital.

But there isn't a year that doesn't go by that I don't remember him. And now with a hummingbird feeder in the back yard I remember him often. And hummingbirds have become more meaningful to me, not just because of Mark.

Grandparents don't always know the best gift to offer their grandkids, but one year my grandfather sent me a hummingbird feeder. I was skeptical at first. I had never seen any hummingbirds around my house and it seemed unlikely that they would start magically appearing because of a silly feeder. But there they were, in droves, draining the feeder on a weekly basis.

Shortly after the hummingbirds arrived we got word that my grandfather had pancreatic cancer. I know it's just a coincidence, but I now associate hummingbirds with death.

We just put the hummingbird feeder up again last Sunday and our first hummingbird appeared on Monday, the same day that James died. Since then they've been dropping in on a regular basis, reminding me of everyone I've lost...

there's one now.


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