I would like to take this opportunity to clear up some misunderstandings about Libby’s and my relationship because, frankly, it’s a little embarrassing when people are fooled into believing that we shared some sort of fairytale marriage . I apologize if my selective memory led some to believe that we enjoyed a type of nirvana relationship, because I can promise you, we did not.
Although I may have concentrated my writings on some of the surreal, blissful moments together (a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer has a way of filtering out some of the nonessential periphery in a relationship) we struggled with communication which lead to arguments, as we both said things that we later regretted. I will admit that I minimize their severity in my writings because I now see the humor in some of those arguments, like the one that happened in February of last year during some of the worst days of Libby’s illness:
Libby was always marveling at God’s creation and from the time we moved into our current home in April of 1992 we seemed to have more than our fair share of wild animals traipsing through our yard. At certain times of the year, for two or three weeks in row we would see the same 12 deer in our front yard every time we pulled in our driveway and even that caused an argument.
After seeing the deer every evening for three weeks in a row, Libby noticed that the deer were gone on this particular night. When she came into the house she told me that I needed to take a flashlight, go into the woods, find the deer and count them to make sure all 12 were there because she was worried something may have happened to them. I laughed because I thought she was joking but then I got “the look” which meant she was serious, so I responded in a most loving and gentle manner saying, “Libby, that’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard! There is no way I’m going out in the woods at 11:00 at night looking for a bunch of stupid deer.” Undeterred, she would gently say that they were part of God’s creation and they weren’t stupid. I laughed again and said that if they are not stupid then they should be able to survive in the woods without my help”………. That’s how that argument started.
Sometimes those same deer would eat Libby’s ornamental plants and then she wasn’t nearly as concerned about their wellbeing, but the real nuisance animals were the skunks, snakes, geese, coyotes and of course the dreaded red bird. We had this bird that we assumed must have been a male defending his territory because every morning at sunrise he would peck on the window in our pantry. Evidently, when he saw his own reflection in the glass he thought another male was moving in on his woman (or women? Not sure if they are monogamous). I tried scaring him away, changing the reflection by turning on the pantry light, hanging fabric in the window and shining a bright light through the glass but the pecking continued off and on every morning for months.
In February of 2014 a few weeks after I brought Libby home from the hospital we had a particularly bad night, I had spent most of the night in the chair beside her as she suffered from a crushing headache and continued to throw up until she was physically exhausted. Then just before dawn the headache eased off and she finally fell asleep, it was at that exact moment that we heard the familiar pecking on the pantry window.
Libby slowly looked up at me with a pitiful plea and said, through clinched teeth, “Barry, Honey, can you do something about that stupid bird”. I had felt helpless all night, only able to rub her temples and hold her head while she threw up in her pink bowl, but now finally, I had a task to fulfill and so without the least bit of hesitation I said to her, “Sure babe, I will take care of it. You just go back to sleep.” Libby always chose her words carefully, even when she was sick, so my directive was clear, especially since she modified the noun “bird” with the adjective “stupid”.
There are some priorities in life that can change with circumstances and with everything else going on in my life, a red bird hopped up on testosterone was pretty low on my priority list. It had snowed several inches during the night which seemed to create an eerie silence as I slipped outside that morning cradling my 12 gauge pump-action shotgun. Now, standing under my car port, at the edge of the snow in my bare feet, with no guilt whatsoever, I promptly shot the “stupid” bird, chambering a second round, just in case it was needed.
To this day, there are three very distinct images that are burned into my mind from that moringing. First of all, there was the amazing amount of noise that a 12 gauge shotgun makes when discharged into eerie silence at 6 AM. Second, is the degree to which a red bird stands out in an otherwise, solid white snow-covered yard. But the third, and the most vibrant image that sticks out in my mind was the look on Libby’s face as I walked back into the living room carrying the proverbial smoking gun. When I left the room a few minutes ago, Libby could barely hold her head up when she gave instructions to “…do something about that stupid bird”. Now, looking at her sitting bolt upright in bed with her mouth agape and her eyes wide with amazement, I was suddenly much less confident in my ability to interpret my wife’s sentences.
Libby had a look of complete horror on her face, as she asked, “Did you shoot my red bird?” (Just a note here in my defense, a minute ago, it was a “stupid bird”, now suddenly, it was “my red bird”?). It didn’t help calm the tension in our home when, throughout the day, as visitors came to our house they would say, “Hey did you’ll know there is dead red bird in your back yard?” Later on that day, I decided to get rid of the evidence and put a little fresh snow over the crime scene..
Libby was very upset with me for days, but later on we did talk it out: I apologized for shooting the stupid bird and Libby apologized for the things she said about me. Libby then went on to explain that the reason she was so upset with me was that she never told me to kill the bird, she just wanted me to “scare him” so he would quit banging on the window, besides she said that red birds are heaven’s messengers. My reply started the next argument when I said, ” Well I think that the last message may be a little late getting there….”.