Just before Leah’s party (the big reason for us to be all together again for the first time since Mum died), Leah and Rachel and Dad and I were at the beach and I got a call from Ruth May saying she was at the top of the hill. I headed up to the parking lot to help her bring Liam down, and on the way, I saw the heron again, on the pilings where it likes to perch. It’s been about a year since I’ve seen the great bird on the beach, so it was a surprise.
When I got to the parking lot, I told Ruth May and she bundled Liam into his carrier and we rushed down the path to the spot where we could see the pilings. But they were empty. I saw her face, realized her disappointment. She wanted the heron, AKA Mum, to see the grandson she’d never get to know.
Idiot. If you hadn’t told her, she wouldn’t have to know. She wouldn’t be disappointed. And now she’s going to be sad all evening, that once again Liam missed the heron.
But somehow I knew the heron would be back. “It’s OK,” I told Ruth May. “You’ll see him.”
“Her,” she corrected me. “It’s Mum. I really wanted her to see Liam.”
In the house, people were gathering. I leaned out the slider door, looking towards the empty pilings, then poured drinks for the guests and offered shrimp and crab cakes. When I checked again, the heron was there. I called Ruth May, pointed out the great bird on the pilings where the cormorants like to sit.
“Are you sure it’s a heron?” asked Ruth May’s partner.
“He thinks it’s all superstitious nonsense,” she said. “But I think it’s Mum.” She was smiling.
I pointed out the white head, the S-bend of the neck, the sheer size of the bird. Ruth May’s partner held up the binoculars, checking out the pilings and the gray shape on top.
“Aye,” he said. “I see the white head now.”
From behind me, a long-time friend of the family spoke. “Obadiah,” she said. “That’s what your mother called the heron. Every time I see it, I think of her.”
Obadiah. I remember now. She called the heron Obadiah. But what does that mean?
To be continued…