On Being a Parent

In the early morning hours I woke to a death squeal. I stood with my ear pressed to the bedroom door. I didn’t want to open the door and have whatever was making that noise escape into our room. I also didn’t want to see what lay on the other side.

If this was Antonio or Crystel needing me I would have been upstairs in a moment.

Either this was a cat injured or another animal.

Jody hadn’t moved from the bed. She sat upright watching me. To her credit she is often upstairs first in the morning and has to deal with any carnage brought in during the night by our three young cats.

I heard rustling, then quiet. I waited. I turned the knob, peeked out the door.

“It’s a bunny,” I said, relieved. I brushed away the cats. Took a piece of paper and touched the animal. It didn’t move.

I opened our garage, retrieved a snow shovel that hadn’t been put away for the summer, and scooped up the cottontail. In the darkness I flipped it over our fence into the athletic field next door and went back to bed.

That same morning, I was reading the Sunday paper. I could hear the dog barking in the backyard. I took another sip of coffee and thumbed through the Variety section.

Jody came downstairs from the upper level. She had been on a work conference call. Maybe the barking got to her.

“The dog has a bunny,” she said looking out the patio door.

I went outside. This baby bunny was still alive. It was smaller than the one last night. I picked it up and held it in my hands.

Antonio came up behind me. “Here, I’ll take it.” He held out his cupped palms.

I handed the bundle carefully to him. He used his swimming towel to make a nest for the bunny in a small cardboard box and took the bunny to his room.

His being up complicated matters. In crept the concern about how he would regard my actions with this injured animal and how I wanted to raise him as a compassionate person. There would be no flipping this baby rabbit over the fence.

I Googled how to raise bunnies. It didn’t look good.

“Antonio, it says that you should put the bunny back where you found it. Maybe it will go back to its den.”

He took the bunny and lay it under a bush. Ten minutes later the bunny still hadn’t moved. Antonio retrieved the bunny and felt its body for the injury.

“Should we wake Crystel?” he asked.

“No.” I was hoping I would have the situation resolved by the time she awoke. I went through a list of possibilities and ended with the idea that taking the bunny two miles to Woodlake Nature Center and leaving it by the bird feeder would be the most humane act and something that Antonio could live with. Maybe a hawk would swoop it up.

“It’s the circle of life,” I told Antonio on the drive over.

At Woodlake we sat on the bench watching the birds fly back and forth to the feeders. Antonio cradled the bunny in his arms. I pulled up dead grass and made a nest for the bunny near the feeder. Antonio lay him gently down.

Once home, Crystel met us at the door.

“You didn’t wake me,” she accused.

Back at Woodlake, Crystel picked up the bunny and petted it. “Can we keep it?”

“No, Crystel. This is the best thing.”

She carried the bunny away from me singing, “It’s the circle of life little bunny.”

Cradling the bunny in the crook of her arm, she pulled dead grass with the other to fluff up the nest.

“His mother won’t find him,” she said.

“You’re right. Not this time.”

The bunny lay on her soft white polo sleeve.

“Hey, that’s my jacket.”

She laughed. “I know.”

I gave her a cockeyed glance.

She knew me well enough to know that I loved being her mother and that I wouldn’t mind the hours I spent on this tiny bunny because it had to do with her and Antonio. Even though it meant that the Sunday paper would end up in the recycling bin unread and I’d be doing an extra load of wash later that day.

I wouldn’t have had it any other way.