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Christmas: From death of a pigeon to those embracing a life ahead

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POSTED December 31, 2009 2:47 a.m.

It was only a pigeon – but it had heart.

There was a definite show of emotion, of love and of grief that hit me like a Mack truck, but it came from only a couple of birds – one live and one dead.

I was driving east on North Street the afternoon of Christmas Eve,  made the sweeping curve onto Northwoods Avenue,  and noticed what looked like a small pigeon that had obviously been hit by a car.  It was lying crumpled in the street.

Perched on the edge of the red curbing only four feet away was its mate – standing there as a sentry apparently at a loss to know what to do.  Not wanting to see the dead bird smashed by another car, I pulled a U-turn and got out of the car to slide the bird into the curbing.  

As I approached, the other watchful pigeon took a short hop and flight into nearby bushes keeping an anxious set of eyes on me.  Somehow we shared the moment, the tragedy, if you will.  As I slowly drove off, looking in my rear view mirror, I saw the pigeon return to its curb-side perch staring down at its motionless mate.

Some would be quick to say it was only a pigeon in the larger scenario of world events, but it was still a moment in time with an unbelievable show of loss and grief that otherwise would have gone unnoticed or at least labeled as insignificant – the death of a bird.

With the danger of appearing negative, I need to mention another animal loss – two Chihuahua brothers my son found dead in the street while on patrol.  It all goes back to the age-old warning, “Speed Kills!”  The problem for the innocent dogs, cats, birds, and even horses is that they cannot outrun a vehicle once it has reached a certain speed.

Well, that was my intro into the Christmas weekend and I’m still in awe at how it impacted my psyche.  The rest of the holiday went without a hitch and was one of the best ever with family in both Morgan Hill and San Diego – even meeting some neat passengers on the flight south.

Almost didn’t make my return reservation out of the San Diego airport Tuesday afternoon.  Usually being half an hour early for a flight is enough but the security line was 250 people long when I joined that patiently waiting group.  Tapped a roving Southwest agent on the shoulder and asked her what my chances on making it on board at 1 p.m.

“It’ll never happen,” she told me.  “Go up to the head of the line and tell the TSA agent your flight leaves in 30 minutes.”  I did, and luckily he put me in a short line right behind a Southwest captain.  It was a good thing with the crowd flying out of San Diego – otherwise I might still not be home.

It was a good ride coming home talking with a college freshman named “Nick” who was flying to San Jose to see his girl friend and meet her parents.  Quite a kid – a joy to talk with – he has his life’s plans all worked out in his head with a perceived career in medicine.

Couldn’t help but compare my early days in the Army stationed in Stockton when I would travel to San Diego to see my fiancé who was at San Diego State University in her senior year.  But, it wasn’t by air that I would get there.  It was a class A uniform for me and a thumb to get rides on Highway 99.  There were some interesting stories of those rides from a drunk driver to the cab of a semi-truck and trailer.  Never will I forget getting stuck on the freeway just outside the Marine base at Camp Pendleton. There wasn’t a ride to be had – no one would stop for me from 2 a.m. until 6 in the morning.

Finally getting into downtown San Jose about 9 a.m., I called Mary Lou and asked her to come from Chula Vista and pick me up.  There was a little conflict with my being in the Army since her dad was a Navy Commander.  I could hear him in the background telling her that if I was in uniform she should bring me in through the alley.  It’s hard to believe that was almost 50 years ago – still a kid at heart.

As for Christmas, there were two instances that were really special among a long list I don’t deserve.   One was a gift from out of the blue from a couple I have admired for years in business and personally.  The other was a warm and genuine text message Christmas morning – also very unexpected – from a Manteca professional received as I was about to get into my car on a street south of San Jose.

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