It must have been late spring because I remember how absolutely enthralled I was with the light lime green weeping willow tree and all the mother hens that were scratching for grain with their little broods of chicks following them around the yard. I scooped one up, and it felt like a cotton ball against my cheek.
When Aaron saw my delight with the chicks, he asked me to follow him into a shed, and there in a dim corner he pointed to a nest where the eggs were just beginning to hatch. It was like being invited to a drama on opening night. We watched, enchanted, as the eggs cracked open and exposed scrawny little creatures that didn't look anything like the fluffy things running around the yard.
I noticed that there was one egg with a large crack that didn't seem to be making much progress.
"I'll help," I offered as I bent over to pick it up.
"No, don't touch," he said, standing up to lean against the wall. "They need to do it all by themselves. Let's go."
"No. Look. Can't you see it needs our help? If I help it, I'll give it a head start. It's already late."
He shook his head. "It will die if you help it too soon."
"I promise I'll be careful."
He shrugged his shoulders. "Okay. Find out for yourself."
I cracked the egg and the chick flopped out. It looked just like all the rest of them as if struggled to find its legs.
We watched for a while as it flopped around, but when it seemed to be okay, we went to explore the rest of the farm.
Just before it was time to go home, we checked in on the chicks again. Through a crack in the wall, a shaft of light spotlighted the nest. My chick had been shoved to the side of the nest, and it wasn't moving. It was dead.
I was aghast. "You really knew all along that it would die? Then why did you let me do it?"
"You wouldn't listen You needed to find it out for yourself."
He was right about that. "Your Dad will be furious," I said.
He shrugged his shoulders. "He'll never notice. We have so many."
"What do we do with it? Where can we bury it?" I was imagining a tiny grave with a pansy or two and a sprig of weeping willow - anything to alleviate my guilt.
"You don't bury a chick," he said and picked it up. He walked to the back door, and with his powerful throwing arm, he heaved the tiny body clear over the huge barn and I heard it hit the manure pile with a faint splat.
The whole afternoon had been spoiled.
"It's life on the farm," he struggled to explain.
"I'm going home." I bolted for the front door and out of the shed.
My sister had always insisted that I not pollute the world with ugly words. If I really was angry and needed to spit out a word, I should use pretty words like names of flowers. But this time daffodils, crocuses, and gladiolus didn't suite the occasion. I groped for a word— thistle, stinging nettle,... "Skunk cabbage," I hollered as I ran down the road. "You're nothing but skunk cabbage!" But I don't think he heard me; he had already started his evening chores.
A few days later he came by, bought me a chocolate bar and a Coke, and all was forgiven. And he was right. the memory/teaching moment stuck with me. I wrote out this story in the book I published after Candace's murder as an example of a learning I carried with me. I needed to crack through the shell of grief by myself - no one could do it for me.
Aaron had made an indelible impression on my life - one that sustained me when times got tough.
But at that moment of learning - I hated him.
"The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That's the day we truly grow up." - John C Maxwell