Breath & Shadow
Winter 2022 - Vol. 19, Issue 1
"The Tulips Come Back"
Ten years before my Dad died from Alzheimer’s disease, he took up deer watching from the deck attached to his house. He’d already stopped hunting a few years prior, joint pain preventing him from enduring the cold autumns of Ulster County. Neither of my older sisters ate venison, while me and my younger sister loved it. What I now understand was our young minds trying to come to terms with the incongruity of accepting our Dad’s farmhand pragmatism along with what we knew of him, was troubling, even shocking. Our Father, gasp, shot a defenseless animal, and then, double-gasp, sliced it up and ate it. What savagery lay in his soul.
I think I was the weird kid in the family, I accepted hunting for family sustenance just like shopping. We could allow the butchering of cows, chickens, pigs, and other mammals, why not just do it yourself?? Back then it was labeled farm living, but today it is called free-range.
When asked about giving up hunting, he shrugged and said, “I took my share for years, it’s someone else’s turn now,”
During family get-togethers he would tell us about the doe and her fawns and the salt lick he put out for them in a clearing near the creek and the back lot of his property. He could tell, for example, the doe was the same one because she had a notched ear.
While Dad was passively attracting deer, his wife tried to protect the garden surrounding the house. They complimented one another, though, luring birds to feeders, offering the raccoons the leftover fish bones and fat trimmings and replacing the salt lick.
One year, a few of us gathered for Dad’s birthday during the summer on the deck. One of us asked about his deer watching. He said the big doe was gone and a younger one used the salt lick now along with a few others. Helen, his wife agreed the deer were beautiful, adding, “I wish they wouldn’t eat all of the tulips.” The blossom-eating ungulates could do no wrong in Dad’s eyes despite Helen’s disappointment.
As Dad grew frail and Helen attended to him, I often wished we could turn the clock back and once again sit on the deck and listen to his stories and the ways Helen tried to save the perennials and hear the wonder in his voice as he would point at the quiet majesty of a doe and her fawn approaching the salt lick, “Well, now, isn’t that something?”
Legally blind since 1993, Ann lost most of her sight from retinitis pigmentosa. Her poetry, essays and fiction have appeared in over fifty small press publications including Poesis, The Pangolin Review, Magnets and Ladders, Lucidity and Midwest Poetry Review.
Ann is a freelance writer and contributes and curates written and audio content for both corporate and nonprofit organizations and businesses. “I write because it keeps me grounded and lets me express myself. Creativity is what helps me stay focused and confident.”
Ann lives in New York State’s lower Hudson valley region with her husband, daughter and an assortment of furred critters, including a guide dog, pet dog and three black cats. When not writing, podcasting, or battling dog hair wookies, Ann and her husband cook and binge-watch movies and listen to audio books together. Follow Ann on twitter: @annieDungarees, find her on Facebook at Annie Chiappetta, or Visit Ann’s website at