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Tuesday, February 13, 2001

I'm thinking maybe I should rehearse the comics, before I head to Mom's to read them to her. Sometimes I hesitate so long, trying to figure out what's going on in a panel of one strip or another, that she says, "Is that all? I don't get it."

Sometimes, neither do I. And sometimes, by the time I explain the wordless drawings in the first three panels, the punch line in the fourth is ruined. Pure jokes tend to fall flat when read off the page, even when the visual isn't important. Or maybe The Fusco Brothers just isn't that funny to begin with.

And then there's Sylvia, which can be really wordy but turns out to be much funnier on the page than out loud. On the other hand, Blondie is hardly ever worth a chuckle, but we like it because it's so familiar. I don't have to do much description to give Mom the full picture.

Character names are my biggest hang-up. I'll stumble over who's who until I've gone and mixed up Gunther with Knute, or Bung with Rodney. I know the Forths — Sally, Ted and Hilary — but who are all those people Sally works with? And what are the names of all the other soldiers in Beetle Bailey's outfit? (Not to mention their ranks.)

Maybe if I practiced a couple of times before I took the comics section to Mom's house, I'd make a better presentation out of it. I want her to get the full experience, as if she were reading the page herself (which, luckily, she'll soon be able to do).

On the other hand, I'm not much better at reading my own journal entries to her. And I pretty much know where those are going from word one.

As my garden gets more popular, the bird hierarchy gets more interesting. The blue jays (actually scrub jays, since according to my Audubon guide we don't have true blue jays here in the west) are bullies. They chase the smaller birds, especially the towhees, around the garden. The towhees aren't afraid enough to leave, so all they do is move out of the way until the jays' attention is turned to some other bird. Then they're back feeding again.

The sparrows mostly seem to fly under the jays' radar. They get ignored for the most part, and they get in each others' way more often than they draw attention from the bigger birds.

Like all true bullies, the jays are mostly bluff. They're the first ones to fly off when they hear a strange sound (like me opening the front door). And they seem to relish the symbolism of their superiority, more than any actual dominance. I've noticed that they'll always choose a higher branch to perch on than any other bird is using at the time. And if another bird lands on a branch above one of the jays, the jay will move higher again.

Of the two jays that I see almost every day, one is a brighter blue and by far more aggressive. I assume (for some reason) that this is the male. The other one (let's call her the female) is content to sit and watch, but when he's being at his most belligerent, she seems inclined to join in the fun. It's comical to watch, although I get tempted sometimes to chase out the jays, just so the other birds will have a bit of peace.

All of this is based strictly on my own observation, by the way. I have no secret inside knowledge of bird behavior or avian dynamics. I suppose I could be misinterpreting what I see out the window every day. And I probably should do a little more research before reporting my findings. But still, it's my garden and my story.

This is the big day. If Mom remembers how, she can raise her head and look us in the eye today. The doctor told her that after this much time, no damage can be done to her eye if she doesn't keep her head down. There's still the matter of that air bubble he put inside her eyeball, and it's a serious impediment to her ability to see, but it should gradually dissolve. I'm sure it won't be long, since she's been ahead of schedule on everything so far, and faithful to all the instructions they gave her about how to make the operation work out. Stay tuned for all the happy details.

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