My father found Rabbit in the gift shop at Horton Memorial Hospital. He took Rabbit up to my mother’s hospital room and gave Rabbit to me. He and my mother had been awake all night. I had caused them to miss the Independence Day fireworks. It seems I hated fireworks from the very beginning.
For most of my life, I’ve relied on Rabbit to help me get through the tough times, to share in the good times, and to keep my secrets.
Rabbit was there when my father left three years later. I didn’t quite comprehend things at the time, but Rabbit made sure he slept next to me, comforting me in this time of need and the dozens more over the years.
When Rabbit was five years old, he slept tucked under the blankets with my first fishing pole. Rabbit and I talked for a long time about how much I was looking forward to fishing with my own pole, but I didn’t think I would be able to do so because I didn’t want to kill a worm to catch a fish.
Rabbit waited patiently at home until I returned from my first fishing trip so I could tell him how I didn’t have to put the worm on the hook, my mom did, but I didn’t really fish anyway. I told Rabbit how I watched the tadpoles at the edge of the Neversink River, played under the bridge, saw a deer, and skipped rocks across the river.
He comforted me when I “hooked” Darren and we had to go to the hospital to remove the hook from Darren’s lip. I didn’t like fishing much after that.
Rabbit was always there for me. Rabbit was the only person I could talk to about what Karl did.
I was there for Rabbit when he lost part of his ear to my dog, Conan. My mom and I looked everywhere for that piece of Rabbit’s ear, but we think Conan ate it. It didn’t matter to me. It didn’t change what Rabbit meant to me.
Rabbit would sleep inside my baseball mitt while I was at school. He was a bit squished, but as I got older, he liked to sleep inside my first baseman’s mitt so he could stretch out. I would often talk to Rabbit about how to throw a particular pitch, how I went 3-for-4, or struck out seven.
Rabbit would stare at me when I didn’t want to work on my rudiments, especially flam paradiddle-diddles and six-stroke rolls. I would argue with Rabbit because they were difficult, but he was always right. If I was going to get better, I had to put in the time. When I finally mastered, as best as 11-year old can, the 40 basic drum rudiments, I was proud of myself.
A year later, Rabbit was the only one who shared my joy in learning how to play Black Cow by Steely Dan. No one else seemed to understand what a huge accomplishment it was for me, but Rabbit was there. He was happy for me.
Rabbit listened to me when I told him about the horrible experiences with my cousin. During those years, my tears stained his grayish-blue face as I held him close when I went to sleep. He didn’t care.
Whenever my softball team failed to advance in the regionals, which seemed to be every year, Rabbit tried to reassure me everything would be okay. He knew I wanted to keep going. I didn’t have to be home if there were games to play. I didn’t have to worry about whether my cousin was going to show up unexpectedly.
I missed Rabbit terribly when I had to spend a week in the hospital when I was 14 years old. I was alone. The doctors and nurses barely acknowledged my presence. I didn’t sleep. I cried a lot. I knew if Rabbit was there, he’d understand.
Rabbit and I spent my teen years in my attic bedroom. We often listened tp the album “In Through the Out Door” by Led Zeppelin. “Fool in the Rain” was Rabbit’s favorite song. We thought about the future. We thought about how to escape from New York. Rabbit continued to comfort me in the tough times.
When I left New York for Nebraska to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I made sure Rabbit came with me.
He was there to comfort me after the attempted rape. Rabbit was there the nights I drank to numb the pain. He was there when I’d get stoned and watch “The Wall” and “The Song Remains the Same,” to forget the agony of a lifetime.
I talked to Rabbit about the pains in my mind. For nine months, I talked to him about ending it all. Every time I found a way to make it look like murder, he found flaw. I didn’t want to die, I wanted the pain to stop. He helped me to figure that out and he helped me get the words just right for when I called to ask for help.
When Rabbit was in his late twenties, his pants began to wear thin and his stuffings were falling out. His eyes had been sewed back on more than once. A friend made him a new pair of red pants, hiding his dirty, tear-stained, grayish-blue legs, but the pants helped extend his life.
Whether it was band, baseball, traveling, nightmares, abuse, or good times, Rabbit wanted to hear how I was doing. He was a consistent, comforting calm in the raging storm of my life.
Rabbit kept me grounded and gave me the courage to keep going. I haven’t seen him in about seven years. My mom helped search for Rabbit, but we’re not sure where he is right now.
Rabbit was with me since my first day. Even if I never see Rabbit again, he got me this far and that’s okay.
Wherever you are now, I hope you have a happy birthday today, Rabbit.