By Mike Neubecker
After dragging our barbecue grill out of the storage shed and getting ready to grill some bratwursts for a Memorial Day outdoor feast, I noticed what looked like a nest of cotton on the right side of the grill underneath the main grate. Looking closer I saw five tiny mice that were barely an inch long, not counting the tail. My first instinct was to destroy the nest so they could never enter the house and suddenly, the mother mouse popped out from under the burner cover with bugged out eyes as though she was staring me down.
I called for my wife, Jan, to come and look at the home they made for themselves in our grill. We discussed some strategies for getting them out of the way of our barbecue plans. Although we had a problem in the past with a mouse in the house after leaving a basement window open, I knew we had to let them live… but obviously somewhere outside of our house.
I removed the main grill cover and figured a good strategy might be to first get the mother mouse out of the way so I could carefully remove the babies. I grabbed the grill scraper and banged the handle against the side of the grill and thought that would get her running for the hills. She remained by her little ones.
So I proceeded with another plan of temporarily lighting the left side of the grill, which was away from the mouse family thinking the sight of fire would surely flush the mother out and then I could turn the flame back out and remove the youngsters without the mother’s interference. Well, wouldn’t you know it, even in the face of fire, the mother stood her ground and still wouldn’t leave her babies.
I figured it was time for a new strategy: remove the babies and the mother would follow. Jan brought out the “deluxe gopher” device with its handy rubber cups that can delicately pick up anything from a distance. One by one, I was able to grab each mouse toddler by the tail until all five were placed next to a nearby bush where they took their first steps to hide underneath. Only after all were removed was the mother mouse ready to jump out of the grill and into the bush to be reunited with her litter.
After a long cleaning and warm up of the grill I completed my barbecue mission and we enjoyed our back yard picnic. It felt good showing mercy when it was so tempting to do destruction.
I think what touched me the most was the defiance of the mother when protecting her young from danger when I could have easily squashed her. I saw her care, concern and courage and could only find compassion in my heart. Perhaps it was a simple matter of instinct, but I saw “love” for her family and willingness to die in their defense.
After the meal, I thought about the many PFLAG mothers and fathers who, head-on, challenge society’s discrimination and hatred against their loved ones. The hate, scorn and social shunning is not enough to keep them from standing with their children to protect them from harm. No amount of threats will scare them off or make them run for cover but only embolden them to take further measures to protect those they raised by visiting legislators and writing letters to the editor to educate the public.
I don’t know how much of this is instinct, but I see “love” for their families and a willingness to die if necessary, in their defense. As PFLAG members take their stand and speak out, others will see this same kind of care and concern for their offspring’s well-being and from all my experiences, I trust that most people have sufficient compassion in their hearts to be moved and question their attitudes.
But it really has to be more than instinct with us humans because not all parents respond in such a protective way. Perhaps the power of stigma, religious conformity and the need for social acceptance are far too strong for some. From the many family stories of PFLAG people I have heard, I do know the power of love is much stronger, it just may take longer for some.