Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lessons from Starlings....

This spring, from the middle of May, to the middle of June, I was away from home.  I've already written a lot about my voyage north and the wonderful happenings and eye-opening growth that happened to me, but now, I want to tell you a little bit about what I left at home. In Oklahoma. With Bikeman.

I am sure that you remember the devastating news about the horrible destructive storms that blew thru Joplin, Missouri mid-May. The worst tornado in the history of the US.  That same night, around the tri-state area, storms also damaged trees and property, certainly not the extent of the Joplin area, but nonetheless tree limbs down and roof shingles blown away.

The next morning, I was relieved to hear that our town of Tahlequah was unscathed, and that Dear Husband Bikeman had slept thru most of the sturm und drang.

I did get an early morning call from him, however. It seems that, when he opened the back door, there on the deck was a very bedraggled tiny black baby bird. Bikeman immediately started in with, "WHAT do I DO with this BIRD??  Just because I've seen YOU do this for the past 40 years doesn't mean I've been paying attention."

"Call Denise," I told him. She has a cage and everything."

"WHAT do I FEED him? I don't want this baby bird!" He was getting kind of frantic.

"Call Denise.  She will be more than Glad to take him off your hands. This will not be a problem for her."

"Do I dig for worms? Where is that box that you keep these babies in?"

"If you can't get ahold of Denise, call Susan. She and her daughter will LOVE caring for him. Here's the number right here."

"I can DO this. If you'll just TELL me how to do this. Now where is that box and what do I feed him?"

And so, I instructed him on how to moisten some dry cat food, and where to find some tweezers. Box is in the storage barn.  Newspapers in recycle bin to line the box.  

He called me daily with updates. He named him Pub.  And he dug for worms out on the east side of the house. I later learned that he washed the worms before he fed them to Pub.

Once the worms ran out on the east side of the house, Bikeman went to WalMart and bought worms for Pub.  He called with daily, sometimes hourly reports.  He learned that, soon as Pub ate, well, something came out the "other" end. Have I mentioned that I married a man who is very much like the tv character Monk?  Um, yeh.  Bikeman does not get dirty. Nor does he like anything dirty in his presence. Bird poo certainly qualifies as dirty, and I am sure that he went thru several cases of paper towels as Pub ate and, uh,   grew.....                                                                                                                     

As the baby bird lost some of his downy feathers and grew in some of his big boy feathers, I reminded Bikeman that he needed to give him some "flying lessons." So he carefully held onto the bird's feet, and swooped him up into the air a bit, forcing those little wings to spring out and flap in pseudo flight. When he did this, Bikeman noted that "one wing isn't working like the other."                                                                                                 

Hmmmm....That didn't sound very good.  But I encouraged him to keep up with the physical therapy, and daily they would sit outside, Bikeman checking his email on his phone, Pub walking about the yard, pecking and exercising and doing "bird activities."

The expenses rose considerably as more worms were consumed, necessitating more paper towels.  Then, of course, there was the "time" element. Couldn't get too far away for too long a time.  Birds need to eat about every 2 hours.  So bicycle treks were limited to "doing the Loop" or other short routes that did not require endless hours away from home.

Pub spent his days in the big cage that Denise brought over. And, of course, roaming the backyard during their PT sessions.  But Bikeman still insisted that the bird come inside at night, sleeping in the smaller box in the bedroom. "Just in case he stirs at night, I can hear him."   He was Bikeman's constant companion for over 2 weeks, and  Bikeman protested quite a bit that he did not want a bird, and asked me countless times when this bird would be "old enough to fly away."

My friends and I giggled that he was going to teach Pub to hold onto his bicycle handlebars, and, well....we would have ourselves a permanent resident added to our menagerie.

After about 2 1/2 weeks, I received an early morning call from Bikeman. You know how, after 40 years of marriage, your soulmate can walk into the house and you immediately know if he's had a happy day or a lousy day....Nothing needs to be said, the very air around him can be accurately interpreted when you've been best friends that long.
I knew when the phone rang, that Something was Wrong.

His voice came in short gasps. He was overcome with grief and sorrow. He was struggling to breathe and grasping desperately for my consolation and my very presence. I was twelve hundred miles away, and helpless to wrap my arms around him and tell him peace, alliswell, be still, our God is in control.

Bikeman had opened Pub's cage that morning, and the baby bird was still and cold in his man-made nest. He'd eaten just fine the night before, everything was as it had been all along. But his work here on this planet was finished, and it was time for him to move on.

For two and a half weeks, Pub brought to Bikeman gifts that he had never even thought to open. And he opened these gifts daily, several times a day.  Gifts of being able to serve one so small, to see the wonder in tiny feathers, to sit outside and enjoy the sun and just "be," to plunge his fingers into the Earth for worms and grubs, to recognize the songs of adult starlings, to marvel at the flight of birds, to hold the diminutive feet clinched around his fingers.

And then, just as quickly as he appeared, Pub was gone. He is buried on the east side of the house. Near HanktheCowdog and the Sunnybank rosebush. His spirit remains in the heart of Bikeman, I believe. And his heart has grown bigger and kinder and more understanding since the entry of this little, baby Starling gift.

I received this email later in the day:

Subject: hello

Well, it's 9:15 pm your time. Hope you are in safe someplace and resting. I know you have a bunch of dogs to bed down for the night. Busy.

I'm doing well. Thanks for your support this morning; it meant alot to me. We possess anger, fear, sadness, greed, hatred, all the bad things, we spend alot of our time keeping them suppressed. It only takes a little Starling to bring out our deep-felt, storehouse of carefully guarded feelings.

Somewhat embarrassing for a man. Men are not supposed to like cats, little birds, Mozart, etc., however, Pub was a great teacher. He reminded me about patience, love, hope, caring; a privilege to see the world through the eyes of a starling. A small life with great power to make you laugh or cry. I will like Starlings.

All that said, thanks for listening.

I love you, me


Cyn said...

What a beautiful way to start my Sunday morning.

Roberta said...

Beautiful! Though I've never met Bikeman, it's always been obvious he's a keeper...but never moreso than after reading this. You are truly blessed - both of you!

Emily P said...

Oh Momma....this was a good post. Dad did a great job with Pub.... Kathryn and I each found a bird on that same day and we both lost our birds. I am glad Pub lasted a little longer even if he still had to leave somewhat early.