Living

Mondays with Mom: Birds

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Mom has recently become enamored with birds. I don’t remember her paying much attention to them before the dementia; she was always a plant person and not much into animals. Dad started this fascination last summer or perhaps the summer before last. He has a wooden sign holder where the feeders are attached; there are now three seed feeders, a suet cake, and a hummingbird feeder that bring in a great variety of feathered friends and she delights in all of them.

Mom joyfully accounts how they fly up and “do their thing.” The camellia bush just behind the feeders makes a good landing spot for cracking open the seeds. There are moments when dozens of birds are hanging out and other times when they’ve all flown away.

Earlier this spring, a female cardinal had taken to fighting her reflection in the windows so Dad put screens back in the windows. (We had removed them in order to see more clearly.) We watch the towhees, nuthatches, wrens, chickadees, goldfinches, and titmice (not titmouses, as I like to call them), but our state bird, the brown thrasher, rarely comes by to visit. Just this week, the very noisy rose-breasted grosbeak came to join the others. We have two woodpeckers who are faithful to nibble the suet. Although there are dozens of mourning doves on the ground, we can only see them when they fly in and out because of the location of the window.

For the most part, our birds share the space benevolently. Occasionally we might have a bully come in, but since it’s mating season, I never know what’s truly going on.

Today Mom is sitting with her blue “elf shawl” around her head and the rust fleece blanket in her lap. She’s snuggled up tight so she doesn’t freeze while watching. She often sings to herself: “Little bird, flying to see who can go the fartherest. Please don’t wear yourself out, little bird, little bird.”

“Now here two flew in at the same time. If that isn’t the most beautiful thing.” She oohs and ahs over them. She giggles at them: “flying fast and furious, making noises as they went.” She loves the red-bellied woodpecker and laughs each time the downy woodpecker comes in for a landing. She chatters at them and calls them like she used to call her chickens on the farm.

Mom just got so excited. “Look, look in the tree!” The male cardinal showed up. I haven’t seen him in weeks! He must have heard Mom calling for him. Against the backdrop of leaves and white and pink azaleas, I believe she sees the bright red colors the best. From where she sits in the dining room, she’s only three feet or so away from the feeders. When there’s lots of activity on the feeders, she’s very entertained. When nothing’s happening, she gets bored easily.

I’m grateful for the birds and Mom’s new curiosity towards them. Since she spends most of her time in the dark den near the warmth of the fireplace, I’m so happy she enjoys the brightness of the dining room and the birds. I do, too!

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