Little Bird

(“Little Bird” audio version)

We live along Calibogue Sound where shore birds and song birds vie for the sky and loamy soil. Green eyed vireo, blue jay, hummingbird, and crow. Doves, cardinals and sparrows. All have come to us, whether injured in our yard or dropped off at our house by someone with hope-filled eyes.

Every rescue begins with an optimism and an eagerness that this, this sweet bird will survive. We get the cage or shoebox ready. We get out the syringe and make the bird food. We plug in the heat lamp and heating pad. And we wait.

The nights are the hardest. Because something happens in the night. The energy of the day fades. And we have to sleep, but we don’t really sleep. We check on the bird throughout the night hoping that its eyes do not go dull. Its feet do not freeze. Its heart doesn’t stop.

If the bird dies, it is usually at early dawn. Ironic? Humane? We cannot decide. Either way, every time we lose one we mourn its passing and give it a water burial.

Our youngest daughter Camellia is named after the flower that blooms in January. She was due in January but came a month early. She was not breathing when she was born. Her blood oxygen levels were low. Her APGAR score was low.

But our hopes were high. Our resolve higher. And in January she bloomed.

We thought that, like the birds, if she made it past the early dawn of her life she would survive. And she did.

We eased our watch. No more fear of the nights. No more checking every few hours. No more sensors. No more monitors. No more waiting.

But now, nine years later, we wait again. Like the injured birds, we found her struggling. But unlike the birds whose tiny bodies lay still, she convulsed from a seizure. It was early morning, but past early dawn. And as her body fell uncontrollably to the floor, her eyes rolled back, her color evaporated, and her hair, once combed and parted, went wild.

We play the scene over and over in our mind’s cinema. The convulsions. The fall. The hit of her head. Then there was the vomiting and bouts of suppressive sleepiness.

We drove to the hospital with speed and with song, using the lyrics of “This is My Fight Song” to keep her awake. Pandemic equipped, we wore our PPE masks as a nurse inserted an IV, leads were strategically placed on her chest, and machines lit up like a city resurrecting from a power outage.

The nurses provided comfort. The doctors failed to provide answers. We were transported from one hospital via ambulance to another one hour away.

We spent the night forming our version of the yin/yang symbol in the hospital bed as we cuddled with wires, well-worn linens, beeping monitors, and cookie crumbs. We celebrated when she made it through the night without another seizure. We cried when we realized she could not walk without the assistance of a walker.

And we laughed as we drove home from the hospital. It feels better to laugh than to cry. Plus, we had run out of tears.

Now we are home. Our little bird is home. We still don’t know why she had the seizures. We still don’t know why she has trouble walking.

We are weary of the night. Or, more specifically, weary of the transition between night and early dawn.

Our little bird needs to thrive. She needs to spread her wings. She needs to vie for the sky and loamy soil.

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