Bluebirds have had a special place in my life since March 5, 2005. That’s the day Richard and I got married under a white tent in our backyard, down by the river. During our vows, a little bluebird perched on the fence behind us and listened in. Our small band of family and friends saw him, but neither of us did because we were looking at each other. When we talked about it afterwards, most of us there marveled that we had never seen one before. And I still hadn’t.
The bluebird made another appearance at the reception, resting on the bare wisteria bush, while we were making toasts. Again, I missed him. We were laughing so hard in that moment because my 102 yr old grandfather downed three glasses of champagne before the first toast could get started! He couldn’t hear what was going on and just assumed my brother was standing at his elbow refilling his glass to be hospitable. Strange to think that Pop outlived Richard. He made it another year and Richard made it 11 more days.
The next day, we were back to the routine of transfusions and infusions and confusions. I still hadn’t seen a bluebird, but I believed in the magic of it. I knew that we had been visited by something truly special and rare.
I did see the bluebird a few months later. Richard’s parents had come down to do some paperwork on the estate. We were seated at the dining room table sorting through the piles of bills and payments. It’s like swimming through molasses, that kind of work during that kind of grief. I was feeling overwhelmed and far too young to be in that moment when I looked out the window at the very instant that the bluest flash I’d ever seen flitted past and landed on the dogwood tree. He was real! He was there! It was just the sign I had ached for.
The path of grief is not a straight line. You don’t start off in the deepest slough then climb up each step to get back to peaceful. Grief moves forward, but in a looping line. You’re going along, making progress then you hit a loop and your stomach lurches and everything is flipped upside down and you land right back where you were a few weeks or months ago. Eventually, the loops get smaller and spread farther apart, but they’re still there to…well, to throw you for a loop.
That’s how I found myself in despair one late summer day. I was hollow, made of smoke so thin that I might fly apart at any loud sound or sudden move. It had been months. I was back at work. I was going to the grocery store and to the movies. I was rattling around in our big house with my dogs and our cats. I was living and it hurt. I stepped outside one day, looked up at the sky and whispered, “I could really use a bluebird.”
The next evening, I let the dogs out on the deck and what do you know, there sat a blue bird. A bedraggled looking blue parakeet clutched the back of the patio chair. I blinked pretty hard, a couple of times. I walked back inside and watched it through the window. Still there. I locked the cats in the bedroom. When I approached the parakeet, it jumped right into my palm. I cupped
him gently between my hands and took him to the bathroom where he would be safe.
My dad is a veterinarian, so I called him for advice. “Do I need to put up signs around the neighborhood to see if someone is missing a parakeet?” He chuckled and said, “Nooooo. Somebody’s mama got tired of cleaning the cage and left the window open. Just go get you a cage and enjoy your new parakeet.” I asked him what he could tell me about parakeets and he said, “Does it have a colored strip over its beak? If it’s colored, that means it’s a male. Or a female. Hell, I don’t remember.”
I bought a little cage and he made himself at home in the bathroom. Every evening, I’d lock myself in there with him (with 3 cats scratching at the door) and let him fly around for a while. He liked being held and would perch on my shoulder so we could look in the mirror. He sang whenever the water ran or the toilet flushed. I could tell if people washed their hands because the little bird would sing longer!
The moral of this story: accept the gifts that come your way, even if they aren’t EXACTLY what you requested. I asked for a bluebird but I got a blue bird. I named my little friend Tuesday to remind myself that miracles happen even on the most ordinary day of the week.