I’ve been watching a couple of Eastern Bluebirds in my yard since spring. Against the backdrop of my neighbor’s barn, they’ve built their home inside a rustic gray bird house nailed against an ancient power pole. I watched as they worked days and days on end bringing back scraps of bark and twigs and string. I witnessed their war with a Mockingbird who insisted he was moving in too. The smaller blue birds won through tenacity alone. I waited patiently hoping to see evidence of a new family for the two. The multitude of bugs they carried in through the perfectly sized hole in the front of their house was surely for feeding chicks. I watched and waited content in the cool mornings to sit and listen to the Bluebirds and their hundred bird choir fill the morning with song.
My folks came for a visit late last spring and we sat on the porch as usual drinking our coffee and watching the Bluebirds. I asked my dad how many birds he thought were singing at once and he replied, “Hundreds.” My mom looked up from her phone and asked, “You can hear birds singing?” My heart sank. Hundreds of birds were filling the morning air with sound and my mom couldn’t hear a single one. We had known for some time that Mom was struggling with her hearing. There were misunderstandings and requests for repetition of phrases which she would repeat back incorrectly and we would rephrase thinking she didn’t understand. But it was shocking to realize that she was missing something as significant to me as bird song. She was living in a different world than me, one with no bird sounds and it made me sad. She promised to look into a hearing aid as soon as she returned home.
The Bluebirds showed up less and less as summer turned hot and dry. Their baby birds never revealed themselves while I was on watch. Dad had his hip replaced and Mom had her final surgery after fighting cancer for years and surviving. Grandma turned 90 while the whole town showed up to celebrate and Mom got a hearing aid.
Mom and Dad came back for a visit over the fourth of July and the Bluebirds returned too. We sat on the porch together again, though the morning breeze was much hotter, and watched as the Bluebirds repaired their nest. In and out of that little hole they came and went and we pondered a second batch of chicks.
It’s amazing the things we take for granted. To know I can sit on the same porch with my mom and have such an entirely different experience in the same moment. My world full of song, her’s nearly silent. Mom feels good. She’s happy now, and she can hear the birds sing.
“Grant that we may not so much seek to be understood as to understand.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi