The birds of spring prompt memories of my caregiving mom

Seasonal changes bring new friends that remind this writer of her mother

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by Ray Burow |

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Spring is in the air, at least in my neck of the woods. The season prompts memories of my mother.

A lover of nature, she was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease in the early 2000s. Before her diagnosis, and for a good while afterward, she kept up with the birds and other wildlife that graced her backyard, garden, and windows.

She recognized each songbird by size, color, and tune

Birds fed at Mom’s feeders during every season. Weren’t they supposed to fly south for the winter? Regardless, they kept coming during the freezing West Virginia weather. Few things are as striking as a bright red cardinal on a snow-covered evergreen branch. The chirpy crimson birds are still my favorite, and when their flight pattern sends them my way, my mom comes immediately to mind.

The cardinals in my backyard are flighty and not in an obvious manner. They flit around the feeder for a few months, build nests, raise chicks, and then disappear. I can’t figure out their pattern. They fly south in the winter, but we’re about as far south as you can get in the United States. They were gone for months, and suddenly, the day after the clocks sprung forward, they returned. I don’t know why or how, but they’re back.

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A passion passed down

Whether the red birds returned or not, my mom is never far from my mind. The presence of the birds is comforting. Regardless of what’s going on around me, the little birds make me smile, and I have to believe it’s my mom’s doing. I love the birds because of her. It’s her influence. She even used to talk to them, much to the amusement of her children.

One of God’s tiny creations would chirp, and my mother would often follow with, “I hear you, little bird.” Mind you, that was before dementia.

I never thought it would happen, but I, too, am talking to the birds, which doesn’t surprise my kids. They don’t make fun of me, as I did my mom. They were close to their grandma, and they gained a love for fowl and furry friends. I haven’t caught them talking to the birds, though — yet.

Talking to birds came naturally to our mother as she communed with nature and God.

I hear you, little bird.

An early example of caregiving

My mother cared for my elderly grandfather, her father-in-law, while raising four children. My father was a hands-on son, but as you can imagine, a lot fell to my mother when he was away at work during the day.

My nonagenarian grandfather was pleasant, and I loved him dearly. Of course, being a child, I hadn’t the faintest clue of what caregiving involved. My mom was a caregiver in the days of wringer washing machines, clotheslines, and ironed diapers. I don’t ever remember a complaint escaping her lips, but she must have been tired. She once told me a story about exhaustion, faith, and nature coming together.

My parents took us to church at an early age. However, there was a short stint during her caregiving years when it was difficult for her to make it. She was exhausted and couldn’t roll out of bed. She asked God to help her get up on Sunday mornings, no matter how tired she was. According to Mom, every Sunday, until she could police herself to awaken on her own, a little bird tweeted from a branch just outside her bedroom window.

I don’t think she responded, “I hear you, little bird,” but she viewed the Sunday morning songbird as an answer to prayer, a messenger from God.

A handful of cardinals, mourning doves, woodpeckers, and blue jays have returned to my yard. They are messengers from God, singing his praises and bringing to mind the best example of a caregiving mom who loved feathered friends and her family.

I hear you, little birds.

Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


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