Change had blown in on the winds of spring air and catapulted my family into a new era. My brother had graduated from high school in May and would be leaving for college. I had finished my studies and was leaving for a new job in Europe. We only had a few precious months left as a family living under the same roof. Everything would change in the fall.
Dad had quite the reputation for being the gushy, sentimental type. Surprisingly, he was doing okay as an impending empty nester. A few tears were shed when “Pomp and Circumstance” was played at the graduation ceremony, but for the most part he was holding it all together. We were very proud of his composure.
May also brought a family of magpies that would take up residence in our maple tree. This family returned year after year to bicker, squawk, build nests and raise baby magpies.
This particular generation of magpies seemed to be extraordinarily noisy. The tree shook with their daily skirmishes, leaves dropping and horrible sounds coming from the inside of the branches.
One early morning, the ruckus was so bad that my dad ventured out to see what the birds were doing. He found a lone, fledgling magpie hopping around the yard, flapping his little wings and yelling his little birdie head off.
Dad bent down to talk to the bird. “Hey there little guy. What’s going on? Did you fall out of your nest? Poor birdie. Where’s your family?”
He looked up in the tree to find Mommy and Daddy Magpie sitting on a branch and glaring ominously at him. “Oh, there you are. You should keep a closer eye on your baby. We have nasty cats.”
Dad went inside to take a shower. As he was leaving for work, the poor magpie was still hopping about, flapping his wings and trying to fly. He had to do something for the poor little thing.
Dad called the zoo. “Yes, well I have this baby magpie in my yard. He’s trying to learn how to fly but he can’t yet and I just don’t know what to do to help him. Should I catch him and put him in a box? Should I put him back in his nest? Should I bring him to the zoo? I think I should probably just leave him alone but I’m so afraid something is going to happen to him.”
“Sir?” replied the zookeeper, “You do realize that this is a wild animal.”
“And that learning how to fly is a natural process?”
“Then you should probably just leave him alone. He’ll learn. No offense, but your presence in the yard might be frightening him.”
Dad no longer followed the magpie around the yard. He did, however, watch him vigilantly from the living room window, just to make sure a rogue cat didn’t turn him into lunch.
The next day I got a call at my summer job. It was my father. He never called me at work. “Dad? Is everything okay?”
“Heather, have you seen Morey?”
“Yes, Morey… Morey the Magpie.”
“You named the bird?”
“I saw him this morning but now I can’t find him. I’ve walked the yard three times. I even looked in the tree but he’s not around. I’m worried.”
“You named the bird?”
“I’m very worried about him.”
“Maybe he finally learned how to fly.”
There was a long pause. “I hope so.”
“Dad, it’s lunch rush. I have eight tables. Gotta go.”
Driving home from work, my Psychology 101 class finally paid off. It wasn’t about the magpie. It was about his own little fledglings who were leaving the nest. It was about my brother and me.
Dad felt as helpless as the mommy and daddy bird watching in the tree. He couldn’t make us fly once we left the nest. He couldn’t will us to be successful and happy. He couldn’t ward off the tabby cats.
In fact, once we left his nest, he could only watch from his own branch, provide love and support and hope for the best.
No wonder he named the bird.
I got home and found him looking out the kitchen window.
“Did you find Morey?”
“No, but I also didn’t find any feathers or signs of a fight. So I think he’s okay. I think he might have learned how to fly.”
“Of course he did. He had very good parents who raised him well, loved him and taught him how to catch worms. They made a nice cozy, warm nest. When it came time to fly, he already knew how to soar.”
My dad had big tears in his eyes. “Well, I’m still going to miss him.”
I snickered. “You’re a funny dad.”
The summer was spent playing, laughing and enjoying time as a family. Dad never did find Morey. I would point out a magpie and ask, “Is that him?”
“No, that’s not Morey.”
“Dad, it’s a magpie. You really can’t tell the difference, can you?”
“Of course I can. We bonded.”
Soon it was the end of August. Bags were packed and it was time for my brother and me to leave the nest. In the end, Dad had nothing to worry about. He raised his little fledglings well….And we flew.
Heather Simms Schichtel Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad [Changing Lives One Story At A Time] http://www.chickensoup.com