Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sometimes, there's no replacing a momma

I like stories with happy endings. But sometimes, the end isn't what you want, and you're left grasping what it all means. Join me as I try to wrap my mind around a short-lived effort to save a life.

Last spring, a bird decided to build a nest in the tongue of my boat trailer, while it sat
in our driveway. We would see it fly in and out, and eventually we heard baby chirps. And if we shined a flashlight just right through the very narrow opening, we could see the little beaks, and the necks stretching toward the light, waiting for their next meal. Eventually the sound of chirping was gone. Momma bird had done her job raising the babies and releasing them into this big world.

This spring, it happened again. I saw an adult sparrow flying in and out of the trailer. But it was a little later in the year, and we didn't hear chirping until about a week before our Minnesota vacation. The vacation where our van would pull that trailer with the boat on it. I looked in on the birds, and could see some feathers. They weren't BRAND new, and I was hopeful they would fly before we left for our 900-mile journey with the trailer.

The day of us leaving was very busy, and I felt like I didn't have time to try and dismantle the trailer to see if I could reach the nest and somehow relocate it. I had resigned myself to the fact that they were going with us, and would certainly die during the bumps, swerves and curves that 900 miles of travel would include.

Natalie's big heart for animals wasn't any too happy about that, but she understood. Sort of.

And off we went. Four Beebes and a guest in the van, plus an unknown number of birds in the trailer. And 400-500 miles into the trip, while pumping gas, I heard a chirp. And again. And it wasn't coming from any nearby bushes, but the trailer tongue. Something was still alive in there!

At each ensuing stop, I heard it again, and at one point I finally shared the news with Natalie. Her smile filled the van, and she jumped out to listen with me.

When we pulled into the resort, we began unloading the van and the contents of the boat to get settled in. When Natalie could see we were almost done unloading, she knew what was next. Back the trailer toward the lake, submerge it into the water and launch the boat. And she came to me with her heart heavy.

"Dad, before you put the boat in the water, will you please ask Alan for some tools and try to get the birds out?"

I was eager to get on the water, and wasn't really interested in a delay. But this was one of those times I absolutely could not tell Nat no.

So I went to Alan, the resort owner.

"I have a rather unusual request for help," I said. "Do you have some tools I could borrow to try and take apart the tongue of my trailer?"

I then proceeded to tell Alan my dilemma, and he was intrigued, and happy to help. He removed the front piece of the trailer tongue for me to open up the area. With that clearer view, we could see at least one live bird. But we still couldn't reach the nest.

Alan and his son found a couple of long items that would slide through the back opening in the tongue and reach the nest to push it forward. With Alan doing the pushing and me directing him based on where the stick emerged on the other end, we finally got the nest to move forward and fall out the front opening. With it came one bird that had already died. It looked like it had died a while ago, maybe during the drive or even before.

But the live one danced around Alan's stick to try and hold on to his safe location. Alan's son then used a "grabber" tool to try and pull the bird out, and after several attempts he got hold of a wing and slid him right out. Natalie was standing there beaming, and she picked it up. She immediately started brainstorming about how to care for him -- and what to name him -- while Alan put my trailer back together so vacation could officially begin.

Natalie searched online for a fitting name and settled on Bea, which she found to mean, "Bringer of joy. Traveler. Voyager through life."

Perfect, considering the voyage Bea had just traveled, and the joy he brought Natalie.

Natalie then took charge of a box and filled it with some natural elements to create a home for Bea, and she then borrowed a worm from our bait box and cut it up to feed the young bird, which was fully feathered but apparently not yet ready to fly. With just a little encouraging, Bea opened his mouth and gobbled up the pieces of the worm. He seemed to be thriving, and Natalie was very proud, very satisfied.

Evening fell, and Natalie went to check on Bea one last time before we hit the sack. He seemed content.

And then morning came. I was the first to rise, and after starting a pot of coffee I decided to check on  Bea. My heart immediatley sank. He didn't make it through the night. It was a chilly night, and our only thought was that he couldn't stay warm enough. Natalie had provided some bedding, and a box for shelter, and he was in the screened-in porch, protected by a solid lower half to limit any breeze. But he didn't have the warmth of his momma through the night.

I was very sad, and gave the news to Natalie when she woke up. She cried, and didn't want to believe it. She felt she had failed, and she sobbed on my shoulder. She wanted so bad to be this baby's momma and see it to a safe first flight.

So that's the sad end to this story, and leaves me realizing that not everything is replaceable. Sure, life can go on without our mommas in most cases, and a dad, or a sister, or a friend can fill some of the voids. But there are just some things that no one can do like momma.

Natalie, be proud of your effort. You helped me see the value of pausing my own life to try and help someone else, you gave me yet another example of your caring heart and you gave Bea a few glorious final hours of his life, enjoying a couple of meals and your attention, your love.

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