04 November 2007

The Dickie Bird Comes Home

Gran's Dickie Bird

My gran is in her mid-eighties. She still has her licence. How, we're not quite sure.

She stopped driving on the highway in her early-seventies, at night in her late-seventies, long distances in her early-eighties and now she rarely drives anywhere at all. The car is parked in her driveway for emergency use only.

From spring to fall, all of her extracurricular activities are based out of a local seniors centre. The art classes and tai chi she takes there is a 10 minute walk from her house. For groceries or medical appointments, she calls upon her children or neighbours to take her.

My gran has only lost her independence in the last few years. Her physical health, quickly and unexpectedly, has deteriorated rapidly.

It's hard on us and harder on her. This is a woman who worked full-time until her mid-seventies.

When she got the flu last winter, my mother found her passed out on the kitchen floor. No one knew how long she had been there. A few hours, possibly. More likely overnight. See, she's a diabetic. Type 2. She needs food to regulate her blood sugar.

Last winter, she also acquired several successive viral infections in her ear. It made her dizzy. She was unable to walk up or down the stairs in her home. She couldn't stand up for long periods of time or even tolerate car trips across town. She was confined to her house.

And, with the long Canadian winters, my gran is also subject to the fear of practically every senior residing in a northern geographic region which keeps them housebound or southbound for a better part of the snowy season: falling down on a patch of ice.

She lives alone and gets lonely. As her ability to interact with the outside world decreases, her loneliness increases. She wants a companion, but would never get one for herself.

While she spends heaps of money on her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she'd never for a moment even consider spending a dime of her money on something frivolous for herself. This is a woman who grew up in the depression.

To put it in perspective, she never calls long distance or will end a conversation with you prematurely because she thinks it's costing you too much no matter how many times you tell her you have an unlimited call package that is quite reasonably priced.

Enter the German roller canary.

My grandmother once had a singing canary that rested in the pass-through between the kitchen and living room. It would sing its sweet bird song to her all day long. It was a German roller canary that had been gifted to her by a local breeder that couldn't be sold because it had a club foot.

She loved that bird and doted on it. It was her friend. I like to think that she would spend her days puttering around the house while talking to the bird and whispering her secrets.

The details on how that bird became not to be aren't quite clear. I know it wasn't her choice or doing. I know it had something to do with my grandfather and his irritation with the bird. Whether his irritation stemmed from the noise of its song, or her re-directed adoration, is unbeknownst to me. What I do know is that one day the dickie bird was no more.

My gran speaks of that bird fondly. She could tell you stories for an entire afternoon on its song alone. It wasn't any old canary. It was a German roller canary. She's very, very, very specific.

After months of research, connecting with breeders and anticipation, we brought a dickie bird home for her. We'll give her the gift she won't give herself.

He will be her companion till she needs a companion no more.

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