A Story of How to Fly

For months, possibly even a year or more, my grandfather kept two birds, rock pigeons, in a cage suspended four feet off the ground. The cage, although big enough to house the two, did not allow them enough space to spread their wings and fly. Despite this, my grandfather kept them there for reasons unknown to me at the time.

When my grandfather had more energy, he willingly took on the task of feeding the animals of the house—birds included. He would refill their water and place a handful of bird feed into a makeshift saucer made from a recycled tin can. As he grew more tired and stationary throughout the day, this task eventually fell onto me.

Every afternoon, the same process ensued: I refilled their water, grabbed a handful of bird feed, opened their cage, and then refilled their metal food tin, just like my grandfather. They rarely made any fuss or an attempt to escape. Some days, one of them would be perched on their food tin, but once they saw my hand on their cage, they politely stepped off and allowed me to give them food.

They were, however, at times restless, with one or both of the birds flapping their wings in quick succession. I saw this as their way of asking for more room, a sign that they were bored, or an indicator that they wanted to be free. Although there were moments when I wanted to open the cage and allow them to soar away, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was afraid of what my grandfather would say if I released his pet birds into the wild.

One afternoon, however, I took a chance and asked my grandfather: where did the two birds come from? I readied myself for every possible answer but what I received was one I didn’t expect: he kept them because they were sick. One had a broken wing and the other he saved from becoming our cat’s afternoon snack. Although there was barely any space, my grandfather kept the birds in a cage to keep them safe.

It was an odd thing to hear. Before this moment I could never really tell what my grandfather was thinking. There were days he’d surprise us, coming home with a brand new TV, a new car, and even a pair of puppies. He had always been this stern, stoic man whose gaze filled you with nervousness and fear. But in learning why he kept those two birds, I was gently reminded that he does show care and affection, just in his own way.

One day, as I turned the corner into the backyard, I noticed that one bird was missing. I informed my grandfather of this and instead of being shocked or surprised, he remained focused on the TV in front of him. It was as if this were something he had expected, an event as natural as a trip around the sun. He told me that it’s fine, that it’s about time they finally leave.

So, a few days later, I gave the same opportunity to the bird that remained: I gave it a chance to be free. For thirty minutes, I watched as it flapped its wings furiously and struggled to stay afloat. Seeing how hard it was for the bird, I thought that maybe they needed more time, that today was not the day.

But we kept at it: from hovering a few feet off the ground, to landing, to hovering, to landing again. Then, finally, the bird flew high enough to perch itself on a tree branch ten feet above. As I looked up at it, I couldn’t help but feel a surge of emotions. Joy that it could finally spread its wings and sadness at losing a friend.

I continue to think about those two and how eventually, no matter who you leave, you need to spread your wings and fly.

2 Comments

  1. Aww, what a warm story. And who knew, eh? I too thought your grandfather wanted to keep the birds as pets. Interesting to think how that thread of life had unfolded, thanks to you and your grandfather’s actions. I wonder what life the bird lived after that. Thanks for this story!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dyllanmykel says:

      And here I was, just mindlessly feeding them without giving it a second thought. I am glad to find out how they came into our care and can’t help but look at them fondly now. Thanks for your comment and stopping by. I appreciate you!

      Like

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