If he could just make her understand that he knew what she needed, they might not be having this problem.
Squawking! Always this horrific squawking! If only she would just shut up for a while!
She was going to die. Not because he wanted her to. Not because she herself really wanted to leave this life. Nevertheless, if something didn’t change, death would be unavoidable. And at the rate she was going, the process wouldn’t take very long.
The father looked tenderly at his little daughter. She had been growing. A little. He could see that she had been becoming just a little stronger than she had been.
But all this strength had only enabled her to squawk more. She wanted this. She needed that. This needed to change. That did, too. But it needed to happen all at once. And to her exacting specifications.
He stifled a sigh. If she had only known what she really needed, he might have been inclined to give in to her whims. But her wants were endless. She seemed trapped at the bottom of a chasm of wants that went on forever.
Examining her surroundings, he wondered if there was more that he ought to be doing: beautiful, warm, cloudless sky. She wanted snow. Her bed was just uncomfortable enough to encourage her to get out more. She wanted a softer, more comfortable nest. From time to time, a few of the friends who loved her stopped by to chat or eat with her.
But she wanted more: more friends (some of whom would just end up using her for their own purposes), more freedom (though she hardly knew the dangers outside her protected world), more attention (even if it was the wrong kind), food that tasted better (whether it was good for her or not!).
He had much more patience toward her than she realized. But, in her excessive demands on him, she hardly realized how much—how extravagantly—he invested in her life every single day.
In spite of recent growth, she still wasn’t strong. Both of them knew that. Early in her life, she had been hen-pecked until she almost couldn’t move. When he stepped in, she could barely take one or two painful steps, or occasionally, a small, pitiful hop. Even under the best of conditions, which he was trying to create, it would be some time until she could really stretch her wings and fly—really soar above her circumstances and live the life he had created her to live.
This waiting, which was supposed to give her protection and strength, seemed rather to be wearing her out. He wanted to be able to explain his purposes to her. If she were only able to understand. Instead, he ended up just holding her gently against his chest where she could listen to his strong heartbeat while she cried herself to sleep.
While she sought ways to entertain herself and pass the time, he was out chasing away hungry predators, and seeking friends that could both build her up, and be blessed by what she had to offer.
And he brought her food. Constant supplies of food. But she turned away from most of it.
He brought her first of all food that her stomach could handle. It was soft and mushy, and already partially-digested. She choked on it, and blinked in surprise at some sort of strong taste she found offensive. “Eat it, Little One!” he urged her.
Turning slightly away from him, she found something else to do.
“Come on, now! You know you have to eat!” he cajoled.
“It tastes bad!” she spat back at him. “I can’t eat that stuff!”
For a few hours, he decided to just let her stomach do the talking. When he returned, with more of the same stuff, she balked at first. Then, tearfully, she allowed herself to be fed a small portion of the nasty-tasting stuff.
He smiled into her dripping eyes. “This is going to make you so strong! You’ll see.”
She sadly shook her head, but continued eating, however slowly and reluctantly.
After a full night of restful sleep, she awoke feeling a little stronger than she had the previous day.
But she used that extra strength to complain.
He stifled a sigh, while offering her a slightly different food. This one tasted better, he knew, but did not contain nearly the accessible nutrients that the first offerings had contained. Nevertheless, she managed to choke it down, all the while telling him how it might be improved in the future: “I like it crunchy, Papa!” she squawked. “It needs to be crunchy!”
The next dinner was a little bit too crunchy. He had allowed her to select this one from a small list of limited choices that he knew she might be able to eat by now. She made a bit of a flap about it. “Too crunchy, Papa!” she screeched, leaving part of a wing and several legs, after timidly nibbling only the center portion.
She was weakening again.
“You need to eat a little more next time, my baby,” he told her.
She blinked and turned away. He was right, of course. But this food he was giving her! It was just too much! Too sweet! Too sour! Too big! Too small! Too chewy! Too dry! Too wet!
Anyone observing them would have noticed that any food he offered her would have fit comfortably into at least one of these categories.
To get her mind off her constant worries, he sang her one of his favorite songs. And tried to teach it to her. To drown out the many complaints she preferred to practice, he brought others to her side who could sing this song with him. Just in case she caught the joy and beauty of it and decided to join in herself.
She didn’t. The one song she preferred to sing was a dirge cataloguing the many sorrows of her short life. She had sung it so often and so loudly, that most of her friends—and a few of her neighbors—also knew it by heart, though not by choice. It was a very gloomy song. He wished she’d stop singing it.
And she continued losing strength, in spite of his best efforts to get her to eat, to take an interest in something outside herself, in a word, to do anything besides wallow in her old sorrows.
Perhaps there was one other thing he could do to liven up her dreary mealtimes. Swooping into the nest, he brought her a dinner that was still partly alive: a little earthworm that she could play with for a little while before swallowing whole, or in just a few small pieces.
But even this didn’t make her happy.
“No! No! No, Papa!” she squawked, almost as loudly as she could. “You’ve brought me the wrong worm!”
This night, he was the one crying himself to sleep. For he had done all he could to protect and strengthen his weakened little bird-daughter. But because she had constantly refused his help, as she drifted off to sleep, resting under the shelter of his tender wings, her little heart had slowed, then finally stopped. He could no longer hear her shallow breathing, and he sorrowfully realized that there was nothing more he could do.
February 13, 2018