08 April 2020

66. The Love Birds

Birds flock to my parents’ home in Newcastle. 

Each morning, out beneath the shade sail, an assortment of feathered beauties kept them both company. They had a million-dollar view of some of the most entertaining and colourful birds in the world. Both enjoyed being surrounded by nature better than anything. 

Birds have come to be fed and to have their chicks fed for 25 years. There are Magpies, Butcher Birds, Kookaburras, Chestnut Teal Ducks, Noisy Miners and Eastern Rosellas. 

At Mum and Dad’s place, they have plenty of Australia’s most common backyard bird, the Rainbow Lorikeet. 

Loris come to their home in huge numbers, 30 or more at once. There’s always enough, but these pretty birds can’t help squabbling over who gets what. 

While the Rainbows bite and squawk, Noisy Miners come to steal wholemeal bread soaked in honeyed water. Though loud, chattering birds, the miners are clever enough to thieve quietly. 

Meat-eating birds visit my parents’ home as well. 

Kookaburras have powerful beaks and large eyes that are always alert for worms in the lawn. 

When my mother sat outside under the shade sail, Kookas would fly to the railing right beside her. Mum loved to hear these birds laughing.

Like most Australians, she couldn’t listen to a Kooka chuckle without smiling and chuckling herself. It’s such an unexpected, infectious sound. 

Magpies arrive with their fledglings behind them soon after they leave the nest. Presenting new chicks so early, they become tame within days; happy to accept food and sing for their supper.  

Sometimes, when Dad came outside to pic strawberries or something, there would be Magpies lined up along the roof waiting to be fed.

Another bird that sings beautifully is the Pied Butcher Bird. My Dad is a wonderful whistler and calls these birds to the yard. I’m not sure where they are when they hear Dad, but usually fly in and sit on the fence within a minute. 

Mum and Dad have been married for more than 65 years. He was her extraordinary carer for the last 12 years after she became half-paralysed by a stroke. Even so, Mum was as sharp as a needle, bright and interested in everything around her, especially the birds who visited her on the veranda.

My parents swapped roles and Dad looked after her in a way no one else could have. He saw to every need. Massaging her aching legs and cooking the meals she liked. He took Mum out to lunch every Sunday, cleaning, washing, doing everything within his power to make her comfortable. 

Dad went over and above regular care for mum, he was devoted to her well-being. Though he had help from carers so he could play golf or shop, my father had a hard time trusting anyone else to look after her. He always feared they wouldn’t be tender enough, especially when Mum was so frail towards the end.

Just after her 92nd birthday, Mum had a fall. Dad visited her every day in hospital. Arriving when visiting hours started, he was reluctant to leave her side until late in the evening. In those long, hard in-between hours Dad was still looking after her; combing her hair, cleaning her teeth, helping her to eat her meals.

I never realised how dedicated my Mum and Dad were to each other. Their love is one of those ones you read about in literature, only much further on from the time the two of them first met at a wedding in their twenties.

When we think about romantic love, we always imagine young couples who’ve just met. My parents supported each other for richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. They had true love, an enduring, binding love.

Like all love birds, they cherished the other part of their pair. 

Dad’s care for Mum was pure devotion, but she passed away in late March. 

They created a home full of love, a place to sit in the sun, smell the flowers, pick the fruits and vegetables grown in the yard and watch all the wonderful birds.

Like the lemon tree in the backyard, their marriage was plump full of bright things.

Both parents taught me how to love.
Both parents taught me to love birds as well.
They shared everything over one long and loving lifetime together.

Happy Birthday, Dad; I love you and miss you, stay safe and stay well. xxx

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