After spending two weeks in the hospital, we sprung my dad out of his cage. That morning my mom shared a story of two birds she saw on the gate. The gate in my parents yard is shaped like a heart and it hides an ugly AC unit. The birds were facing away from my mother looking down into the ugliness when the bird on the left side flew away. My mom felt she would soon be the little bird left behind. At first we thought the bird on the left was the groom at an alter but after a quick Google search, we realized we were wrong. But she was adamant that the left bird took off to the skies. She showed me the gate and how it’s right next to the scene my dad created out of cement and paint on the side of their guest house. He put four sitting blue birds on the left and three black crows on the right. He tried to explain that the ones on the left somehow represented my brother and his wife and their kids but it didn’t add up to all my brother’s children. Plus there were only three birds on the right to represent the rest of us. So we just left the puzzle alone…until the last few days of my dad’s life.
As he was resting comfortably, I quietly washed dishes. From the sink, I looked out my parent’s kitchen window and was inspired to step outside, breathe in the garden and take video of the concrete art my dad made. I saw symbols of love and peace everywhere. There were hearts, peace signs, flowers, butterflies, words, numbers and birds. The birds were loudly singing and chattering as I took the video. There were crows exchanging lines with pretty song birds. There were coos and whistles. The birds were all over my mom and dad’s house calling for my dad to come fly with them and the angels.
Then the puzzle came together. The three black crows on the right are me and my brothers. We’re the talkative and friendly ones that acquired those characteristics from our mother, who also sat on the right side of the gate. And the four blue birds are his grandchildren. Singing, talking quietly and thoughtfully. Then I concluded that the bird, who flew away, was similar to the bluebirds, who represented my dad’s quiet ways. And the bird on the right side was clearly my mother, the outgoing, talkative one. Now if you knew my dad you might think that’s a wrong assessment of him, after all he was well known for cursing, criticizing and yelling. Yet, I believe now that his hollering wasn’t meant to be taken personally and everyone has long forgiven him for those offenses. To partially quote my dad and Linkin Park, “In the end it doesn’t even matter.” What mattered the most were the quiet “I love you’s” and “thank you’s,” us birds that were left behind heard my dad say in his last days. My mom once said, “your father is a man of few words.” When he was creating the scenes in the front and backyards, I wonder if he realized he’d be leaving my mom all the words and messages he barely said in his daily life. And as my dad repeatedly said about his concrete art, “it will last forever.” So now until forever, my mom can look outside and read the love letters he left her, while being sung to and cackled at by her grandchildren and children.