06 April 2013

There’s big doings at the continuing care facility where my elderly father lives. 

Matilda, a lovely Canada goose, has returned. Everyone believes she's the same goose as last year because she’s built her nest in the exact same spot: underneath an awning outside a long hallway that connects two wings. She must like the attention because she plunked herself right below one of the few windows where residents can peer down and see her, but she’s just out of reach of anyone who goes on the patio and who might try to get too close.  Though I haven’t seen him, her mate, who my father has named Matt, is proudly hovering nearby for the 28-day gestational period. 

Unlike the pigeons who have taken up residence at my apartment, Matilda is one smart mom. She picked a location that offers shelter from the rain and other elements, and she’s inches from a man-made cascading pond that makes for a most excellent swimming hole and water source. She’s also surrounded by grass and everything else she could possibly need all within eye-and earshot of her feathered nest. (She also seems to have dragged a styrofoam cup over. No one is quite sure of its purpose). 

In a facility where death is the only permanent resident, the joy over new life cannot be overstated, especially of the fluffy, chirping, gosling variety. Everyone —residents and staffers— seems to stop to look out the window to check out their girl. Even those in wheelchairs often pull themselves up to a semi-standing position to get a glimpse of her since she’s tucked so closely to the building that you have to press your head right against the glass to look down to see her. She’s a main topic of conversation and she brings a smile to everyone's face.

Last year, shortly after the goslings were born, Matilda and Matt taught them to swim in the pond and then left to explore the area or migrate or do whatever they do. There were a few additional sightings, but no guarantee that they’d come back to roost when it came time to hatch some new siblings. 

Though my father lives in a wonderful place where he is very well taken care of and every effort is made to focus on life, there’s no escaping death. It sits beside the residents—sometimes patiently, sometimes not—biding its time. Even residents who first come in to the independent living section seem to know this will be their last stop. When someone dies, the facility always puts up a framed notice in the exact same gold and cream paper with the person’s name and birth and death dates written in beautiful calligraphy. Beside the frame, in a glass vase, is a red rose. On good days, there are no notices, on bad days there’s more than one. 

Matilda is a beautiful reminder that even in the shadow of death, new life springs forth as sure as the tulips and daffodils push through the earth. Spring and renewal are here.

Today’s $10 goes to Ducks Unlimited,a non-profit that focuses on wetlands and waterfowl conservation. I wish there were a Geese Unlimited, but I couldn’t find one. Maybe Matilda and I will start it. 

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