As his wife and now his caregiver I’ve always noted that Chris gets pleasure from simple things. One of these is old movies.
One of his favourites is Keys to the Kingdom, starring Gregory Peck. When Peck, a priest, gets to his mission in China, he finds that he has no parish members. He is told the people will only come if he gives them rice. Peck stoutly replies that he doesn’t want any ‘rice-Christians’ in his mission.
These days another pleasure for Chris is the bird feeder. We chose a little cedar model. Then came the choice of birdseed. It seemed expensive, but it was no mess and recommended, so we bought it.
I rigged the birdhouse up, put out the seed and waited.
The next day a single bird, brown and grey with some white markings, came and sat in the Japanese Maple next to the birdhouse. After a thorough visual examination, he finally landed and began to peck at the seed.
He left not long after, much to Chris’ disappointment. But later that day, Chris ventured out to the living room to have coffee. Marg, Marg! Come and see! he called.
Our ’Scout’ as we had dubbed him, had come back, bringing another with him. Together they dined.
The next day they returned, and this time another bird with orange markings trailed along. There was some fluffing of feathers and a bit of pushing and shoving at the trough, but Scout held his ground.
In the end, they all ate to their contentment, more birds joining in, some taking sunflower seeds or peanut halves back into the branches of the maple tree to break down and eat.
Chris watched all this with interest. It’s their hangout, he said proudly.
If I had wondered why Chris wanted a bird feeder, now I knew. All his life, Chris has helped people: giving them jobs, helping them with housing, even going to the Sisters of Atonement and making sandwiches for the homeless.
Now that he’s infirm, none of that is possible. But these small creatures, Scout and his friends, depend on him. That allows him to feel generous. It lifts his spirits.
In May we were gone for two weeks. We came back to an empty, abandoned bird feeder. We put feed out right away, early in the morning, but in spite of repeated checking, we saw no birds all day. Chris came to the dinner table disappointed.
Rice Christians, Chris said, as he unfolded his napkin. That’s what the little beggars are. Rice Christians.