Between 5 and 6 am, summertime. We walked and smelled freshness as the sun wanted us to, when a shout rang out from behind me. “Dove, dove!” my little backpack yelled. I turned. An audience of feathers high around a suburban amphitheater waited above the old man, with an autumn gown and white morning hair. He looked at us, looking at him and his friends.
“Hello, sir, and tell us about the birds, please?” I asked.
He had fed a courtyard of doves, every morning since his wife’s death, three years before. She had started it and he kept it going day in and day out like a thousand breaths.
“I couldn’t abandon the poor things, you know. Days became weeks and months became years and here we are.”
Observing his feathered feeding frenzy became part of our daily routine. Sometimes two of us, sometimes more. Always commentary from my back with toddler fingers pointed at the heavens.
One January morning: FOR SALE. The next day the old man received a hand-written note, thanking him for the birds and wishing him well. His and her quaint cottage sold in a flash and he moved to a secure estate.
Our last conversation: “I can’t keep on, alone, like this, you know. It’s been almost four years.”
He returned to his and her memory nest in the morning after the new pair’s first night under the halo of their green cathedral. Parked under a municipal tree. Waited, binoculars ready …
The new owner fluffed from her new front door in a beige gown. Stopped, looked up and around, went back in. Returned with a crumbling loaf which scattered across the courtyard lawn. He smiled, a tear feathering down his cheek.
Drove off, popped in at the convenience store.
“Bird seed, please. Some new friends to find, you know.”