The columns and writings of
Peggy L. Elliott
"" To Sing, Perchance to Live - Aye!

Living here with me is a small, and aging, menagerie. It's fitting they are aging, for so am I. Accordingly, we can suffer through our old age together with a shared understanding of what the others are going through. (This "menagerie" I refer to does not include my teenage daughter, who would not appreciate being considered a part of a "menagerie." Nor is she exactly "aging," although she is of an age when this is not necessarily considered a bad thing.)

My "menagerie" consists of a cesky terrier with an amazing range of emotional personalities, and a little fading-yellow canary. This passing winter has taken a toll on my little companions, most notably marked in the rapid decline of Taylor, the canary. Though well into his teens - quite aged for a little songbird - I knew this time would come some day, but "some day" has always been some shrouded threat permanently ensconced in the future. Not a day you would ever really have to live.

Once in proud splendor, Taylor ruled his kingdom - the cage - from the vantage point of his perch. This year he retired, heading down south as do so many other retirees. In his case, however, going "south" refers to deserting the perch and taking up residence on the bottom of his cage. He continues to enjoy many of his lifelong activities, such as bathing and eating, for I moved his little bowls down to the bottom of the cage, as well.

His days are busy, for there is much for him to watch. I once thought he'd be happiest placed by a window where he could see and hear the other birds which came to the feeders there. But Taylor preferred watching his humans. I guess he knew what to expect from those birds, being a bird himself; it was the rest of us he found odd enough to be interesting. So his cage was placed in amongst the rest of the family and he's been a happy bird.

For years he blessed us with his wonderful, richly textured songs. Seizing tight his perch, his head thrown back in rapture, neck and breast feathers swollen by his intent and desire, he'd release one divine tune after another. His serenade would continue for hours, his expression of sheer joy not for our benefit, but an offer of gratitude, thanking the sun for continuing to rise every morning, shining on a world in which he still played a part.

He breaks free only in whispers now - trills, tucks and twitters still escape to greet the morning sun, the thrill of living simply too strong a force to succumb completely to his old age infirmity. And, as is so often true of the aged, his days of youthful production stretch far behind him, while the effort to provide for his mounting needs becomes more demanding. But he is forever my responsibility, my promise to provide for him the balance due on the pleasure he's provided through the years.

We all deserve to live out our lives with such grace, even if our once proud and heady songs have faded to only a whisper, our value is in doubt and the demands of our continuing care grow in tandem with our increasing age.

We, as a society, have not fared well in our care for the elderly who require our attention and so use up large chunks of the precious little time men, women and families have to themselves. There is no fault here, as everyone deserves the opportunity and space to live the life they've chosen, and the care of a needy family member can be suffocating. The obligation exists, though - the hand that held ours from birth should not have to worry we won't be there to hold theirs when it's their time, their need.

Still, as with my little bird, we all continue to sing - the force of our songs, like his, will diminish with the passing of our days, but listen closely, the tune shines on. Each and every living creature travels along the same road: the passage of time. I listen to my canary, in the throes of his old age, yet still enraptured by the celebration of such a simple, yet miraculous, wonder - the appreciation of this gift: one more day in his life, one more song to sing.

In Fond Memory of Taylor T. Bird


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© Peggy L. Elliott 2006