This is Fuzzy.
He is a young Blue Jay. We have a bird feeder that hangs above my deck that is easily visible through my kitchen windows. It took a while for the neighborhood birds to discover it, but after our first visitor (a male Cardinal!) word spread quickly. Soon after, we were greeted each morning by the sight of dozens of birds jockeying for position on, and below, the feeder. We've seen House Finches, Tufted Titmouses (Titmice?), Sparrows, Cardinals, Mourning Doves, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Grackles, a Dark-eyed Junco, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Downy, Hairy, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers.
Of all the birds who join us for breakfast, the Blue Jay is the largest and can be a bit of a bully at the feeder. It announces its presence with a screech before arriving, thus scaring away all the other birds before it perches precariously on a rung that is too small for its body. Then it digs in the mix until it finds a sunflower seed which it carries to my railing to crack open. I admire the Blue Jays' skill and beauty, despite the fact they have been known to pilfer eggs or (gasp!) small birds from other nests.
This July we began to notice the babies of our nesting pairs. We could tell who the fledglings were; they lacked the grace of their parents, and they weren't quite sure how to negotiate the feeder. Some of them still had their downy feathers and their expressions looked, well, young. Curious but ignorant, like human toddlers. There was a group of five young Blue Jays that would come and go, and they were endlessly entertaining. Two weeks later I looked out on the deck on a Tuesday morning and saw Fuzzy.
He was so still I thought he was dead. I looked more closely and watched as he opened, then shut, his eyes. He had drifted off to sleep. Eventually a chipmunk came along to act as the custodian and clean up all the dropped seed, and Fuzzy gradually awoke. He wasn't frightened, but he hopped up onto my railing to get out of the way. He stayed there for most of the day, watching as his brothers and sisters swooped in and flew off with confidence, and every so often he would jump back down and procure a seed of his own. He flew away at the end of the day, but the next morning he was back on the railing.
The boys and I took turns trying to get close to him, because he was trusting and guileless. He reminded me of my special boys because he was clearly delayed in meeting his developmental milestones. It took him forever to crack open a sunflower seed, his flying was wobbly, and nothing scared him off the railing, not even the squirrels. I feared for him like I fear for One, feared he didn't have the skills or the strength he would need to survive, to shed his downy feathers and become sharp and swift like his nest mates. Like my One, he was too sweet and a bit confounded by the rigors of life.
That Friday morning I looked out on the deck and saw Fuzzy lying on his side. I hoped he was sleeping but I knew better, so I prayed only for a chance to save him. Four and Five were watching t.v. in the other room so I acted as quickly as I could. I yanked on a pair of kitchen gloves, which turned out to be two right hands, grabbed a shoe-box from the recycling bin, a towel from the drawer, filled a dropper with water, and threw in a handful of seed. I opened the door as quietly as possible and knelt down next to our bird. I was too late.
All that was left for me to do was spare the children. I scooped up Fuzzy and walked to the woods in our back yard, where I buried him as best I could under a thick cover of leaves by our lilacs. I didn't want Five, our budding ornithologist, to see me so I hurried inside. Frankly, I didn't want any of the boys to find out. I've accepted that sickness and death are part of our world, but I wanted to spare them that lesson. If just for that day.
I called the Captain because I was so sad and needed to share the news with someone. He told me I should take comfort knowing Fuzzy came to us to die, that he wasn't alone, that he knew we would take care of him. I thought of One and Four, and how much I want for them to not go through life alone. I know we have a big family, and there will always be someone to watch over them, but I want them to share a life with someone they love. I want that for all my boys, but it will be harder for them.
We left for the beach on Saturday morning, and when we returned the following week we refilled the bird feeder and watched our friends flock back. Five wondered where Fuzzy was, and One told him we wouldn't recognize him because he'd grown up while we were gone. The next day Five pointed at one of the Jays and said, "I think that's Fuzzy! It looks like his face, but without his fluffy feathers."
I smiled back at him and agreed.