pawpaw black and white

It’s erie.

You step outside. There are so many noises around. Sometimes, you hear nothing but the loud, echoing cries of the hundreds of black birds seeming to surround wherever you are, like the start of the greatest battle. It’s a screeching that sticks with you. Echoing, even after they’ve long flown to a different portion of trees in the distance.

They have an incredibly scary ora about them.

You can imagine the things they have long been witness to. Generations come and gone. Old homesteads freshly built with hardworking hands, down to the moment decades later, where they crumble from lack of attention. They watch as families abandon each other. Heads of the table that loved their families with everything and would have given every breath and parcel of their own bodies for their families, grow old seemingly alone as most of whom they loved ignore their need and brand their lives with small excuses, just enough to sleep at night.

The black bird waits. Speaking to the other black birds as this head slips from existence as its bloodline carries on.

I sat with my grandfather one day. The day was sunny. The tv was as loud as it could go. He is incredibly hard of hearing. And when in the room, so are you. But with the tv muted briefly, I spoke with him of the amount of black birds that surround the trees at the farm I live on, on a daily basis. As if they are plotting something of foul play. He began to describe to me what he hears in his now, 91 year old ears. He said it was mysterious that I brought up the black birds and their echo’d screeching. He began to tell me a dark saga of his days as he sits there day in and day out, of the black birds screaming with a roar inside of his ears, almost as if in his head. All day screeching, ringing in his ears. Like a mixture of white noise, with bird.

I tried to imagine what that must be like. To constantly be trapped in a room with birds. It frightened me.

These black birds, I wonder. Did they see the life he had led?

Had they been on his homestead where even as a young boy, he worked fields, starved, and learned to be appreciative for even a sweet bite of an unripe banana? Where he, as a young boy of 10, watched his father die right in the living room of the little shack that his siblings, himself, and mother shared. Then, because of the times, also watched as his father’s body lie in state across the worn kitchen table, leg hanging off and draining in a bucket as the children went about their way with normalcy? All the village’s men in that same living room shack all night as a sign of respect. Nothing but a candle, and a lit fire. And maybe the screeching black birds lined around the trees outside in the night.

Did they watch as my grandfather met the love of his life in a lunchroom? Predicting to his associates that this was the woman he was going to marry, at first sight?

Marrying her at her young age of 15, did they follow the life of love and poverty as they moved back and forth with his almost unpaid touring gospel group? Proud as they were to sing as the “Pioneers”, Were they screeching as each child was born and the struggle became that much harder?

I can imagine the screech of these black birds raging across the fields of different zip codes when my grandfather finally landed the job that would save his starving family. The proud job he had worked for and after 25 years, would retire from.

Through the years, did the black birds cry out when my grandparent’s first born died later in life after having a family of his own? Did they hear my grandfather screaming out in the night in agony? Did they see the change? A man grieving his deceased son, all the while almost forgetting for a while that he had any other family, and understandably so. Did the black birds lower their screech to a whisper to pay their respects to a pain that no one would be able to take away?

Have they watched this man throughout the years age all the while grandchildren grew into adults themselves, and even great grandchildren?

Have they bowed their heads as most go on with their lives not seeing this man’s great sadness for his family, for his ailing wife?

The wife now with her own memory failing at 86, stands by his side, trying to remember what she can, day to day, to keep a routine. Bacon, eggs, biscuits. Bacon, eggs, biscuits. Sausage, eggs, biscuits. Cheese toast on the days that are just too much. Both unable to drive any longer, as per doctor’s orders. Do these black birds watch in awe of these two loves as their spirits lower each day?

And now, as the old man sits in a nursing home rehab, unsure about his coming days. His wife faithfully coming each day to be with him all day. Each time he closes his eyes to sleep, his brain seemingly empties, and he calls to each of the family for them to explain to him where he is, why he is there, and when his wife is to be with him. He cries, not understanding what’s going on. He speaks of hallucinations. The walls disappearing. The windows disappearing. People disappearing, and how he’s pretty sure that at this man’s apartment he got “dumped” at, he had to use this man’s bathroom and had to issue an apology to him. The apartment of course, being the nursing home rehab.

As though in another dimension, this old man comes in and out of this confusion as if coming down off of a twisted drug and as the day goes on, you can see pieces of the actual him return. Then, as if reliving a nightmare, this man starts over again with it all the next day.

All the while, the black birds in his ears, screeching.

I hope they haven’t told him how his family whom he has loved with every fiber, have came up with excuses of why they’re just too busy. Kind of makes you feel sorry for the old man, who his entire life, gave up anything he ever wanted to bring joy to everyone else in his life. Always at the expense of himself, and the wife at the expense of herself, only ever caring about what others thought and felt. Laying there in that bed now, seemingly alone.

In the end, the blood you bleed is just the blood you own. The heart that pumps it, is just that, a pump. It’s a simplicity that everyone tries to exaggerate throughout life until they get to the end and realize that it will quit pumping when it’s reached its time with no magic exaggeration to save it.

The black birds gather each day over-powering any other noise in the vicinity. Are they there waiting? He hears them. He told me again. And I hang on every word.

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