It’s a quiet night in the Mitchell basement. My partner is house-sitting her daughter’s house during their honeymoon. She has taken Lacey, the dog, with her for company. Spot, one of our cats, is pretending to be sociable and cuddly on my lap but she’s really looking over my shoulder at the dove cage so see if she can get a good swipe in before I can get her with the spray bottle. Skookum, the other cat, is lying on the stairs in the dark, waiting for me to trip over her so she can justify a good whack at my leg. Huey the parrot has gone to sleep for the night. And the crayfish… well, they’re just these crayfish, y’know?
I keep looking back at the dove cage over my shoulder. I’m watching Forrest as he tries valiantly to fly up to a branch above his head. Forrest – Forrest Gimp – yes, go ahead and laugh, we killed ourselves laughing when we came up with the name – has been lame since birth. His right leg was broken when one of his parents sat on him and it now sticks straight out sideways. By all accounts he should have died as a chick, but he didn’t. He grew to healthy, robust, if not able-bodied adulthood.
Forrest can’t perch; it’s all he can do to take off from the ground with his nonfunctional undercarriage. Yet he flaps and flaps and, yes, he flies to a perch, where he has to flap still more just to maintain his one-legged balance. He does this every day, many times a day. Jenny, his mate, doesn’t perch either. She stays on the ground with Forrest.
Tonight Forrest is exhausted. He can barely manage a single flap. But Jenny encourages him, buzzing him in low circles to get him to try just one more perch before bedtime. And he does. With one last concerted effort, up he goes to the branch and balances on his one good foot, rocking and swaying and flapping. Then down he goes again, and Jenny flutters down beside him, even affecting his odd nose-down posture. They’ll rest for the night now.
Forrest is not a creature of leisure. He is actually a teaching bird. We quite often take baby doves and their parents into school classrooms and let the kids have them for a week while the babies hatch. Forrest goes to some classes as well, and he has the most amazing effect on the children. His commitment to his daily exercises is especially inspiring to them. When disabled children see him, the impact he has on them is profoundly moving.
I am so grateful for our little Forrest Gimp and his lifelong mate Jenny for everything they teach me about commitment and perseverance and faithfulness.