Right outside my window, in the little nest box that in past springs has sheltered families of wrens, a pair of bluebirds are building their nest. Blue, orange, and white he perches, exuding authority, on the little apple tree whose leaves are barely unfurling, while his paler, browner wife thrusts beakfuls of stuff into the box.
On the other side of the glass, I talk on the phone with my sister. We are discussing whether to put an IV into the arm of our dying mother, to hydrate her. I Google "hydration for late-stage dementia patients" in hopes of guidance, but that girl bird keeps stealing pieces of hay from the blueberry mulch and stuffing them into the nest hole, and I keep looking up from the screen to watch her.
I find the following and cut-and-paste it to my sister who, unlike me, is on the scene:
"Patients at this
stage often refuse to eat or drink, even though they are offered food.
This is due to the patient's sense of hunger and thirst diminishing as
dementia advances. Once families realize that the patients with Alzheimer's Dementia (AD) often
do not experience hunger or thirst, they may be able to remove the
guilt they feel associated with "starving them to death" and accept the
natural progression of end-stage AD. It is also important to explain
that patients with poor food and fluid intake who become dehydrated
typically do not express pain or discomfort. It is generally believed
that dehydration in end-stage dementia is not painful."
Old Lexi limps into the room, dragging her hind legs, and laps at the water bowl. At least she's not dehydrated.
Bluebird of happiness, you ornithological cliche, could you have picked a worse time to visit? Those little brown wrens in their modest clothes would have been far more appropriate for this season.
And yet, the breeze is cool, the air is clear, the evening light is bright. For an instant, the bluebird is happiness.