Archive for June, 2013

Agnes And Buddy

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

I have a friend named Agnes whom I love so dearly. Everyone knows what Bette Davis looks like. Now you can picture Agnes. Those eyes, enormous Bette Davis eyes, and the thick straight shoulder length bob. Agnes will be 90 years old this summer, and she is the one that I can only hope to emulate as I age. She is a true elder – wise, patient, kind, with a clear, long view – and I am filled, stuffed, gob smacked with love and admiration at her grace.

Agnes is the mother of Don, and Barb and Don were our first Vancouver friends when I moved myself and my four little kids into a five room bungalow on East 27th, two doors down, in 1982. There has always been an awareness of Agnes over the years. We’d overlap at parties or pass each other coming or going on our visits to the Muir’s. I’d hear updates of where she was moving and how she was doing, especially after she retired from her many long years of teaching at an elementary school.

Agnes and I took a giant step closer when she sent me a letter, with a poem enclosed; real words of solace at the sudden death of my granddaughter Abby. It was like walking into the arms of a mother, a grandmother, a kindred soul. Shared joy is doubled, shared sorrow halved. Or at least the burden is not as lonely. And so began our correspondence for these past almost nine years. We share beautiful note cards, the kind that make your day when they’re for you in the mail box, and the occasional phone call. I have found that when we do find ourselves in each other’s presence, that I am overwhelmed with emotion, and just want to sit close to her and grip her hand. We are a mutual fan club, and it’s wonderful to have such a friend.

The Buddy in this story is a little orange canary that Agnes inherited at the senior’s residence where she lives. A wicked flu had swept through the building last December, debilitating so many, and killing, too. Agnes’s neighbour Verne was one. For three weeks Buddy was all alone in the dark, and it was a long time before the curtains were pulled and a light turned on. It was a hard time for a young canary.

I was first made aware of Buddy’s existence by a long message left by Agnes on my phone in early January. I knew something was up because her voice (her beautiful voice which is distinct, the tone of it is pleasing, her words are careful but not hesitant, she commands attention but is not forceful), was getting distinctly more exuberant as the message went on. She told me that she had news. She said my card had arrived that morning, and as I continued to listen I was puzzled as to why she felt the need to elaborate on that. But then I got it! The card I’d sent had a beautiful bird on its front, and inside, along with the news of the day and my best wishes, I had written – Keep a green tree in your heart, and perhaps a singing bird will come. By this time Agnes’s voice was positively triumphant. She sounded like she’d just swallowed a canary! And then I could hear it, the trills and chirps in the background. She revealed that she’d just taken possession of Verne’s canary Buddy, that very morning! What synchronicity! We were both charmed. That message brought me so much joy and I kept playing it back and laughing out loud. Agnes was amazed by my, ahem, psychic abilities, and she showed the card around and told this story to all her friends. No one could believe the timing.

When I asked the canary’s name, I was less than enchanted by an ordinary name such as Buddy, until this explanation. Agnes said Verne was a very well respected and loved man with many, many friends in the building. Buddy was the name he’d given the bird and out of respect for Verne, Agnes was not going to change it. Suddenly the name Buddy took on a greater significance. I remembered my buddy, the heart shaped amethyst I’ve held close in times when I needed a friend. I remembered Hayden’s buddy, retired now that he is six, but his green and yellow blanket with the blue stripe running through it (a river) was his comfort blanket since he’d been born. I became very happy indeed that Agnes had a Buddy.

These past few months Buddy has been front and center in Agnes’s life. He is a busy boy. He is loud and he is demanding. Agnes can identify the different sounds he makes. He has certain calls for certain things. He wants lettuce, apple, fresh water, a bath. There’s a mirror over his food dish and he sits and looks at himself all day. If he gets startled he’ll hide in the food tray. Once Agnes took his apple away and he wouldn’t talk to her for a day and a half. It is very, very fortunate that he respects her rest time, because when that towel goes over his cage in the afternoon for an hour, and then at bedtime, as Agnes says, “Buddy doesn’t say Boo.”

For six weeks there was great concern for Buddy’s welfare. He was moulting and very subdued. Sad. He did not sing, he did not talk. He was suffering. Agnes wondered if he would survive. He seemed so scared and this was his first experience of losing all his feathers. Agnes thought his cage was too big, too. She called it Downton Abbey. Three stories high and so hard for her to clean. This was a very tough time for Agnes and Buddy. Six weeks of only silence from the cage. A very loud, unhappy silence. I could tell Agnes was very, very worried. Because Buddy and I, although we haven’t met, have some kind of connection, I sent him a card this time, with instructions for Agnes to read it aloud. It was a pep talk to a young bird. On the next card back from Agnes, she told me that she’d sat in front of him and read it to him. He appeared to be listening. Cards were now signed, Love, Agnes and Buddy.

I got a call from Agnes this week, or should I say, Agnes and Buddy. The background noise was deafening. Buddy was back. Hooray! We had to raise our voices above his tweets and hollers. Agnes had switched cages too, and he was comfortable now in a smaller home. She told me so many funny stories. Oh my, Buddy had got out of his cage. He flew around, banged into the door jamb in the bathroom, and acted really scared. It wasn’t until she gave up trying to catch him and fell back on the couch laughing, that he relaxed and allowed himself to be caught under the colander. Agnes thinks he needs to fly though, and she is contemplating setting up a controlled environment for him, so he can spread his wings. She will close all the doors into the other rooms and wait until Kristi Gordon is on TV. She’ll pull Buddy’s cage alongside the couch where she sits facing the TV and open Buddy’s cage door.  Agnes says, “Buddy likes Kristi Gordon. She does the noon weather on the Global News. She’s pretty. She’s nicely dressed. Buddy pays attention.”

Agnes would have got her mail from me last week. I bet I have a card from her tomorrow. I can hear the birds in the maples outside my window calling across to each other, making plans before darkness falls. I think of Agnes and Buddy, maybe they’re watching the weather re-cap, and Buddy is learning to hang about with Agnes on the couch. Making short hops, little flights of freedom, listening to Kristi Gordon describe the weather conditions in the sky. Something a little canary can dream about when Agnes tucks him in at night.


Good Life

……for Agnes and her Buddy.