August 28, 2013–Chapter 24: Josh & Jennifer Meet Mom & Dad

~by Susi Pittman

My father, Richard Kinney, retired from the insurance world in Miami and moved back to his father’s estate in central Florida, settling down to grow oranges. He and my mother had a home that was like a little piece of heaven. It sat shrouded under towering oaks that dripped with Spanish moss, with two spring-fed lakes to either side of the property and wildlife at their back door.

Dad was out early one morning, making his rounds under the oaks with squirrel peanuts and bird food, when he noticed a fallen nest containing two small, featherless baby birds. It turned out that they were baby red-bellied woodpeckers. The parents, of course, wanted nothing to do with them, so Dad and Mom became surrogate parents. They were religious about feeding the babies, and kept them in a box with down in a warm corner of the kitchen. When the birds’ eyes opened, Dad and Mom were the first creatures they saw, and of course they bonded as family immediately.

As Josh and Jennifer—their new given names— grew, they would peep for food, and then peep different peeps that said, “I’m full.” They began to get fully feathered, and soon showed signs that they wanted to try out their flying ability. So Dad and Mom would take them outside at various times. Mom would hold them and Dad would call, and off they would fly to Dad, and vice versa. The day came when they were ready to leave for good. So Dad and Mom drove out in the truck to the oak hammock, and said an emotional good-bye. Opening their hands, they let their babies fly off. Or so they thought.

As they drove back to the garage, Josh and Jennifer flew right in behind them. Out of the garage they all went, and a big, happy reunion took place. Dad and Mom spent some time with the birds, showing them where the bird feeders were, and they set up a makeshift home of branches and towels in the garage. Josh and Jennifer lived there a while longer.

In the mornings, when Dad and Mom would take their coffee strolls, Josh and Jennifer would fly along from tree to tree. When Dad would head out in the truck, Josh flew right outside the window. This went on for over a year, at which time Jennifer found a love. She and her love resided another six months on the property, but then moved on. Josh, however, stayed on until the end of his days. As he mated and had his own family, he became more the natural bird he was meant to be. He would come and visit Dad and Mom at first several times each day, but that dwindled to once a day.

The one tradition that never stopped was Dad going out in the evenings and calling out into the woods for Josh, and Josh always answering Dad with his loud kwirr, kwirr, kwirr! … and to all a good night!

As fate—or better yet, God—would have it, Josh’s family and descendants continued to reside in the oak hammock. My daughter can remember years later with her granddaddy and hearing him call to what she thought was Josh. My Dad told her that Josh had long since died, and he was calling Josh’s grandson. Call it a fluke—or call it what we in our family believed it to be, a covenant of love—but this bird would answer my Dad in the evenings, just like his father and grandfather before him had done.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?
And not one of them is forgotten before God.”
—Luke 12:6


Susi Pittman is founder of and Owner-President of Twin Oaks Publishing; she is author of Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!; an advocate for the Florida Catholic Conference; a member of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Council of Women in Jacksonville, Florida; an Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Augustine;a member of the Florida Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, the National Association of Professional Women, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon society.

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