Every story has a beginning, middle and an end. I wrote in a Portfolio essay published in May about the middle of a journey for a little robin we had named Eaglet, and about the people who loved her.
In June Eaglet still came to her feeding spot in our yard. She was hobbling badly on her clubbed foot, but she still bravely took on the other birds that came to feed -- as if to say that she, too, was still alive.
But then one day she didn't show up, and then another and another. She had done this before, but I feared this time that she would not, could not come back. But just like before, a few weeks later she showed up again, wanting to be fed. How happy it made me to see her -- my prodigal Eaglet had come home.
My husband and I noted that it was becoming harder and harder for her to come to the steps where the food was, so when we saw her enter our yard, we now took the food to her. And she waited for us -- she knew we would be there for her.
We placed water in a little plant saucer because she could no longer hang onto the lip of the birdbath. It was like clockwork: She appeared, was fed, and then hobbled back to her place of refuge, low on the ground and under a log in our neighbor's yard. At least that is where she spent a good part of her day.
The days of summer began to wane and so did her strength. The horrible heat of the summer did not help, and when it did rain, we would see her bathing in the puddles leading up to her steps. It was joyous seeing her doing what she so loved to do when she was healthier.
As a woman, it pained me to think that Eaglet was alone in her suffering, but one day when she was delighting in that puddle after a cooling rain we noted another robin standing at the edge, as if to watch over her. My husband said it was probably the romantic in me, but it gave me solace to think she wasn't so alone. We saw them together many times after that day.
As the days became shorter, her days became longer and more arduous. She could no longer put any weight on her injured leg, and we could tell she was in pain. Eaglet was falling over and even having a hard time flying. And then one day when she was having an especially difficult time I noticed why -- she had a very large tumor above her bad leg. I had seen this before in robins and knew the end was not far off.
She was suffering, and so were we. But as much as we cared for this little robin, we knew that prolonged suffering would be terrible for her. I worried about the predators that visited our yard and prayed they would not get at her. I worried about the storms. I worried about most everything concerning this little bird. I cared.
It was as though she knew her time was ending, and she kept saying goodbye to us. At least for me, it was goodbye. How many more days would she be there for us? For her?
And then as all stories must, this one came to an end. A month has now gone by without our seeing her. Many times I ran outside, thinking I had seen her, but alas, it was not to be. I would ask my husband and my neighbor if they had seen her, but she was really gone this time. I prayed it was a peaceful ending for her.
I miss her, but there is a part of me that is thankful she is not in pain any more. She will always be remembered as the little robin with the big heart -- Eaglet.
Darl Lyn McMahon is a retiree living in Mt. Lebanon. The PG Portfolio welcomes "Animal Tales" submissions and other reader essays. Send your writing to firstname.lastname@example.org; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255.