In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing, public demonstrations for racial equality, and caring for my wife in her deep dementia, there was a lovely short pause in my life.
For the last month we had welcome daily visitors: a beautiful male Mallard duck and his beautiful but less fancy-dressed partner landed in our pool in the mornings. They had leisurely swims with rests at the poolside, often with their necks lovingly intertwined. Then for a few days I did not see them and wondered what may have happened to this couple.
Two days ago I found out. I was in the pool doing my daily swim when I heard a big splash—I looked around and found myself surrounded by the female duck and her brood of 12 agile babies. What excitement! The mother was in and out of the water, the babies swimming at top speed back and forth, almost skating on the water surface. Time to get out, the mother seemed too have signaled—but alas, the chicks could not jump from the water to the poolside. Perhaps unwisely I helped some out, but in any case, there was confusion, chicks jumped back in the pool, then tried to get out without luck. Remembering that in a similar situation my wildlife-wise wife, before the onset of her dementia, had laid a plank on the pool steps—providing an escape route for a similar duck family—I laid a towel-covered board on the steps. The mother duck, by now quite frenzied, swam back and forth for quite a while with her brood at her tail—avoiding the escape route. I was worried too, but Ron, my wife’s principal caregiver, calmed me down and suggested that we just back off. Another half-hour passed; then the mother duck led a courageous charge up the plank. A couple of the chicks fell back, so the mother and the rest of the brood went back into the water, then again up the ramp and onto the grass. After a few minutes of rest, the family took off and disappeared under the nearby bushes. We were relieved, but a bit sad to lose the company of these beautiful creatures.
A couple of hours later, as dark was settling, Ron went outside to pick something up and heard some chirps. He looked around and found four chicks, somehow left behind. First we thought we should leave them alone, thinking that the mother would come for them, but it was getting dark and we were worried that a predator might cause havoc. So we brought the chicks inside and set them up in a box, with a towel to rest on, some chopped lettuce for food, a bit of water, and a table lamp to provide some warmth.
The mother never showed. The weekend was coming on, so we could only leave a pleading message on the phone of the wildlife rescue people—but the next day we contacted them, and on Sunday afternoon a kindly volunteer came to take the chicks. I am so sorry that the mother could not be reunited with her four lost babies. But they are safe.
What an exciting and lovely intermezzo from the realities of life.
—George Szasz, CM, MD
This blog has not been peer reviewed by the BCMJ Editorial Board.