Five: the number of baby robins in the nest. It was atop the garden shed on the patient patio at the hospital where I work. One morning one of the techs pulled me down the long corridor to the copy room window. “Look! Babies!” He pointed. I glimpsed silhouettes of rounded heads, sharp up-turned beaks.
Every day we gawked. I took a patient outside to see, bumping his wheelchair along the noise-absorbing tiles of the patio. Mother bird took flight at our presence, sending the chicks into a frenzy of chirrups. This quieted us. “We should leave,” he said.
After that, we peeked through the glass from behind the copy machine. The birds were forgotten when I went home at night, but every morning, the patient reminded me. I studied his face as he watched the chicks. It reminded me of how I would watch my children eat when they were small—every bite a celebration. Open the tunnel for the train!
“Do you remember feeding your children when they were babies?” I asked him. He’s a grandfather now. A great grandfather, even. “Yes.” He smiled, never taking eyes off the birds.
The past week, our own nest brimmed full again: the youngest back from his first year at university, the eldest home from a semester studying abroad. A long weekend, a distracted—but happy—mama.
When I returned to work, the nest was empty. I found the patient in his room, leaning on his walker.
“We watched them fly,” he said, eyes gleaming.