Dear John

It breaks my heart to think of how gentle you were, and how you had such an appreciation for things.

I was married to someone who had such a kind, tender heart – he loved little birds, like sparrows.

Whenever we were sitting in some outdoor café, abroad perhaps, you would love it when there were sparrows around, hopping on the floor, sitting on the edge of the table, groaking for crumbs.

(‘Groaking’ was a word we used a lot – we looked it up or came across it at some early point, and it would often come up somehow.

It means an animal begging for food, by nature of its position or behaviour or the look in its eyes.  A stray cat coming to the table in a Greek taverna and looking up at you is groaking for titbits.  Ducks swimming up to you on a pond on a cold day are groaking for breadcumbs.

We used to use it between ourselves, for example if one of us had brought some nice food home, the other would be described to be ‘groaking’ if they sat looking at it longingly, and waiting or hoping for some of it to be offered (which of course it always was).

I suppose at first we used it jokingly but then it became quite a staple of our vocabulary.  I’ve never heard anyone else use it!)

You would look at sparrows groaking by a table, John, or just hopping by in the garden, with such fascination and tenderness.  You would exclaim over how beautiful, how delicate, how perfect they were.

The same with other little birds – a robin maybe, or some finches we might have seen on a birdfeeder in a stately home.

And the beautiful little yellow ‘bananaquit’ we became familiar with in Barbados and on our Caribbean cruise.

Dear, dear John.  How many men have the character, the sensitivity, to dwell on the perfection of sweet little birds?

You would exclaim over them.  I can picture, remember, a particular little exhalation of wonder, as your tender heart felt the beauty of them, admired them, enjoyed them.

Dearest John, I will never look at a sparrow without thinking of you, and how you loved them.

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