I know it's been a while since my last post -- I do need to "catch up," but today, I'm recycling a previous post because it seems fitting to share this story one more time.
My favorite little green birdie died last night. This post was originally published on September 25, 2006.
--A Bird In The Hand...
Alternate Title: "His Eye Is On The Sparrow..."
My Grannie was born in 1912 and raised seven kids; My Mom came along right about in the middle. Mom's youngest brother and oldest kid were within a few months of being the same age. My Grannie saw the rise of amazing inventions like indoor plumbing and the microwave oven. She handled the death of her husband and the scary experiences of raising five boys and two girls in a rapidly changing world. Mom's brothers were into everything from cars to carpentry to ranching to military service to recreational herbal pharmaceutical sales... Grannie's youngest grew pot in her houseplants (especially after Grannie's eyesight started goin' bad) and helped make Claremore Oklahoma the "Drug Capital Of Oklahoma."
I'm sure I didn't really have the "Traditional Grandparent Experience" like most kids do, but it was an experience nonetheless. I remember a few interesting Christmases, jail visits, and trips to cemeteries in tiny little towns in the middle of nowhere with stops along the way to see family who lived in the dark ages with outhouses in their yards as late as the late eighties. Seriously, if I can look down the street and see the red and white neon magic that is a "Sonic" Drive-In sign, there's no reason any of us should have to use a substandard bathroom! Outhouses! In The Eighties!! It's just wrong!!!
Grannie loved her cat, "Callie," 'til her youngest son's "little anger problem" killed it. She loved her Chow Dog she'd raised from a tiny puppy; a "replacement" for the chihuahua that got addicted to blood pressure pills by eating the ones she dropped in the carpet. Poor little thing got to jonesin' so bad he chewed up the bottle and ate 'em all, all at once. Much like many human drug addicts, he was smart enough to do what he had to do to get his fix; but not smart enough to realize that too much of that shit at one time can kill ya. When she got the Chow Pup, "Taboo," either she was more careful, or the dog was blessed with a higher tolerance for the pills; but not a lot of tolerance for much of anything else.
My Grannie loved moving more than anyone else I can think of. She moved every chance she got; Mom and I tried to count once and I don't even remember how many different houses and apartments we counted up. Grannie lived in just about every place that was ever for rent in Claremore. I'm not sure how many times we loaded up all her stuff, along with that evil "Taboo," and shuffled it all into a different house or apartment; big, small, it didn't matter, that strange smell was always the same. For her last big move, to Foyil rather late in her life, My Grannie turned up with a Parakeet. Up in her eighties and meaner day by day, Grannie was in and out of the hospital but never ever gave in to the idea of "Assisted Living" or a "Nursing Home."
I still think the Parakeet Experience was a big part of what pushed her off of the mental edge...
She was cleaning the cage at the kitchen sink; doing the cleaning with one hand, while holding the Parakeet in the other. The cage slipped, and when it did, she gasped, kind of like an "oops" or an "oh shit," and when she did, her other hand tensed up too and she squeezed the poor little 'Keet to death right there in her own hand. She just wasn't the same after that; she ended up in the hospital shortly after and never made it out. It was the strangest thing; after all the nastiness, she got so sweet and lovey those last couple days but she didn't know who anybody was.
My Grannie died right around my twenty-first birthday, she passed quietly while my Oldest Brother was there with her. She was eighty-five. When the phone call came, I was hangin' out in the living room with Pete (currently of Mothra Stewart, if you're Googling) and my Middle Brother -- My Mom was napping in her room while we messed around with my Stratocaster and the Fender Champ vac-tube amplifier that Pete had just brought me for my birthday. I don't know how anybody else felt about it, but I was relieved not to have to watch My Mom deal with it all anymore...
I had Peanut the Parakeet from about seventh grade until just last summer. Dave and I had Ozzy the Parakeet until we got Shadow Cat; then we gave him to AJ for her class at the elementary school. Did you know that all Tulsa Public Schools Classroom Pets recieve free Veterinary care? I'm sure Ozzy is much better off with a room full of kids than with a twenty pound housecat. I never could get comfortable with the thought of actually clipping wings myself -- I was always afraid I'd mis-snip and end up with a big mess, so both of my 'Keets stayed in the cages most of the time. With Peanut, it was a tremendous fear of the ceiling fan; with Ozzy, it was the cat. I spent my 'Keet time with my hands in the cage instead of the bird in my hands.
Since I've been with Clay and seen a few wing-clipping sessions up close, I still don't think I could do it myself, but I do get to hold the Birdies outside the cages. Heh... I think about My Grannie almost every time I reach into the 'Keet cage to take one out. I'm as careful as I can be because I really do not want to know the 'Keet Squeezin' experience first-hand, I just don't.
Clay's Quaker Parrot just fascinates me; they're so cute together. He talks a pretty good bit, and he lets Clay rub in his feathers or hold him any way he wants. I'm glad he liked me enough to let me pet him a bit and talk to me every now and then too...
While Clay was gone to Springfield, I'd just dash in and change the water & seeds and stay a minute or two for a quick chat -- I didn't open any cages except to reach in real quick. I figured I'd be on the safe side, since we'd already had that one weekend of hunting for the missing "Houdini 'Keet."
This past Saturday morning, Clay went to work and I stayed at the house while he was gone. I ran down to QuickTrip for Breakfast and when I came back, the Quaker was chattering away as I sat down and turned on the G4. I'd ate my apple danish and surfed the 'net a bit and since he was still talking, I went over and opened up the door. He only comes to me if he's on top; so I figured I'd give him a minute to get out and play a bit and then see if he'd come to me and sit with me while I was messin' with the computer.
He talked some more, he played with his toy on top of the cage, and when I got up to go over and see if he'd come to me, he flew toward the kitchen. Clay always worries about 'em gettin' behind the fridge; the last time he flew away from me, he got up against the front of the fridge door and knocked off some magnets and pictures and then landed on the floor; he came right to me as soon as I got there though. This time he didn't go near the fridge; he went straight for the laundry room and just as I discovered the french doors were not closed, he disappeared into the gap behind the machines.
Still momentarily calm, I dashed around the corner to the bathroom and grabbed the hand mirror off the nail. I held it up to the wall in hopes I could at least see where he was and maybe get him to step-up without having to pull the machines out away from the wall. I was glad to see him up high on the back of the dryer where I could reach him; so I reached. I had him in my hand, and My Grannie in my heart; I was scared of squeezing too hard, so just as I got him to let go of whatever he was hangin' on to back there, he squirmed out of my hand and disappeared, fluttering into the darkness between the machines and the wall.
My calm faded when I held the mirror back up and couldn't see The Quaker at all. I made sure he wasn't in the gap between the machines, then I un-hinged the french door and pulled the dryer out from the wall. There was not a single squawk to be heard as I pulled the dryer out further and further. I checked the back and there were no openings he could've gotten into; so I pulled the cord out of the wall, and then I saw the hole. I'd left the foil slinky vent connected because I remember what a bitch it was to get it hooked back on last time; but as I looked toward the other end of it, all I could see was that hole in the sheetrock beside the vent pipe.
That hole was all I could see and all I could think about, and I went apeshit. I looked around the washing machine with the mirror one more time, I dumped my purse on the bed to get a smaller mirror out, I tried to look into the hole with the mirror but I couldn't see anything. I cried, I prayed, I begged, I called, I knocked. I ran around to the closet and knocked on the wall from the other side hoping to shoo him out of there. I cried, I ran to my car but couldn't find a flashlight. I ran back to the hole and put my arm it -- all the way in, up to my elbow, and I found nothing. I cried and stared at the hole. I don't know how many times I tried to get Clay on the phone. I cried, I called, I whistled... I stared into the hole and begged God for some little something; a little tan foot, a little green feather, a happy little green bird, or even a sharp little beige beak; but there was nothing.
I was full-on apeshit and ready to start ripping out sheetrock. I figured, what the hey, I was once the Woman behind The Handyman Connection Craftsman Of The Year (Hi Google, E-mail Me!) -- I can fix drywall, it ain't nothin' they don't have a class for at Home Depot, and it ain't gotta be perfect 'cause it's behind the dryer where nobody sees it anyway. I thought about the attic, I wondered how big the gap was at the top of the vent pipe, I wondered if he was flying around in the attic stirring up insulation which would make me sick as hell if I opened that door at the top of the ladder... I went out into the garage and was glad to find a droplight already plugged in and layin' there, and I untangled the cord and was eyein' the ladder, but y'all already know how I am about ladders... I stood there thinkin' that even though I might be able to handle the nailed-to-the-wall ladder, how the hell was I going to handle crawling through the attic trying to catch the bird and what if I fell through? I'd decided that the drywall ripping method was going to be my best bet; but I knew I couldn't just start thrashing the place without at least getting Clay on the phone first.
Still crying and still apeshit, I was staring up at the attic door and wondering if I'd just screwed it all up and turned myself into the worst Girlfriend in the world when the phone rang. Clay called back and I was almost afraid to answer. I'd lost a bird, not just any bird, but The Uber Bird. Sure, I'm the Girlfriend, I've really fallen for Clay, and I think he'd know that, but The Quaker was here before I was... When I picked up my phone, I could barely talk, and Clay said "We'll get into something..." and he was hurrying home.
I went back to the laundry room and stared at the hole and cried some more as I thought about how I really had thought I finally "had my shit together" this time. I thought about how happy I've been with Clay, how nice it is to be so comfortable with him, and how much I care about him; and how I'd probably just screwed it all up. Even if I could shell out a couple hundred bucks to replace the bird, it wouldn't be The Quaker Baby. I'd finally found someone who appreciated me for who I am, someone who didn't bitch about the race car, someone who made me feel girly without bein' intimidated when I'm not-so-girly, someone who knew all the right little ways to make me happy, and I'd totally screwed it all up.
I was standing there crying when I heard the familiar parroty voice that I'd been praying and crying over... "Pretty Quaker!"
He was not in the hole.
He was in the corner behind the washing machine.
I said a quick prayer of thankfulness and ran to find something to stop up that damn hole. After ending up with an armload of socks, even though I knew I couldn't leave them there because of the risk of fire, I just wanted to make sure he couldn't get into the hole while I was trying to catch him... Once the hole was plugged, I called Clay back -- it took a couple more tries; and I'm sure we were both relieved when he answered. I went back to the laundry room and pulled the washer out as far as I could without pulling the hoses; and as I did, The Quaker Baby flew up toward me. I reached out as he got about level with the top of the dryer, and he landed right in my hands.
If that bird ever says "You Scared The Shit Outta Me!" we'll all know where he got it.
And then Clay says, "Well, he's back in the cage, if you hadn't have called me, I'da never known a thing."
Labels: Birdies, Memories