My little gray parrot Noelle has passed away, a little more than a month before her 23rd birthday. We were together for 13 years.
I am not coping well.
Lately it feels like it’s been raining bowling balls in my life. The last couple of months have been a relentless series of bad news, most of which I am not discussing in my blog out of respect for the privacy of others.
Our home feels so empty.
When we moved into this apartment, we were a family of four. It took a bit of finagling to fit in a birdcage and a dog crate, but we did it.
Since we moved in back in fall of 2019, our dog died, and our parrot died, and I got COVID-19 and almost died. Now the place feels haunted to me.
The joy has drained from my life.
There is no good way to grieve, especially if it’s for an animal. You can never get the proportion right no matter what you do. If people are suspicious of you, because you’re a murder suspect or a gold digger or whatever, then they’ll either think you are too cold or that you’re faking your tears.
The rest of us are overdoing it.
Grief is inconvenient. It reminds everybody of mortality, in general and in the specific. Guess what, you’re next. Or someone is. Nobody gets out of this game alive.
My experience of being in my forties so far is one mourning period after another. Literally the last six times I have logged into Facebook I have discovered that someone I knew has passed on, to the point that I’m afraid to even look any more. I am at the age where I almost always know someone in the hospital for one reason or another, a continuous stream of surgeries or health scares.
I wonder how people who are 60-plus are able to maintain their equanimity. Maybe you just start to get used to it.
My husband and I are alone for the first time since we met. Just us.
I don’t think he even realized how much he cared for Noelie until she had the stroke. It never occurs to most people that you can love a bird. Now her loss has brought up memories from having to put Spike down last year.
The biggest difference is that he was diagnosed with a genetic condition before he turned three. We had most of his life to adjust to the idea that his time would be relatively short. When we took him in for his final vet visit, it was because we knew it was high time and we wanted to spare him any further decline.
While all this was going on, I had it in my mind that Noelle might live to be eighty or a hundred years old. This is a part of parrot lore that I had never really questioned, and I would occasionally see news stories that supported the idea that they basically live forever. I thought she would pass through at least another generation.
Gradually I started to tweak that number to more like… 38. It seemed like I was hearing stories about gray parrots living into that age range. I didn’t like it but I still thought we had plenty of time.
I’m telling you this because some of you may be parrot fans and may have plans to take one home one day. You need to know.
It wasn’t until after she had her stroke that the vet told us: many grays only live into the 18- to 25-year age range.
The bird I thought was young, with plenty of time ahead of her, was actually pretty elderly.
I was not emotionally prepared at all when she had her stroke while I was out of town. It took me out at the knees.
By some miracle, she lived another three weeks, long enough for me to come home and say goodbye. We had a few sweet evenings of kisses and cuddles.
Then everything went sideways.
I won’t share too many details, other than to say that we weren’t able to get her help soon enough and she had to go nature’s way. Which she did not deserve.
If you’ve read this far and you have pets, this is what I charge you to do. Look up whether there are any 24-hour veterinary hospitals in your area. Ours happens to be 14 miles away, a half-hour drive at best. If you have never had dealings with that place, do your research now. Can you bust in the door with a blanket in your arms, or does your pet need to be enrolled as a patient first?
I charge you with another task, which is this. Kiss and cuddle your animals now, today, while you can.
Through some serendipity, the credit for which I can’t claim, the past year was one of the best of Noelle’s life. We were both home with her all day, every day. We started building what started out as a small, rudimentary fort and turned into a massive cardboard palace. She played her little heart out and she got tons of lap time.
She was such an extraordinary little person.
When I think about her, I am amazed at her grace and sensitivity, her dear affectionate nature and her ability to befriend people on sight. She recognized the face of everyone she ever met and she would remember people she hadn’t seen in years. Her world was full of love and music and kisses and radishes, everything she ever wanted.
I adored her from her tiny eyelashes to her scaly toes.
I can’t imagine what I’m going to do now that she’s gone. In many ways, she had become a part of my identity. She was not mine; I was hers. Her caretaker and chief admirer.
She is gone now. The world is a little darker and smaller.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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