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Aftermath

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

 

All right. It's been two weeks since Charlie died and it should be getting better by now, but it's worse, worse by far than I thought it would be, to live without her. I thought it would be nice not to have to care for her, to start every blessed day changing reams of papers and sweeping the floor of her room, taking two wastebaskets of soiled papers out to burn, fixing a nice breakfast of ravioli, sweet corn, snap peas, carrots and cherries. But it's not nice. It's horrible. Easily twenty times a day I get something she'd like, a sprig of oxalis or a glassine envelope or a whole zinnia flower, and I turn for her room and she is not there and there is no one now who wants this little thing I've got to give.

Chet Baker hangs close and is as sweet as a biscuit with honey but it's her I want, her fusty feathery smell and the soft doeskin of her cheeks, it's her scratchy voice and her golden-eyed crazy glance and her bobbing head, her special bird consciousness, that I want. And nothing in me understands why I can't have that any more, now or forever. It is a grief and loss so specific that there is nothing that will fix it, spackle over it, but time.

Over the last week, I've channeled a great deal of this fiercely focused longing into fighting that hideous travesty of a "festival" called Snapperfest. The one where people feel a need to throw and yank snapping and soft-shelled turtles around in order to have fun. Hundreds of gallons of Bud Light and a good dash of animal abuse. Bring the kids!

And though Monday was one of those rare seventyish days with high puffy white and gray clouds and blue sky and a lulling cricket and katydid chorus, one of those days that starts in the fifties and never gets to the eighties, one of those days that should be spent messing about in a boat, I never looked up, not once, until 3 pm. I wrote and wrote and wrote and researched and consulted with my best herpetological and clear-thinking life experts and came up with a letter I think might give the State of Indiana pause about this awful thing going on down in its southeast groin near the beautifully named town of Rising Sun. Channeling, that's what it was, channeling the pointless, aimless grief and loss toward trying to ease the suffering of some unfortunate turtles that a bunch of people thought nobody would care about.  That nobody did know or care about for fifteen freaking years. Well, wrong. Thousands of people the world over turn out to care about snapping turtles, thousands and thousands more than anyone thought.  Once they know about them, that is. And to me that is a beautiful thing, and it fills my heart. Part of my heart. The part that doesn't include the hole a crazy small green macaw chewed right into it.


Monday morning I spoke with Ann Fisher, my friend who has a lovely program called All Sides on WOSU Columbus. We didn't have a long time, what with a big segment on the possible repeal of our spiffy new law eliminating collective bargaining for public employees, but what time we had we used well. Here is a link to the program, and I come in about halfway through the show. And now for something completely different...from Republican Senator Shannon Jones telling us how great Senate Bill 5 is for teachers and firefighters, to me, barely holding myself together as I remember a quirky little bird. If you want, you can hear me fighting back tears as I talk about what Charlie meant to me, and what it means to enter a lifetime pact with a large psittacine. If you want. I wouldn't blame you if you didn't want; if you would rather go outside and look at big puffy white and gray clouds in a clear blue sky.

27 comments:

I do understand. As much as I might complain, (in my head) to all the work, I would be lost not cutting up fruits and veggies in the morning. My African Gray is my best bud, I do love her, (and the rest)but she is my sidekick. I would be lost without her.

Having never co-habited with a bird (I don't think I would ever claim to OWN any animal), I cannot say I understand what you are going through.
Having lost animal friends, though, I have a small window into your grief.
And time is the only balm for such an ache. And time takes her good old time getting around to healing us.
Meanwhile, keep channeling--your efforts will make LIFE, this precious thing we all share, a little better for some creature.

Julie, this was deeply touching. I lost a dog over a year ago and still miss her, mourn her. Periodically, while tearing through digital photo folders looking for images I often fail to find, I do find her. I come to a screaching halt every time. She looks right at me, into some part of my soul from those photos.
I'm sorry for your loss.

Hi Julie:

I know what you mean about the little things that you find that Charlie would have liked. I am still finding things that Lady Elgin(my blue tongued skink who passed at Christmas)would have liked. I bought blueberries for her the other day and almost caught crickets for her Sunday. It hurts, but it is also a memory and it isn't a bad memory.

Best,

Bruce

P.S. I finally figured out what you meant by Science Chimp. I found something the other day and was pant-hooting when it hit me. Great name!

Through your amazing gift of written word, art and photography, your family is exponentially widened. Your loss is our loss. It was a blessing to know Charlie even from afar.

Dammit, you got me all sniffly again!

Remember that you have a friend who's one of the best grief counselors in the business. See your email for the phone number.

I am so sorry for your loss...your pain...and the anger you feel more poignantly than ever without the grounding presence of your best friend . Please remember your other four-legged friend loves you just as much and feels your pain . The trouble is he doesn't understand why.
This is always a hard thing .

So sorry to hear of your loss. http://speedoflife-times.blogspot.com/

Having lost 5 cats in 3 years, I have been through a lot of intense grief. With no husband and no children, they are truly my family. None of them can compare though with the grief I felt when my dear big orange tabby manx, Butterball, died in 2008. After three years I still miss him terribly. He was my main man, as sweet and warm as April sun.

I wrote the following about two weeks after his death:
"The death of Butterball has knocked the wind out of my sails. How can I come home to a house still full of cats and feel such a loneliness of spirit? I told a friend that the house feels rudderless. Instead of a cohesive family of cats headed by Butterball, it seems like a hodgepodge of mismatched strays. I am thankful that my routine stays the same with all the other cats to take care of, but when one jumps in my lap to be petted, I stroke them without much attention thinking to myself, “yes, you are sweet and you are mine and I love you, but you’re not Butterball.”

I'm so glad that you have running and writing to help you through this terribly lonely time.

And, although the hurt is deep, I firmly believe that a grief shared is a grief lessened, even if only by a teeny tiny amount.

Your post touched me so much. I hope your sorrow passes soon

I lost a wee one on sunday and he wasn't with us for very long but the loss is huge for some reason.

Posted by Anonymous August 23, 2011 at 7:53 AM

So sorry for your loss. You really showed her personality. I have a little 18 year old cockatiel and I dread the day.

I was so sorry to read about Charlie's death. The story was beautiful, even as I had a hint of it's ending.

I lost my cat, Kayde, last December due to the infirmities of old age. She was over 16 years old and had lived with me since she came to me as a small, flea-bitten kitten. After I'd bathed her, I found out that night she liked yogurt and we were buds from that day on. Kayde had been brought to me to replace Murphy, my 20-year-old tomcat who died earlier that day.

Both little buddies had seen me through heartache, among them the passing of their predecessor. When Kayde died, I woke up the next morning and, for the first time in over 40 years I had neither man nor cat to tend to. I didn't like that empty space, so went searching for another cat at a local rescue.

The next night, I was sent a young tabby to "foster." She'd been found in the cold, icy weather and needed a home now. I named her Taylor, after the young woman who brought her to me. She was dirty, skinny and scared of every loud voice or footfall outside my door.

She's sleek, shiny and pissy-tempered now, having taken the space she inhabits with me as her own. I learned I could mourn Kayde, as I had Murphy, even as I care for and love the one I have now (as well as Ms. Turtle, who gazes out from her box as I type).

We make a pact with ourselves (and our animals) to care for them as best we can in return for their companionship and protection. When something happens to them we feel guilty for not having known better. From that we learn, for ourselves as well as the next animal we take in. Charlie has added to your own knowledge, and to that of the area vets, so maybe another bird will not have to suffer.

And channeling your heartache into helping the snapping turtles of Ohio County is a very good thing. Charlie would be proud.

My heart is breaking for you. I know how it feels to lose that one very special friend. The physical pain when you're reminded you'll never see them again. You're in my thoughts and prayers.

Birds as with any pets are lots of trouble and I think sometimes it would be a lot easier without them but then I think how much I would miss either of them.As I said previously my lovebird is an old man now but your beautiful bird was not. It will take a long time to get over your charlie and maybe another is in your future? Good luck!

Reading your post, my heart is broken again over the loss of my Monk Parakeet Poopsie which was 5 years ago. The relationship we have with a companion bird is unlike any that I've ever experienced with a dog or a cat.
I am broken for you. Take your time grieving for Charlie. Give yourself permission.

Cats and dogs really do integrate fully into our lives, but as you've said before parrots (no matter how long we have them or how tame they become) are always part of another world -- I understand why some folks don't grasp the deep connection bird-lovers can feel toward them.
But I'm reminded of the incredible public sadness and outpouring that followed the death of Irene Pepperberg's famous "Alex" African Grey. It was heartening to see such widespread empathy for the loss of a parrot.
When the time is right you'll know how to proceed; perhaps adopting a psittacine from a bird rescue group; or a special donation ($$$, a painting, ???) to the World Parrot Trust; or something else (or just more love to go around to all your other charges).
In the meantime, don't beat yourself up.

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HUGS!


Because I can't find words to lessen your grief...

Posted by ohio-guy August 23, 2011 at 6:41 PM

So sorry to read about Charlie, your beautiful green friend. I had the chance to live with a parrot for a year in medical school, and his intelligence and attitude was astounding. I still love to visit him in Michigan, and he remembers me and our games. (It's been 20 years). I understand your grief and wish I could help.... I'll send some mails to the Snapper Fest in memory of this sweet companion of yours.

tearful, just like when i red the history about charlie :(

Juile, so sorry. So very very sorry, and so thankful that you took on the Snapperfest issue. I couldn't even look at the pictures or watch any of the videos. It is just too horrible.

Missing and grieving a beloved pet is more than ok; channeling grief for the shedding of light on cruel treatment of others and animals is very good. Blessings on you.

The smell is really quite something - there's nothing like it. Musty rehab House Finch just isn't the same.

"Shared joy is double joy, shared sorrow is half sorrow." But what an amount, so intense, for so long, to share. I've cried more for a bird than for a family member, so these last posts have left my keyboard a bit soggy.

And guilty. Because one of the first posts I remember reading on your blog was that Charlie was stealing and shredding things. And I brushed that off as 'cute, she didn't pick a stereotyped name/gender for her female bird' and proceeded to assume Charlie was female for the entirety of the blog. S/he labels always seem wasted to me, so it was jaw-dropping to read that she was assumed 'he' for so long. But I had lesbian birds, so no male to compare to...

I wish your heart peace.

Whoops, I'm signed in as seetrail - it's close enough / h.trudell

Ohhhh.... sending good energy your way. You have been on my mind lately. What a cruel, cruel trick the universe has pulled on you and Charlie. It is so especially hard, since you are such a heartfelt bird rescuer, someone who thrives on knowledge and love and helps those birds. And you have your best bird friend taken from you, partly for lack of knowledge (although NOT your fault).... oooh. I can't imagine the hurt.

20 yrs ago I worked at an ethical pet store (didn't sell dogs/cats, etc) that had a store Macaw (not for sale) named Sunshine. I remember him well and know who much of a personality those guys really have. Heck, I raise laying hens right now, and even THEY have great personalities.

Nothing we can say will help, but know that someone who never even met that crazy bird (or you for that matter) in Minnesota is thinking of you!!

Julie, the raw honesty of your grief is heartbreaking. Hang in there, keep working and loving your birds, family, Chet Baker, and sharing with us.

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