Tuesday, June 14, 2011
There was a death in the house this week; not anything of weight. In other words, not a person, dog or horse. A parakeet died, one foisted on me by a friend who one day found it shivering in the corner of her garage.
This bird hated me from the day it entered my house and never came round on that issue.
What I didn’t expect was the attachments it had formed with other members of the household. Phoebe the boxer had known this bird for seven years. After the bird died, Phoebe took to pacing. Tap, tap, tap across the hardwood floors. Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap.
I couldn’t bear to touch the bird, dead in its cage. The bird never had a name, I had tried a couple – Petey and Junior -- but in the end, he just didn’t invite that kind of liberty.
I moved the cage to the driveway and left it there for the night.
The cockatiel, another rescued bird, and one of much sweetness, picked up the mantle of loathing. Murderer, he cried, dive bombing my head. And then he landed where the other cage once stood, pecking at leftover seeds.
Well, this too will pass, I assumed.
The next day, the cage was still in the driveway.
And I started to imagine bugs getting inside, which is even worse than a dead thing just lying there dead. So, I wrapped my hand in a plastic bag, picked the bird up, put it in a paper bag from Trader Joe’s, and threw it in the trash.
Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap. Oh, for god’s sake.
I retrieved the bag.
I dug a hole and planted the bird underneath some wildflowers that needed a transfer from pot to earth anyway.
And I thought about how my sister and brother and I handled my father’s death, and his ashes, at the turn of this century.
We hiked for miles into some place in the Cascade Mountains and divided the ashes into thirds. Something we hadn’t reckoned on – you can cast stones, you can’t cast ashes. Ashes float, suspended in air, then travel and swirl, some come back to stick in your hair, on your eyelids and mouth.
And so we laughed. Because we hurt so bad, had walked so far, and tried so hard for something perfect and poetic, and instead, we were covered in Dad.
And I, who hate death more than anything in life, wasn’t horrified. This surprised me. To find when you love someone, death isn’t disgusting, it’s just loss. And loss isn’t horrifying or disgusting or any other adjective at all. It’s just big, bigger than anything. Pain, fear, and despair are only poor country cousins.
There was a dusting of Dad all over my face, and I touched my tongue to my lips.