If any of you have read my list of 100 Things About Me, you might remember #97, in which I speak of our family pets-- two parakeets-- in what may be perceived as a not-so-loving manner.
It's not that I don't like the birds. As birds go, these two are as good as they come. It's just more that I don't like how they act like birds. You know... always doing those "bird things". Nevertheless, we've had Charlie and Hermione for 2 1/2 years and although they've been relegated to different areas of the house in order to extend their stay in my presence for another day, they've become part of the family. Not, included-in-the-annual-family-photograph part of the family, but you get my drift.
I stepped out onto the porch this morning to run a five-miler when I noticed the birdcage, which I'd set outside half an hour before to allow the birds some fresh air, had been knocked onto its side on the ground below.
I gasped... literally gasped. I don't often literally gasp, so I remember doing it.
I knew before I even looked what had happened, and I was overcome with a sick feeling of dread. There in front of me was the crime scene: bird litter and toys scattered all over the river rocks, food and water cups tossed aside, and feathers-- copious amounts of feathers-- gently resting where they had landed after the violence had come to an end. Charlie and Hermione were nowhere to be found.
I was instantly taken back to childhood memories of my own pet bird, Cockatiel Dundee. My family had spent weeks-- nay, months-- training it to speak and after much hard work and patience, it had learned a number of useful phrases.
"Freeze, scumbag! The police are on their way!"
Okay, maybe not that useful. But it was a very kind and friendly bird and would often ask how you were doing... over and over and over again. I don't know about you, but it was nice knowing even if I didn't have another friend in the world, my bird was still looking out for me.
What we didn't realize was that while we continued to work on correct grammar and pronunciation with Dundee, he was secretly planning his escape route. When the day came that he saw it, he took it. For half an hour, he sat in the pine tree in our backyard while we desperately tried to coax him to come back home. Alas, he had other plans in mind and finally took to the skies for good, never to return. We could only hope his vast vocabulary served him well in the real world.
I have hope that Charlie and Hermione took to the skies as well. The alternative is just a little too gruesome to contemplate. My children haven't come home from school yet, and so I will soon be faced with the grim task of breaking the news. To make matters worse, today is my youngest daughter's birthday. Happy Birthday, sweetie! Mommy murdered your parakeets! Okay, maybe I didn't wield the weapon, but I was an accomplice. And kids love having somebody to blame.
After gathering myself from being a little shell-shocked from my discovery this morning, I finally went out for my run. Everywhere I looked there were birds, none of which even closely resembled Charlie or Hermione, but which made me feel all the more somber. Our house is going to be a lot less messy now... and a lot less lively.
Closure might be difficult. With cats and dogs, you can bury them and set out a rock or some other kind of memorial. With fish, you can do the whole ceremonial flush-job. With birds, you only have a lot of feathers left behind.
My 10K this weekend will be dedicated to Charlie and Hermione. I'll forego wearing a t-shirt with their pictures on it saying "in memory of", but it's the thought that counts, right?
Maybe someday my kids will forgive me.