This morning I got into Thailand after a great visa run to Malaysia and called home to let my parents know I was back. I got some unexpected news on that phone call home; my pet bird of 20 years passed away. This blog entry is dedicated to her.
I know most people are dog people, but I’m not one of those people. I’m a bird person. I always have been and always will be. When I was 3 years old my dad brought an all grey baby cockatiel home from the office. It was love at first sight. We named her Contessa Luccia Lukitas, a big name for a little bird, so we called her County for short.
She loved the sun. She would turn into a fluff ball and just absorb the warmth whenever she could. And her music, she had the most wonderful singing voice. She also knew exactly what sound to make when I left the room without her. She would utter one questioning chirp and send a pang of guilt through my heart. She always did it every time I left the house and it especially hurt every time I left LA for Boulder. It hurt the most when I left the country though.
Whenever we were home she was out of her cage. We were inseparable. Every year when my mom and I would go to Lake Tahoe for the summer we would take her and the other birds with us. She was incredibly well behaved and never complained about the long drives. During our traditional lunch stops at Harris Ranch we would always take her in her carrier into the grass for our little picnic.
One time when my mom and I were making funfetti cupcakes for a birthday party, County got spooked and flew into the batter. She managed to eat a few colored sprinkles and pooped rainbow colors the rest of the day. After that we kept her out of the kitchen when we were baking.
When County was in the kitchen, she had a special spot right in front of the microwave. Don’t worry she was never near it when it was on; she loved to sit in front of it and talk to her reflection. She also loved to sit on the floor in my parents’ room in front of one of the mirrors. She would either have a conversation with the other bird in the mirror or she would sit fluffed up next to it, waiting for someone to find her. Lately she took a liking to sitting next to my dad’s laptop or desktop screen because it gives off heat. She was a very polite bird and would stay quiet most of the time, she just liked sitting in the room with other people.
She was demanding when she wanted a head scratch though. She would nibble and bite until she got you to ruffle through her head feathers for her. But she was picky in the way you did it. If she didn’t like the rhythm or pattern of the scratch she would nip you to put you in your place. My mom really spoiled her for the past few years; every morning County got to come into bed for her daily head scratch.
While I was doing homework she was always sitting with me either on my shoulder or on the ground next to me or on the chair. She even developed an annoying habit of trying to make a nest out of my hair for a couple years during high school. And she was there for me whenever I cried. She wasn’t much of a snuggler, but she new when I was sad and she knew that it was time to get close to my face or body and lend some support.
One of the most beautiful things about birds is their delicate elegance. County had that. She also was feisty and despite her small light build, she thought she could protect me. She used to go after my dad’s feet whenever he would enter the room without her permission. Sometimes she would even hover in the air and try to bite his ear. Her feathers would go all flat and she would go into attack mode. It was comical how she thought her tiny beak was strong enough to deter my dad from entering my room.
Twenty years old is a good ripe age for a cockatiel, but they can live longer. County was in perfect health and we all expected her to live forever or at least another ten years or so. But this morning she had difficulty breathing and passed away because of a piece of seed in her throat. I know we were lucky to have her for as long as we did, but I am still completely heart broken by her absence in the world.
I know my presence wouldn’t have made much of a difference, but we have been through so much together I just wish I could have been there next to her in her last moments. My mom took great care of her, but I wish it could have been me. She was my baby bird and I miss her immensely. I’m going to miss her attitude, her singing and talking, her one crooked toenail, her soft powdery body, and just knowing that she is waiting for me when I go home.
I love you County. You will be missed and remembered forever.