This is my 100th blog post, and I wish it was going to be a little more cheery, but it's not going to be.
I have experienced the death of all 4 of my grandparents, my uncle, babies I've worked with, people I've know. We've experienced infertility and being unable to get pregnant and become parents.
I thought I understood grief, I guess in theory I did, but I had never experienced the all consuming, heartbreaking, grief that comes with the loss of someone very close to you.
On Monday, my 16 year old feathered companion, Alex (a pied cockatiel) died suddenly of what is believed to be a stroke. We got Alex when he was just a baby when I was 13 years old.
It was the spring of Grade 8, I was not exactly unhappy, but as my body filled with hormones and new experiences, I was fairly overwhelmed. We had also lost my dearly loved budgies a couple of months before in a freak accident where they flew outside in the winter on a Monday night in the pouring rain and darkness. I knew from the second they went out that door that they were gone.
And then Alex came into my life, a tiny feathered cockatiel with enough attitude to stun a horse. I pretended to be sick the next 2 days to hang out with him, which meant that he bonded super strongly with me.
I convinced my family to let me name him Alex, although I never told them WHY Alex. I was deep in my X Files fandom at that point, and my mom wouldn't let me name him Mulder or Scully, so Alex comes from Alex Krychek, who was kind of evil (sort of like my bird). His name when he first came home was Buddy, but I always hated it and never felt that it suited him.
Alex was a lovely bird, he would sit on my lap while I was doing homework and preen, or walk around and talk to anything shiny. He used to prop CDs up against the wall and sing to them.
I taught him the first few bars of the X Files theme, and my mom taught him the first few bars of Oh Canada. He learned to talk, I taught him "Peekaboo" because his cage was right around the corner at the bottom of the stairs and I used to pop in and exclaim "PEEKABOO!" and we made it a game. He called me "Peekaboo". He also learned "hi darling", "are you a lovely boy?", "do you want to come out?" and "come here". And then he learned to mash up the words, so eventually he would say "are you a lovely peekaboo darling".
He was incredibly independent, comparatively to my parents other bird (who freaks out when left by himself). He would sit on the stairs, or the counter, by his reflection, and hang out or preen or whatever. Or he would sit on the couch with you and explore or just hang out.
He used to eat dinner with us on the table, he had his own dish and everything. He loved to eat butter. And salt. The butter was a HUGE problem, because he would lick it off the side of the dish. He loved bread, peas, pepper cores, kale, spinach, lettuce, quinoa, rice, oatmeal, almost any kind of berry, carrots, seeds and nuts.
He ate paper. Constantly. It was annoying, mostly because my parents never bothered to put any of it away. I can't help but think his paper eating eventually caught up with him...
He had the same nine lives as any cat. He broke his foot when he fell off his cage (before his wings had grown out) when he was just a baby. He nearly got crushed in a door. He was stepped on and broke his "femur". He had a panic attack and smashed into the front window 4 times before I could get him. He had lead poisoning. He had chronic kidney issues. His last days were spent dealing with another round of heavy metal poisoning (my mom has *no* idea where he picked up MORE heavy metal poisoning) and chelation. He was obviously much sicker than any of us realized.
He didn't like very many other people, I was too stupid in highschool to realize that how my friends were playing with him was actually extremely stressful for him, and I regret that, although after that, we discouraged anyone from trying to touch him or put fingers in his cage or anything and to just talk to him instead. He liked my brother well enough, and tolerated my dad. He liked my mom lots, although not as much as he liked me. He learned to tolerate J, but never let her touch him.
I love that ridiculous bird, as much as his contact calls annoyed the snot out of me (and broke my eardrums), I miss them. My parents house is *so* quiet now (Sammi, the other bird, is nowhere near as chatty as Alex was).
I am surprised at the depth of my grief, I also didn't understand how grief this profound radically changes someone. I feel different. I have had tremendous support from the people around me, which has been amazing. No one has said to me "he was just a bird", because I would probably punch them, and even if he is "just a bird", he was MY bird and MY friend. And of course I should grieve him.
My world has tilted, and although I look fine on the outside, I'm working to pick up the pieces on the inside. I'm doing such a good job of keeping it together that I don't think even my wife realizes how sad I am (although I keep telling her).
We buried Alex on Wednesday in a box that the vet had gently and very obviously lovingly tucked him into. She had even put flowers around him. Before we put him in the ground, I decided I wanted to hold him, and I'm glad I did. I sobbed as I dug the hole where he was going to be buried, and sobbed as I held him, but I got the closure I needed. He is gone, he was so well loved by my family for so many years. I don't exactly feel lost, but I feel sort of... weird? Empty? But not empty exactly....
I will miss you, Alex. Thank you for being the best companion I could have hoped for, I hope that you fly high, my little one.