This was not the first real new post I had intended to write.
Life has a way of interfering with best-laid plans.
Some time between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, Fiddle the cockatiel found a corner in the bottom of his cage to fall asleep for the last time.
When my brother Sander was visiting Australia in 2001, we took a big road-trip up into Queensland along the coast and then back down on the back roads through Tamworth. No real specific reason to go there other than there’s a Big Guitar and when you are having a road trip with your brother it needs no more justification than that.
At the time I had a habit of wandering into pet stores just to look at the animals. This fateful day, there was a very inquisitive cockatiel right at the front of the cage, following me while all the others scurried away. That does not normally happen.
I did not want to buy a new pet on a road trip. But I also could not bear to leave this unusual little guy behind. Naturally, the outcome was inevitable.
That evening Sander, Abbey, and I were talking to the newly named Fiddle (partly because he was a fiddly bird, and partly because Tamworth), and as I remember it he learned to say/play “peekaboo” under a tissue that very first night.
That is probably the part of his repertoire that everyone will best remember.
He learned a few more tricks; whistling pop-goes-the-weasel, “hello”, “what ya doing?”, “whaddya want?”… and various improvisations mixing these together with garbled half-words.
For the last few years he has guarded our front door together with a budgie that just blew in one year (not a euphemism for anything), chatting to various delivery-persons and droppers-by.
I’ll miss his chatter and whistling.
I won’t miss the racket he’d make when food or drink was not up to his standard.
But for a while his absence will be a distraction.
I don’t know why exactly, but the hardest part wasn’t that he had passed away; 18 is quite respectable for a cockatiel. It wasn’t digging a spot for him near the study window. … It was covering the grave back up, and worrying a cat might get in, and asking Abbey to find a protective rock to put on top.
And I seem to have pulled a muscle in my right shoulder in the process, so I have a lingering reminder of that hardest part for a while at least.
Occasionally there is a bitter-sweet echo of Fiddle outside the window in the imitations by the budgie.
It’ll be okay soon, but let’s not talk about it today.