My Quaker Parrot Petrie died.
You know those moments in life that freeze and replay on loop over and over in our heads, causing our hearts to yearn for a redo?
Last night was one of those for me.
After Kevin fell asleep, I began the nightly check on our animals and kids and the house.
Petrie had entered the egg laying stage a few days ago which has happened only 4 times in the past 15 years so I was worried. I had a bad feeling too as I entered the living room at 11:15 pm. As if the room itself had stilled.
I called out and received no response.
I hesitated. And approached the cage in the dim light. And there was my bird. In the bottom corner of the large birdcage. I ran to wake Kevin, ran back, opened the cage and pulled her lifeless emerald green body out. I sat in the middle of the floor holding Petrie, crying, for nearly an hour. Her bottom was bloody. Egg stuck, halfway in, halfway out. Claws already stiffening. Eyes dulled. Kevin sat in the middle of the floor holding me. As I held my bird.
Petrie, named after Rob Petrie on the old Dick Van Dyke show, came to live with me on August 23, 2002 as a sweet baby bird, around 10 weeks old. I was 19. And had just started college. I was still 3 years away from meeting Kevin. The bird breeder didn’t have Petrie sexed so we just made the assumption Petrie was a he. For four years Petrie was a “he” to us. And then he laid eggs for the first time. We all laughed SO hard the moment we discovered Petrie’s eggs.
Even Petrie laughed. “Jokes on you!” his eyes seemed to twinkle.
We never changed the pronoun. Petrie was (and forever will be) a “he” to us. So bare with me as I tell his feathered story.
I loved this silly emerald green bird dearly. “He” was obstinate. Hilarious. Chock full of life. Chatty. Overbearing. And ohhhh so smart. I taught him tricks. He learned to say “step up” the very first day I had him and climb a finger ladder. He would blow raspberries, give kisses on demand and stick out his tongue when I stuck out mine. He would wave hello with his tiny foot. And shake hands. And whistle. And laugh loudly at the world.
I had a male Yorkshire terrier in college named Banjo. Petrie would ride on his back. If I asked Petrie “Where’s Banjo?”, Petrie would perk up and reply “Banjo? BANJO? Ruff ruff!” Petrie associated barking with dogs all by himself. Such a smart bird.
My mom had a tiny parrotlet for a few years named Little Bird. Petrie would blow raspberries and call her. “Little bird! Oh Little bird, COME HERE!”
My Dad had a female yorkie named Prissy for a long time and she would whine a lot. Petrie mimicked her wines perfectly. So perfectly that we often couldn’t tell the difference in who was whining.
Banjo, Little Bird, and Prissy all passed away years ago but Petrie never stopped calling out for his friends. Sometimes his cries for them would break my heart. Why do we humans have to love animals like we do? It really messes with us at times.
And this doesn’t even touch on how occasionally Petrie would perk up and suddenly call out a friends names as if he were actually seeing them again. “Banjo? Oh! BANJO! Hi! Ruff!” or how chilling it would be to hear Prissy’s ghostly whines long after she had passed.
Petrie held to a strict bedtime.
By 9:00 pm at night he could be found curled into his cloth blue hanging Hidy Hut, making soothing bird noises and grinding his beak like an old man with teeth. If noise disturbed him he’d ruffle his feathers and yell out a very annoyed “GO TO BED.” I have one memory back in college where he was playing on his bird toy tray in the living room and I lost track of time that evening. Next thing I knew Petrie was marching across the floor towards his cage yelling out a super indignant GOODNIGHT! GOOD. NIGHT. !
He also liked to chat. If you weren’t paying enough attention to him he would let you know. “Hey. HEY. WHATCHU DOIN?! Come here!” he would say.
Oh and don’t you dare try to eat a chip around him. He would go nuts and squawk at you. He wouldn’t shut up until you handed over a morsel of your food. Birds are flock eaters so of course if his family was eating he expected to also. He loved chips. And crackers. And popcorn. Fortunately he was also mannerly and would say “THANK YOU!” if given a treat. Nothing like a polite pet showing appreciation.
And the sweetest thing he would say was his name. He would sing with me – “Petrie… ohhhhh Petrie… Petrie oh Petrie oh… PETRIE BIRD!”
Petrie went on our honeymoon in 2006 with us to the mountain cabin in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. And he traveled to Kevin’s hometown in Upstate New York the first time I ever went to visit.
Petrie saw me through College. My working years at Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD). Falling in love and subsequently marrying Kevin at age 23. The purchase of our first Little Blue House. And he moved with us to our current White House in The Avenues.
He was there when we brought baby Jack home. And Maggie. And Caleb. And Juli. And he learned to mimic each of their infant cries. My children have never known a life without our parrot injecting quirky humor into our day.
He defined my entire 20s decade and the first half of my 30s. He saw me through every major life event a young adult can possibly pass through. And now he’s suddenly packed in a tiny coffin, wrapped gently in a white wash cloth inside his blue hidy hut, surrounded by all of his favorite toys.
Stupid, glorious, indignant, territorial little spitfire of a bird. Died laying a stupid egg. “Petrie….Ohhhh Petrie! Petrie bird!”
He’s not supposed to be dead. Quakers are supposed to live 30 years. This wasn’t supposed to end like this. He was supposed to grow old with me. Biting my finger, blowing raspberries and pooping on my shoulder as he nibbled my hair.
The kids aren’t awake yet.
They don’t know yet.
I’m about to wake them.
And I have to tell them about Petrie all by myself because Kevin is at work.