One of the things that can make me sad is the fact that I can’t see Piper’s beautiful colors. He is our peach-fronted conure, which is a type of parrot, and we adopted him from a rescue a mere three months before I woke up blind. I don’t really think about it, though, until someone comments on how pretty his plumage is and then I consciously remember what he looks like as well as I can. And that can hurt a bit. But you know what? Piper is my steadfast companion and his personality and spirit are brighter than his vibrant exterior.
They say that love is blind but I have found just the opposite. I may not be able to see his orange, blue and green very well, but for me they have become the color of love.
There are diehards
and then there is my husband.
He is a man of loyalty, conviction
And a girl’s just lucky
to come in second.
One of my favorite shows of all time, The Big Bang Theory, aired its final episode last week. My husband and I have watched the show since it first aired in 2007. We, of course, are not alone but there is a very special place in my heart for this comedy as it helped sustain me through my personal version of a tragedy.
When I first came home from the hospital after waking up blind, I could see nothing on a TV set. I was unable to use an iPhone or an iPad. I was isolated and cut off from every aspect of my life. But each evening, reruns of The Big Bang Theory were on. I could listen to the familiar characters, imagine the settings and follow along well. It was a victory of sorts to participate in something normal . . . and to laugh.
Over time, I regained a little sight and could see a bit of what was on the television screen, not in detail and in black and white, and I was able to engage in new programs with my husband’s explanations and clarification as needed. But for many months Big Bang played an important part in saving me when my world first went dark.
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
As Sheldon stood on stage and called out his friends in the audience by their full names, asking them to stand, thanking them, I was laying on my bed, watching on my iPad, technology now allowing me to see a bit more definition. I was crying and silently expressing my gratitude to the actors and their characters right along with him.
When you are struggling, find comfort and normality wherever and with whomever you can. I have found that familiarity does not breed contempt, it breeds survival. A part of my healing, well, it all started with a Big Bang.
“They say when life gives you lemons,
But what if you don’t like lemonade?”
— Sister Rain
If you’ve ever stood on a beach looking at the ocean, listening to its waves pound and roar, you have no doubt experienced the feeling of smallness in the grand scheme of time and the universe. As I did just that recently, I was overcome by the sensation of the cool, wet sand between my toes and the memory of my mom who was my shore buddy until her death seven years ago. It was our place and it now feels viscerally wrong to be there without her.
One of my closest and dearest friends was with me and as I began to cry I apologized to her. I hate that after all this time I find it incredibly difficult to set foot on a beach. My friend hugged me and encouraged me to let it out but I didn’t want to. I am tired of this inherent negative reaction to a positive locale I once loved. I feel weak and mad at myself for not being able to get passed the loss of not just my mom but this huge part of my life.
As we walked back to the car, my friend holding onto me as I slowly and carefully navigated the holes and shifting sand, I realized that throughout the whole of my life I have always had someone I care deeply about by my side on the beach. On this particular day, I would not have ventured onto the sand if I’d been by myself. Yes, my mom is gone and my sight wasn’t far behind her, five months in fact. But I have never bern alone since then. The love, and the ocean, remain.
“The drama that a bride can experience
when it comes to choosing her bridesmaids’ dresses
is the perfect preparation for marriage.
She learns to compromise, pick her battles and when necessary,
throw a hissy fit.”
— Sister Rain
You have your own birthday on your iPhone calendar because:
a) you are organized
b) you are a narcissistic
c) you are forgetful
d) you think of your birthday the same way you think
of your yearly mammogram and GYN appointment
An electrician came to my house to fix my washing machine, and as my husband walked him to the door after the work was done, the gentleman noticed Piper, our parrot. He asked to take a closer look at the feathered Lord of the Manor, telling us his grandmother had a cockatiel when he was a little boy. One day the bird flew out the front door and was missing for days, but someone found her and through pre-Facebook posters on telephone poles, she was returned to her shocked and rejoicing family.
Before Piper, we had a cockatiel named Cato for 15 years, the beloved first-hatched in our nest. Cockatiels are not uncommon members of families but the name of the bird in this story was somewhat unusual. And it was my mother’s name.
I often like to think about my mom and Cato together, they loved each other while here on earth and wherever they are today, I’m sure he is riding on her shoulder or flying around her while she sits on the beach. This man who came to repair my washer gave me a gift way beyond a new timer on an appliance. He brought my mom and Cato back to my living room, where they would sit together, she on the love seat, he on her knee. A visit from two of the souls I’ve loved most, all because my washer wouldn’t spin.
Hopefully you have some wonderful dreams, both those that appear seemingly out of nowhere in the dark of night and those you consciously create in your waking hours. Many of our dreams will remain just that, thoughts that we conjure up from time to time to take ourselves out of our current situation and into one that provides a much-needed break from reality.
But what about the dreams that become reality? What happens to that aspiration the day it receives its wings and no longer lives inside you but is now of the world? You worked so hard to get to that point, hours of planning and execution, and all the fears and doubts you’ve had to overcome to make it happen now stand with you, watching your dream take flight. What a sweet moment.
And then you notice the unexpected taste of bitter.
It can be difficult to let go of something you poured your heart and soul into. But I’ve never had a bitter taste last long and there is always a delicious meal, or dream, right around the corner. Indulge.
Piper is molting. It’s the time of year when he loses old feathers and new ones come in. When he sheds a feather, it doesn’t hurt him. It’s similar to when our hair falls out. The incoming features are a different story. They don’t cause him pain but it can be a bit uncomfortable. A growing feather is called a “pin feather” and looks somewhat like a shaft, think signing the Declaration of Independence ink-end. Unlike a fully developed plume, the pin feather has blood inside it to nourish it so it will grow. As the pin feather becomes longer, the blood supply is only in the base of the feather, closest to Piper’s body. The tip, the part furthest away from him, is encased in a waxy coating. As Piper preens himself, he removes this covering and the feather unfurls. Why the science lesson? I’m getting there. Patience, my friends. Feathers aren’t grown in a day. Piper spends a lot of time each day working on his feathers but his beak is unable to reach the back of his neck, his face nor his head. So it’s helpful if another bird, or bird mommy, can gently crumble the waxy coating and release the new feather in all of its glory. I love doing it for him because it helps him through his molt and feels good; I know the sweet relief I experience when my husband scratches an itch I can’t reach. There’s a slight problem though. Piper does not like to be touched by a hand. I don’t know if something happened to him with a hand before he came to us at the age of 6 but trying to rub his head will earn me beak contact. He will contentedly sit on my finger, on my shoulder, up against my neck or under my chin for a cuddle. I can kiss him all over but he most certainly bites the hand that feeds him if it tries to stroke him. Our previous bird loved to have his head rubbed and would headbutt my fingers for such attention. He loved having me preen his newly grown feathers and it used to make me wistful that Piper will not allow me to do that for him. I have, though, come to love and admire the spunky, independent qualities of Piper. But each spring season those white spikes poking out of his beautiful green, blue and orange feathers bring out the Mama Bird in me. I want to help him when he can’t help himself. He does throw me a seed every once in awhile. If he is preening himself while perched on my finger, and has his head down rubbing his neck with one foot, he will permit me to slowly reach out and unfurl his pin feathers and scratch his head and neck. His eyes are open so he sees what I’m doing and he no doubt feels my fingers, but we both pretend it’s not happening. I get such a thrill when this occurs, there is a delicious ache in my heart as it expands with love. It’s not easy to let people help you when you are independent, stubborn and proud. It’s scary to be vulnerable and let your guard down. Asking for help from even those closest to you can go against every fiber of your being. But the feeling I have as the pin feathers Piper can’t get to are freed from their coating by my thumb and pointer finger reminds me that people who love you want to help you on a visceral level. Let them. Because there’s nothing worse than an itch that needs scratching or a feather that needs unfurling.