It’s been a year since the girls and I have lived together sans their father here. He moved out a year ago. Last year was a year in transition to say the least, but everyone is emerging in very good shape. In better shape.
Personalities are revealing themselves in ways that may not have been permitted before. As a parent, it’s reassuring to see. As another human being who lives here, in the fray with a 13 year-old, an almost 16 year-old, and an almost 18 year-old, I find it extremely entertaining (yeah, Grace is almost 16!).
A few weeks ago, one of our family pets, Q the parakeet, died suddenly as in he literally keeled over. Q was a very interactive bird. He was very loud and screechy (a trait Doireann in particular disliked), but it’s because he loved attention. Eadaoin loved him. She had picked him out to be her bird.
On the night he died, I recall talking to him before I showered. As soon as I opened the bathroom door wearing nothing but a towel, Milly approached me and whispered, “Mom, look at Q.” I immediately felt dread. I approached his cage and looked for Q. He was lying on the bottom of the cage in a contorted pose, his wing entangled in the cage bars.
“Oh my god, what happened?! Is he alive? I just saw him a few minutes ago!” I shouted.
I reached into his cage to try to remove him, and I found that his feet had grasped onto the bottom of the cage which prevented me from removing him. I had to undo his tiny grip, and it wasn’t easy. Each little birdy toe was interlaced within the slats of the bottom of the cage. I kept thinking, “How am I going to get him out of this cage without breaking his feet?”
Milly and Grace were hovering around me and the cage at this point.
“Is he alive? Is he alive? He can’t be dead! Eadaoin will be so upset. Oh no…” Milly repeated.
I tried to reassure them, but I was fairly certain Q had died. It looked like he had suffered a seizure based upon the final pose of his body. I was having a helluva time removing him from his cage, and I noticed that my towel was slipping.
“Maybe he’s alive! Maybe he’s alive!” Milly suggested hopefully.
“Honey, I think he has probably died,” I finally said with both my hands still in the cage.
Grace was wringing her hands and trying not to cry. My towel was going to fall off.
“What if he’s really alive?” Milly asked.
“He’s not alive,” Grace answered rather emphatically.
“He could be!” she countered.
“Look at him! He’s lifeless. He’s dead, Milly!” Grace shouted to match Milly’s energy.
“He could be…you know…in one of those…what are they called?” Milly stammered.
“A coma?!” I answered, shocked, momentarily distracted from trying to get poor Q out of his cage.
“Oh my god, Milly, the bird doesn’t have locked-in syndrome! What in the world…he’s dead!” Grace said very pointedly.
“Well, I can hope, right?” Milly retorted, her fists balled up by her side.
“No, you can’t! You can’t hope for something to be in a coma when it’s died! That’s ridiculous…”
Interrupting the banter, I all but yelled out, “Hey! Eadaoin’s bird has died here! Stop it! And my towel is going to fall off. Help me!”
That’s the moment I paused everything in my mind. I observed the scenario. Both my hands are in a bird cage while I stand almost naked, dripping wet, handling a dead parakeet while my daughters are literally yelling at each other over the possibility of our obviously dead bird having locked-in syndrome. It was absurd.
I was eventually able to remove Q from his cage. He had, in fact, died. There was no doubt about it. Everyone held him, and Milly spoke words of kindness to him as she held him: “You were always a loud bird, but we loved you.”
Eadaoin was predictably heartbroken. She told me that she didn’t want to even see him, but, upon my suggestion that it would help her mourn him, she held him anyway. Then, in a scene of sweet sadness, she pet his face and held him next to her heart.
Milly found a box, gently placed Q in it, and announced that she wanted to bury him in our backyard. She also announced that she wanted to do it alone. Eadaoin was too sad to be at his funeral, and I told Milly that I didn’t mind if she did it alone. I could hear her singing a song to him from the kitchen. I half expected to hear “Taps”. She is a very serious girl.
I began to feel melancholy in observing everyone’s grief for their deceased pet. I was sad, too, that he had died. Milly came inside after burying Q, washed her hands, and leaned against the counter. She looked thoughtful.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
She nodded and bit her lip.
I felt myself become anxious. Maybe I should not have honored her request. Did I make a bad decision? I don’t always know the right things to do. Parenting is damn hard.
“Mom…” Milly asked tentatively.
“Yes?” I replied hesitantly afraid of what she was going to ask me.
“You’re sure that he’s dead, right?” Milly asked.
Suddenly, a loud shout from the living room boomed throughout the house.
“Oh my god! He doesn’t have locked-in syndrome! He’s dead!!!!!”
Breathing out a sigh of relief, I quietly laughed. Yeah, everyone is okay. Everything is fine.