I suppose this is a story like many others. Parrot-loving girl meets bird. Girl feels bad for bird’s situation. Girl buys bird. And so on.
Not that Sinclair’s situation was particularly bad, but it was not particularly good either.
Sinclair was a youngster whose eyes were grey like his species name, and hadn’t yet mellowed to the soft yellow of adulthood. He was aloof and unaccustomed to change. However, my 26 year old memory suggests it didn’t take him long to settle into life with his new flock, and unlike some of the more sensitive types, the noise and chaos did not at all bother him.
A bird of simple pleasures, Sinclair was content to entertain himself, stainless steel bells and complex nut and bolt toys being the favorites. He wasn’t needy, nor did he prefer human speech, though he could, very well, speak it. No, he preferred whistles and beeps, wows and woos, and mimicking smoke detectors whose batteries were running low. And instead of creating a relationship with a bird of his own species, he liked Beedge, a curmudgeonly 50 year old Amazon who would become his best friend and defender when he was too weak to defend himself. But there was a depth to his intelligence that I’d not experienced before, and when he held my gaze with one side eye, he communicated knowledge and understanding.
An old soul.
I like to think Sinclair enjoyed life with his flock. He was given the best of food, regular vet checks, and the companionship of his own kind. I allowed his flight feathers to grow, but like so many hand raised parrots who were never allowed to fledge, Sinclair did not like flying. His preferred mode of transport was on the human hand from station to station, being indulged like a king. He could explore on his own if he wished, but he was not an adventurous soul. Nor was he cuddly in the way a Cockatoo may be. However, in the dark, after the birds were put in their cages, Sinclair would press his head against the bars and allow me the guilty pleasure of stroking his soft grey cheek feathers. This was our own private ritual, held every single night I was home.
But as the saying goes, they all lived happily ever after…until they didn’t.
Sinclair saw 3 prominent avian vets as well as the staff at an exotics teaching university over the course of 16 months. No one could identify his declining condition, a recurring gut infection and eventual debilitating neurological disorder. I had been a pseudo vet tech at a parrot rescue, so I had the tools and knowledge to keep him alive. A tub for him to live in with towels to cushion him, the stainless tube and specialized food for crop feeding, and syringes, needles and lactated ringers for subcutaneous fluids, carefully administered under the skin between leg and torso. But I knew it would be an existence for him, rather than a life. In the end, he could no longer perch or preen or drink or eat well, be with Beedge, play with his toys, or hang upside down, parrot yoga style. No longer could he do the things that brought him joy. I had lost animals to death before, but I’ve never had to choose death for one of my beloved parrot companions. It felt like murder. But I knew it would be my own selfishness to hold on to him, forever if I could, to spare myself the pain from which I may never recover.
I knew I had to let him go, but not before my last ditch attempt at…what? At validation that this was the right thing?
That validation came in the form of an animal communicator I heard of through my sister, who, in turn, heard of through her friend. This was a stranger, neutral territory. Someone who didn’t know Sinclair or me. Someone whose opinion was unbiased. Friendly, but clear and direct, she told me things a stranger couldn’t have known. “He is sick with a stomach issue that is not fixable…His poop is different…The medications are no longer working…He’s losing his dignity…The clouds are coming when he will no longer seem himself, like dementia, but not…Do you know of Dr. Kevorkian? He had compassion…Helping someone transition is the greatest gift…He will need your help to pass…I see you looking at portraits of him…Oh yes, a portrait tattoo would be great, with a crown and jewels, because he is, after all, royalty…Do not worry, there are two female spirits waiting for him on the other side…” Then she told me of signs that Sinclair would send, obscure and unbelievable signs, of UFOs or limes, to indicate when he was ready to pass. And more signs that he would send from the other side, of old Sinatra songs, specific songs, that I knew of but are not in my playlist, so where would I ever hear these songs? And ladybugs. But there are no ladybugs in Colorado in February.
“Charise, when you get a sign, always send a thank you.”
It sounded so fantastical…I didn’t know if I could believe it. But then I saw the UFOs…and the limes…and both in very unexpected places. I thanked Sinclair for the signs, and I made the arrangements.
I didn’t want to, but I felt an unexplainable pull, or push, to let Sinclair find peace, and not just on any day, but on a specific day. A Thursday. The waiting was torture. I was sick to my stomach. Every day I awoke with dread, but also with a resolve to help my bird friend fly free. And everyday I sat with Sinclair, despite the fact that the “clouds had come” and he didn’t seem to acknowledge my presence. I told him of my love for him, of his upcoming journey, of how much I would miss his physical existence, but that he would be forever in my heart. I reminisced of how we met and our 26+ years together. And how he was the best and smartest. I cried. I told him to send me a sign that he made it to the other side. Everyday I asked him to send me the sign. And even in the euthanasia room waiting for the veterinarian on that dreaded Thursday, I stroked his head, told him I loved him, and I asked him to send me a sign.
Sinclair transitioned peacefully on February 24, 2022 and without my knowledge, the same day, only seven years prior, that my dear friend lost her Grey parrot to a very similar disease. Was that the unexplainable pull or push? Was Avalon on the other side waiting to welcome Sinclair home?
And remember the song? The old Sinatra song that’s not in my playlist so where would I ever hear it? An hour after Sinclair was released from the physical world, I’m at the local gas station filling the car. There’s a panhandler on the corner playing his electric violin. It’s a mix of songs, one flowing seamlessly into the next. I’m half listening. But then a string of notes piques my interest and I focus my attention. Hauntingly they sing to me, fly me to the moon. My skin prickles. I smile through my tears. And I send a thanks for the sign. He made it.
And the ladybug?
Yeah, I saw the ladybug.
But that’s a story for another day.