I’m standing watch during a dear old friend’s last hours. In fact, as I type this, he’s cradled in the crook of my left arm. Pico the Blue-fronted Amazon parrot came into my life as a terrified young bird, as unaccustomed to people as any wild animal. Over time, a bond was forged. Pico rode my shoulder as I navigated my high school and university years.
I wonder what my parents were thinking when, as a boy of 13, they agreed to let me purchase a parrot. But they did, and my good friend arrived on July 22, 1970. Creating a bond took many more hours than I could have imagined, but eventually, we became a team. When I married, Pico was part of the package, even after he carved a bloody crescent out of my fiancee’s nose the night before her bridal shower.
He flew freely through our flat, and his freedom was only constrained after the arrival of the first of our daughters. He made it clear that he didn’t think children were a reasonable addition to our relationship. There was also the adventure of a few days spent on the loose as a free flying parrot-about-town.
After 43 years together, Pico has reached the end of his string. This morning, he was drooping at the bottom of his large cage. He’s shunned most food for a few days, and the weight has fallen from him quickly. His breathing is labored. Most telling, the daily conversations that sounded like a lunatic aunt raving in the attic have stopped.
But, cupped in the crook of my elbow, he seems content, and ready for whatever comes. I need to learn that acceptance as well, because I will desperately miss this green ball of feathers.
Together, Pico and I have influenced quite a few people NOT to add a parrot to their lives. Do you know where you’ll be or what your life will be like in 40 years? Parrots are social animals, and they are as smart — and as needy — as a toddler that never grows out of his terrible twos. They’re messy. They’re destructive. Most of all, they are loyal, fascinating, hilarious and loving.
He’s not gone yet, but his end is at hand. I feel privileged that he chooses to spend these hours with me.