TODAY WAS A DAY that we have prepared for literally for years. But… you’re never really prepared for the end, are you?
Lem, the queen Lutino cockatiel of our flock of birds passed on, after living with us for nearly 30 years. She was the bird who sat with me in our first apartment at night while I wrote music on my Roland after Geri had gone to bed. She was the bird who sat with me in the office in my first house while I wrote my first novel and the short stories that would become my first book, Cage of Bones. She was there when my son was born. He’s now almost 14.
She knew all of my birds — from Beebs, the parakeet who predated her (I bought him in college) to Coraline, the parakeet I rescued from a forest preserve last fall. And Lem has been the constant roommate to my cockatoo, Kiwi, for close to three decades.
Lem lived a good, long happy life, but she was old. If you put it in human terms, she was, like, 110. Cockatiel lifespan in captivity is listed as 16-25 years. The oldest confirmed specimen is listed in Wikipedia as 36 years. Lem was born almost exactly 30 years ago. But she has been “geriatric” for more than 5 years. We bought Stormy, our grey cockatiel, four and a half years ago because we were sure that Lem was going to die that year — she’d lost the ability to fly and had become arthritic. We never guessed she’d last another five years. Though I’m glad she did.
Meanwhile, Stormy has found her own place in the house, and now won’t likely be moving to the office to keep my cockatoo company (which was the original point of buying her!) She is pals with the canary-winged parakeet and the budgie and their cages are in another room in the house.
I will miss the cockatiel who used to press her head into my ear for comfort late at night when everyone else in the house was asleep. The cockatiel who always smelled warm and good and faintly buttery. The happy chirper who greeted us as soon as the garage door opened with cries of excitement.
To be honest though, it’s been years since she was fully herself. She’s grown weaker and weaker the past few weeks, barely able to carry herself from her sleeping perch to her water.
It was her time. Stormy, the grey cockatiel, will now finally take her place now as house cockatiel queen. She’s been a lady in waiting for almost five years.
But she will never replace Lem. Who will forever be missed, and forever remembered for her fiesty nature and loving head bows.
Rest in peace, my lifelong friend. I hope where ever you are tonight, that you feel the wind beneath your wings again.