We have finally done it this summer. We buried two of our most loved birds: Newton, Gill’s Bourke’s parakeet (Mrs. Beeton’s only slightly pink predecessor) and L’il Sis’ parrotlet, Pete. I had been trying to distract Gill from the topic of Newton’s final burial since I took some (most would say ghoulish) comfort in knowing he was lying in state in my freezer, snug as a bug in a lovely pink silk scarf nestled in a swish pink and black card box. But Pete’s recent death forced the issue.
It was summer, the earth in the garden soft, and since the two birds had been (those of you who are prudes need not read further) a gay inter-species couple their entire lives, it was only fitting that they be buried together. Besides, L’il Sis was not about to allow her little parrot to lie in the freezer for me to look at and pet at will. I admit, I did occasionally bring Newton out for a small cuddle. He was such a social fellow, he would have approved. Nonetheless, I was outranked. The funeral was planned.
We wanted the entire family to be in attendance but since Gill was only going to be here for a short time, it had to be done within that window. Where was Crazy D? Falling off a cliff somewhere in Montana on his bike ride south. But it might well have been that Newton might have removed his name from the guest list anyway — since Crazy D was the one who once stepped on his tail (an old ‘war’ injury, we call it) and caused the feathers to rip out. It was completely accidental since the bird loved to sneak up on people and stand very close behind them. But Newton could hold a grudge if he chose. We invited Other Brother to come — partly to dig the hole but also because he and L’il Sis had lived together with the two birds for a time. In fact, he was the one who taught Pete and Newton to take a shower with humans.
We opted for dinner first in lieu of a reception or Irish wake after the burial– because that would be just foolish. These birds (or their forefathers) were from Australia and South America, not Ireland. One never knows how deep national pride can run.
We reminisced during the meal about special dinners with the twosome stealing food from our plates or, in Pete’s case, snuggling in L’il Sis shirt. Since he was a hand-raised bird, when light faded at night, he sought safety and comfort as close as he could get with ‘his mommy’. Putting aside speculation that he was ‘a boob man’ or a ‘dirty old man’,we gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed his motives were pure.
After dinner, we marched solemnly into the back yard to prepare the burial plot.Not as easy as you might think. One spot had too many tree roots. Another was too close to last year’s mass burial site and we couldn’t risk a grizzly discovery. Other Brother did yeoman’s service digging the perfect hole…not too shallow, not too deep, just right. A Cinderella story if there ever was one. I carried the two ‘coffins’ as he dug.
“What cha doin’?” came a tiny voice through the bushes. It was the four-year-old neighbour boy.
I didn’t want to explain since I wasn’t sure how much his parents had explained to him about death, what their religious views (if any) were, how they felt about The Afterlife. . . you can’t just go spouting off these days for fear of offending or shocking someone. So I did what many good parents or grandparents do: I lied.
“Uh, we’re digging a hole,” I said, resurrecting my title of Captain Obvious.
“Uh, because we want to put something in the ground…”
“What? Can I see?”
At that point, his mother rushed to the fence to make sure he wasn’t bothering us. I mouthed to her that we were burying pet birds. She explained in a caring and age-appropriate way what we were doing and she led him off so we could resume our rituals in privacy. Good thing we weren’t trying to bury Jimmy Hoffa.
The hole dug, I took both birds from their boxes. Four pennies fell out. L’il Sis looked horrified. “Why does Pete have money?”
I tried to look innocent. “Why indeed? I always gave him my Visa card when he needed it…” (There were a few emergency trips to the vet when he contracted a case of The Clap (Chlamydia) from some outdoor birds. Get your mind out of the gutter — he was totally in love with Newton.
“Ma’s being silly. . .” Gill piped up. “I made her put the money in there so they could pay the fee to get across the River Styx. . . Greek mythology, you know.”
I knew all that university learning would come in handy.
RIP, beloved birds. Mrs.Beeton feels her responsibility and is trying hard to fill the void.