When that first, open-the-elevator-door smell,
that antiseptic, astringent whiff hit me—for some
odd reason I thought of Pip, our pet budgie bird.
(I named him that, from Great Expectations,
and hadn’t thought of him in years.) Bought from
the egg with markings down to his beak, the lines
had receded over time; when he died he looked
and moved like an old, bald man. He went soon
after my mother passed and just after my sister
and nephew moved away, so that for the first time
in 40 years my father was left with a home
that was—let’s say the words—deathly quiet.
I talked to him on the day he was bleaching out
the cage and, despite my urging, said he would
never have another budgie; none could equal Pip.
Anyway, the thought passed in a fleeting
second as I stepped out of the elevator
and into the ICU to see if my dad had survived
the heart attack, or if I would find, as I
feared, an empty bird cage of a bed.
It’s funny what hits you when, isn’t it?
Budgies are small, colorful parakeets from Australia that make wonderful and personable pets. At birth, the line markings on their head go all the way to the beak but recede over time; in Pip’s case his head was pure yellow when he died. The only budgie we ever owned, he was a delightful little creature that my father adored and cared for. Pip lived, I think, to a very ripe old age (for parakeets) of around ten years and was, as I said in the poem, named after the protagonist in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.
The ICU stands for Intensive Care Unit, where my father, who is 89 years of age, was taken after his recent heart attack. Last week, we (my sister, her son, and I) had rushed back to his home province, Newfoundland, in Canada, to be with him. Happily, I can report that dad survived the heart attack and at this writing is still, wonderfully with us. I have written several poems about him but the one I love the most is That tree.
Thank you for reading Free to fly. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.
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Poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.