Wednesday, June 24, 2009

James Baker Hall

We all knew this was coming, but when Charlie casually mentioned he'd heard hospice had been called it was still too much for me to hear.

I called his wife and left a short message but they both already know how much I love them. There's nothing left to say.

What I will remember is his laugh and the clear way he always pronounced my name, each syllable crisp, his long discourses on poetry and literature and ego and ego-lessness. If you're not risking anything, he would tell us in those late afternoons, don't bother to write. He wanted us to come to the page naked and honest, perhaps for the first time in our lives. If you're not risking anything . . .

Too easy, I guess, to say that he made it safe for me to finally risk in my work. During our first conference he said he took me seriously as a writer -- the first person who ever had.

Over the years I took everything he had to give me, greedy for more without much idea of ever being able to pay back. My first and probably only book of poems is dedicated to him, but it probably won't be published in time for him to see it.

That night so long ago at Tolly Ho's, Carole and Tina and Jim and I sitting around, on our fourth or fifth pitcher, talking about rock 'n roll, and Jim turning to me to ask, "You've been awfully quiet. What do you think?"

And I said, "I was just thinking that I love you." I saw the tears in his eyes and flustered I went on, "I don't mean, you know, . . . " I got up to go to the jukebox to play some Fleetwood Mac song to cover up our embarrassment.

Safe journey, my friend. Safe journey.

April 1935 - June 25, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Charli (and mini-update)

When all the birdies are out I naturally leave their cage doors open so they can go back when they want. I have decided that eating another parrot's food is the highest honor a parrot can give to another, because that's what all the birds in my house do. Eat each other's food, especially if it's the exact same food in their cage.
A few weeks ago the birds were out, and Charli made one of her little treks to Sugar's cage (Sugar was sitting on my shoulder, out of Charli's way). Charli casually ate her fill of Sugar's pellets, then settled in to look out the window for awhile. About five minutes later I glanced over at Charli and see that she is at Sugar's water bottle, having a drink. As I watched, Charli then proceeded to stick her head against the little ball in the water bottle spout. She kept rubbing her head against it, releasing water on the top of her head. She twisted herself this way and that, doing her version of the rain dance, for about three minutes.

Now the water bottle doesn't release a big stream of water, just a little bit, so when Charli was finished she had a patch about a half inch by an eighth inch of head feathers thoroughly soaked. And that was all. Finally satisfied she calmly sauntered back to her cage to preen, having completed her toilet for the evening.

I think I would give anything to know what goes on in a parrot's head.

Today Sugar Franklin solicited scritches from me! She has allowed me to scritch her two or three times since she got sick, but she hasn't jumped on my chest and bent her head and solicited scritches in over a month!

I figure it's for one of four reasons: she truly feels better and is getting back to her "normal" self, she is going to die tonight and is giving me a poignant goodbye gift, she thinks if I scritch her I won't be able to give her meds, or I will quit practicing piano if my fingers are busy scritching.

Right now she is on the back of the couch, napping -- with her head turned backward and firmly tucked in her feathers.

Happy, happy, happy! (but I stiil practiced piano and I still made her take her meds.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sugar Update

The night I made my last post Sugar was quiet and spent the night in the corner of her cage nearest me, no chirping, no fussing. Whatever was going on was not related to a hard molt. I slept very badly on the couch beside her cage.

I was at the vet's the next morning the moment the door opened. By four o'clock the verdict was in: renal failure, be prepared for the worst. I don't want to talk about how devastated I was or how I wandered around the house, completely lost.

The plan was to gavage and hydrate her and for me to bring her home Monday -- if she lived that long. But she did, and she did so well that the vet encouraged me to take her home on Sunday.

I took her in for bloodwork on Tuesday; tests came back astronomically better but still very bad. The vet said Sugar was proving her wrong on all counts, and she had her fingers crossed for us. While we were there they hydrated and gavaged her again.

Because her kidneys aren't working well the uric acid is building up, leading to gout. Her left foot is painful and she doesn't bend it. She is still perching but it's hard for her to climb. The vet explained there's not much to be done about the pain that wouldn't shut down the kidneys. And when things get so bad from pain I'll have to have her euthanized. I think I'd cut my own life short rather than have her suffer unnecessarily for one second.

At home I have to give her three meds in the mornings and four meds in the evening. She hates this. I hate this. She is only eating between 5 and 9 grams of millet a day, and drinking such a small amount of water it's heartbreaking but she's got to have fluids to help her kidneys. I've been giving her watery formula via syringe while I do the meds, mixed with some Pedialyte. It's torture for both of us but I'll do whatever I have to. I'm afraid I'm not getting enough fluids into her.

I don't think she's doing well at home at all, and I'm afraid all the meds I give her are dribbling down the side of her beak since I only have two hands to hold her and the syringe and try to pry her beak open. Yet tonight she did the eagle and earlier today was grinding her beak in her sleep.

At any rate, I'm taking her back to the vet tomorrow morning for hydration, gavage, and meds -- let them be the bad guys for awhile. I told the vet if she thinks Sugar needs to stay the night or even through Sunday I'd do it.

The vets and entire hospital have been wonderful to us. My friends have been so wonderful and supportive to me I'll never be able to thank them enough. Sugar Franklin is my baby -- she changed my entire life for the better. I grateful for each extra day she's with me.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My Sugar Franklin

I opened Sugar's cage when I got home today, but she stayed on her perch. I left the door open in case she changed her mind while I went around doing after-work stuff.

Later I picked her up and was astonished at how light she felt. She hadn't felt that light last night. I weighed her -- 94 grams. Her normal weight flucuates between 98 and 101. She's been having a very hard intense molt this week, so I'm hoping that's all this is.

I gave her a big spray of millet, which she pounced on like she was starving. For just a few minutes. Then it was back to her perch -- only she seemed to move weakly and not as certainly as she usually moves.

Now she's sitting on my shoulder, her little eyes closed, both feet firmly planted on my gown.

If she hasn't perked up by tomorrow, it's back to the vet.

This little 11-year-old bunch of yellow feathers is breaking my heart.