A Tale of Two Sams

Wow…I haven’t posted in over a week. I haven’t commented on the blogs I follow, either–I have some catching up to do. It’s been a rough week–but not because I turned 60 on Monday. Okay, that’s a big deal. Turning 40 was no biggie, nor was 50. Age is just a number, right? You’re only as old as you feel, right?

That’s the problem. At 40 and 50, I didn’t feel any differently than I did at 30–but 60? At 60, we’re no longer “middle-aged.” Think about it. How many 120-year-old people do you know? And I’m feeling my age now. I remind me of the car I bought my parents when I sold my first novel. It ran like a dream until the warranty was up. Mom decided to trade it in around that time. The fuel pump gave out when the car dealer was driving it around the block.

I find myself feeling a lot like that car–partially due to health issues, but mostly due to an unhappy memory.

As I started writing Sam’s Story: The Life and Times of a Tiny Bird with a Huge Personality, I realized I couldn’t tell Sam’s story without telling the story of my first Sam, a canary-winged parakeet very much like his namesake. I haven’t written much about him because it’s painful…and because I don’t know how his story ended.

I had just turned seventeen when my dog Scamp died. I was grieving–and dealing with a head injury that left me unable to use my left side for a time. My parents, in an attempt to cheer me up, gave me a bird for Christmas. Mom had seen me visiting the “Bee Bee Parrots” at Woolworths and decided that while I wasn’t ready for another dog, a bird might be just what I needed.

She was right. Sam and I quickly bonded. He was a one-person bird. I was the only one who could hold him or feed him or do anything with him. When I went off to college, I got permission to take him with me to the dorm. When I got my own apartment after college, he was with me, always with me.

We had nine years together–then Collin was born. I knew I needed my parents’ help with a new baby, so I moved back home. Sam wasn’t happy. He was jealous of the new baby, and made his displeasure known. He was always screeching and screaming, keeping Collin awake and driving my parents nuts. They started pressing me to find Sam a new home.

I could have packed our bags and left, but I knew I had to do what was best for Collin. I finally agreed to find Sam another home. Because I needed money and Sam was a species that was popular at that time, Dad urged me to sell him to a pet shop. I reluctantly agreed…but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn’t do that to Sam. I spent that day at work dwelling on it. I was going to go home and tell them I’d changed my mind. I’d find a way to deal with Sam’s jealousy toward Collin. Somehow.

I was too late. Mom, thinking it would be easier on me if I weren’t the one to take him to the pet shop, told me she’d taken him while I was at work. She said a woman had been in the shop while she was there…someone who seemed very interested in Sam.

I went to the pet shop to get him back…but again, I was too late. He was gone. I couldn’t find out where. I never saw him again. I never knew how long he lived…what kind of life he’d had…if he’d ended up with someone who loved him and treated him well. I convinced myself he’d gotten a good home because I couldn’t allow myself to believe otherwise. I had to hold myself together for Collin’s sake.

When I found my second Sam, eleven years later–at a little pet shop across the street from the Woolworths where I’d found the first, I wanted to believe–needed to believe–he’d come back to me. That’s why I named him Sam, too.

Did he? I don’t know. I know that he acted as if he’d known me forever from that first moment. There was no period of adjustment when I took him home, no bonding process. He was just home, where he belonged. 

*Also posted at WordPress.

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15 responses

  1. Such a sad sweet story. I have a somewhat similar story that haunts me today.
    I think either you are someone animals like they can feel a connection (dog seem to always like me) or karma smiled on you that day.

    cheers, parsnip

  2. You should take comfort in the fact that you did what was right, at the time, for your family, and that was very brave and selfless of you. I believe in reincarnation, i animals, too; so it's possible that Sam did come back to you.

  3. I can relate to the age thing – and I've always wanted a bird like that. I'm a large bird person. I want a pelican, because their intelligence seems amazing even from a great distance. I'll be 60 later this year, which is still just only starting to creep into my realization as a venerable age, at which one is issued a Seniors' card!! I get parking privileges… there ARE benefits. People think we're WISE. Huh! I suppose there's always humour to back us up. And birds. Nice piece.

  4. Aw, what a sweet story. I didn't realize people bonded with birds in this way. I've always bonded with my cats and dogs, but birds seemed less bondable… (yes i just made up that word…lol)
    Anyway, I know how you feel about the age thing.. sort of. I turn 40 this year and I keep reminding myself I'm now officially middle age. Sometimes I feel it, other times I still feel 25. It's all a state of mind.
    Happy Birthday tho! 60 is the new 40, you know. 😉

  5. Rosanne–I had a young guy hit on me. He said he preferred mature women. That's the first and only time anyone has even mentioned my name and the word “mature” in the same sentence!

  6. PK–birds are extremely intelligent and very affectionate. Sam #2 used to lie with me on the couch. I'd have my head on a pillow, and he'd get on my shoulder and snuggle against the pillow, too.

  7. Parakeets are neat. As for turning sixty…

    Talking to a relative who'd just celebrated his birthday, he shook his head glumly: “You know, there are some things I could do at sixty that I just can't do at seventy!”

    Guess that's the same for all ages, though, isn't it? Things we could do at ten, we can't do at twenty. Things we could do at thirty, we can't do at forty…

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