“I Smell Bacon!”

Whose brilliant idea was it to bring a pig into our home, anyway? Isn’t a pig a barnyard animal?

This pig wasn’t in a barnyard. It wasn’t even near a barnyard. It was in the bedroom…my bedroom. “A pig!” I shouted. “Are you serious?”

Mom picked up the piglet and cuddled it. I didn’t like that one bit. The interloper piglet was taking attention from me. It was stealing my mom’s love. That would never do.

Naptime (5)Why did she want a pig, anyway?

The phone rang. Mom put the intruder down and went to answer it.

“Hello?”

I looked down. The piglet was standing below, looking up at me. “What do you want?” I asked, annoyed.

“My name is Iggy. Who are you?” she asked.

“I’m Sam. And that’s my mother.”

“She’s my new mom, too, so I guess that makes you my brother,” she said.

I was about to inform her that we would never be siblings when Sam One appeared. “Be nice,” he told me.

“Why should I?” I asked. “She doesn’t belong here.”

“Yes, she does–because Mom wants her to be here,” Sam One said. “She loves both of you.”

“And if I don’t want to share?”

“Wrong attitude, my friend,” he said. “See, the thing about love is that the more you give, the more you have to give.”

“Right.” I wasn’t convinced.

“I made that mistake,” he remembered. “I was jealous of Collin when he was just a baby. I made a lot of noise, made sure everybody knew I was unhappy–and I ended up the loser.”

I didn’t want to end up the loser. Maybe the pig wasn’t so bad after all. What was her name again….

*****

Iggy wanted to play in Collin’s room. She wanted to because Collin had forbade her to go in there. As soon as he left for school each morning, she’d go trotting down the hall, into the room, and use her snout to push the door shut.

“She’s stubborn,” I said, watching one morning as Grandma ushered her out of the restricted area.

One nosy baby“She’s like any human child,” Sam One told me. “She wants what she can’t have.”

“She wants whatever anyone else has.”

“She’s what humans call a toddler,” he said. “It’s natural.”

She also wanted Collin’s attention. If he ignored her, she would go to any length to get his attention. If he sat on the floor, she’d climb up on his back and bite his neck. When he was due home from school, she’d go out to the front gate and wait for the school bus.

Iggy was quite popular with the kids. They’d call out to her from the school bus. Neighbors brought their small children to see her when she was out in the front yard.

She was a bit of a local celebrity, and she loved it.

Bird vs. Sausage Dog

“There’s a dog,” Sam told me.

I looked around. “Where? Not in here, surely!”

“No, silly,” he said. “At home. A dog. A hot dog—or that’s what she looks like, anyway. Like a big red hot dog. Her name is Sandy.”

“So I should be on the lookout?” I asked.

“Probably, but she’ll only be able to get to you if you get too close when you’re outside the cage,” he said.

“Is she not friendly?”

“She killed a cat.”

“Why?”

“Because she could.”

I wasn’t encouraged by that. I now had to face the fact that I would be unwelcome with the only animal in the house. I didn’t want to live like that, knowing that one wrong move could end with me being eaten. I also didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in a cage.

Sam seemed to know what I was thinking. “It’s a fact of life for all of us,” he said. “We’re potential food for whatever is above us on the food chain.”

“Wonderful.”

“Only humans kill without justification,” he said then. There was a deep sadness in his voice that I didn’t quite understand. I wondered if that was how his life on earth ended. He said he didn’t know, yet he seemed disturbed by this.

I decided not to ask.

“We’re home,” Sam Number One said.

“How can you tell?” I asked, forgetting for a moment that he could come and go in ways that I could not.

He gave me The Look. “I peeked, Bird Brain.”

*****

“Her name is Sandy,” Sam One told me.

She really did look like a big, fat sausage—a sausage with a head, a long pointed nose, and long, floppy ears. And a tail.

Sandy 1991And she disliked us on sight.

“What are you two doing here?” she asked, looking up at us.

“We live here now,” I said defensively. I didn’t like the way she was looking at me—like I was already on a bun.

“He does, I don’t,” Sam One said. “I’m just visiting.”

“Chicken!” I told him.

He flapped his wings and made clucking sounds. He did a lousy chicken.

“If you ever come out of that cage, I’ll have you for lunch,” Sandy warned with a low growl. Then she turned and walked away.

“Nothing like a warm welcome,” I said.

“She’ll get over it,” Sam One told me.

 

There’s a Picture of My Brain on the Milk Carton

I saw my neurologist last week. I have a new doctor, since my former brain tamer packed up and went off to Joplin. I might have gotten off with a renewed prescription for my medication, had a not asked, “Can you tell me why my sense of smell is so messed up?”

She stopped in her tracks. Game changer. More questions. More history to be taken. Yes, I smell smoke when nothing is burning. I love watermelon, but I have to smear scented cream all over my nose so I can eat it and not be deterred by the horrible smell. I opened a can of chili that smelled like mold. Canned salmon smells musty. Ick!


She ordered an MRI and an EEG…not just your plain old garden-variety EEG, but a sleep-deprived EEG. According to the instructions, this means I’m not supposed to sleep the night before. 

Yeah, right.

Sleep-deprivation is a big seizure trigger, so I guess this means they want me to come in full seizure mode. Oh, fun. At least I don’t have tonic-clonic seizures (convulsions). I have temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), which has its own set of fun activities–like hallucinations. (Not all hallucinations are of the visual kind–they can also be distortions of smell, sound and feel. Mine stink–in more ways than one.)

I have to stay awake all night the night before so I’ll sleep during the test. I’m going to lie on a hard table with electrodes attached to my scalp and go to sleep. Oh, fun.

Did I mention that there’s a No Caffeine restriction for that night before? I don’t like coffee, so that’s no problem. I can skip tea for a night. But no chocolate? That’s cruel and unusual punishment!

One patient suggested baking that night to stay awake. That would do the trick for me. Setting the kitchen on fire would keep everyone in the building awake all night!

My friend Carolyn suggested sitting up. That won’t work. That’s how I nap. Upright, leaning back against the couch. It’s much more comfortable than it sounds.

According to the instructions, this is what I can expect:

  • You relax in a comfortable position with your eyes closed during the test. At various times, the technician may ask you to open and close your eyes, perform a few simple calculations, read a paragraph, look at a picture, breathe deeply (hyperventilate) for a few minutes, or look at a flashing light.

And I’m supposed to sleep? Isn’t this all a bit contradictory?

Also in the instructions: Be sure to eat a good meal before the EEG. I can get on board with that. Can we stop at IHOP en route? 

  • Video is frequently recorded during the EEG. Your body motions are captured by a video camera while the EEG simultaneously records your brain waves. This combined recording may help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition.

 Does this mean it will be posted on YouTube?

And after all of this, I get to have an MRI. An OPEN MRI. No way would they get me to stick around for the other kind….

PS Hope you’ll check out my works-in progress blogs, too: my memoir and Sam’s Story over at WordPress….

“This Could Be the Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship.”

They did come back a short time later—though at the time, it felt like an eternity to me. They’d bought a cage and everything else I would need. It was time to go home. Yay!

“You’re leaving now, aren’t you?” my roomie asked.

“Looks like it.” I kept watching the door at the front of the store.

“I’m not going with you?”

pet shop birdsIn spite of my excitement, I suddenly felt bad for her. She was already scared. Now she was going to be alone here. “I don’t know,” I said. I didn’t think so.

I looked up at the birds in the cage above us. “I’m leaving soon,” I told them. “My friend here is a bit shy and afraid. Could you maybe take her under your wings?”

“Oh, sure!” they answered in unison. “Stick with us, honey!”

“Thank you,” she responded timidly.

The door opened. They had come back for me. The girl working in the store came back and opened the cage. My roomie immediately moved to the back. I stepped forward, anxious to go.

“Which one?” the girl asked.

“That one.” My new mom pointed to me.

I didn’t wait to be taken out. I flew…out of the cage and through the store to the checkout counter. Mom laughed. “He’s anxious to go home,” she told her mom.

She was so right!

*****

“I’m going to call him Sam,” my new mom told her mom. I wished I could see her, look in her eyes. Eyes reveal everything, you know. Windows to the soul and all that.

boxHer mom didn’t say anything. I wondered why.

“He’s back,” Mom went on. “I knew it when I saw him. The way he looked at me, flying up to the cash register—he’s anxious to go home.”

“Told you.”

I realized I wasn’t in that box alone. “Sam?” I asked.

“Who else would be in here with you?” he wanted to know.

“Right. So now we’re both Sam?”

“Looks like it.”

“That’s going to be confusing.”

“For who?” he asked. “She can’t see me, and since we’re only going to be talking to each other….”

“Nobody else can see you?”

“Only other non-humans,” he said.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“They used to be able to see what we can see—a long, long time ago,” he said. “Unfortunately for them, they got ‘sophistication.’ They think they’re enlightened. They’ve actually just closed their hearts and minds to all but what they can prove.”

“That makes sense,” I said, with more than a little sarcasm.

“I’ve missed her as much as she’s missed me,” Sam said then. “Take good care of her, Number Two.”

“Number Two?” I laughed at that. “Does that make you Number One?”

“Well, I was here first.”

History Repeated Itself….

Dad needed to be needed. It was that simple.

He didn’t have any hobbies. He wasn’t into hunting or fishing, didn’t belong to a bowling team. He went to work every day and came straight home afterward. He didn’t go to a bar with the guys for a beer. If he wasn’t doing repairs around the house or yard work, after dinner he’d be watching TV.

The real problems began when he retired.

beerHe didn’t want to retire, but the housing market went soft in the seventies–Dad worked in construction. He designed and built houses. He made the decision to retire reluctantly. He didn’t handle it well. He started to drink. In spite of his own childhood, his resentment of his own father’s drinking and abuse, he would start drinking early in the day and drink until he fell asleep. When he woke, he was fine…until the next day, when the cycle repeated. He was like Jekyll and Hyde. Beer turned him into the monster.

He was never physically abusive, but the emotional abuse was bad enough. Mom threatened to leave him more than once, but I knew she never would. He knew it, too.

contractThe turning point came when I sold my first novel. He abruptly stopped drinking. No rehab, nothing. He just stopped. But he was like that. He could stop doing anything if he wanted to. He’d stopped smoking the same way. I think he wondered if we might abandon him once he no longer had that financial control he’d held over our heads.

That was when I started to change….

 

Looking for Love in all the Right Places

I watched everyone who came into the pet shop the next morning, waiting, hoping. From what Sam had told me, I was going to a pretty good home. Patience, I kept telling myself. He’ll come when she gets here. He’ll point her out to me. cherokee street 1

“What’s with you?” my cagemate asked.

“Huh?”

“You perk up every time somebody comes through that door,” she said. “You act like you want somebody to take you.”

“I do,” I said.

“Why?”

I told her about Sam’s visit. “Did he know what’s going to happen to me?” she asked, hopeful.

“I’m sorry, no,” I said.

She hung her head.

“I know you’re going to get a good home, too,” I said, trying to make her feel better.

“You can’t know that for sure,” she said.

“Hey, maybe my adopted mom will take you, too,” I suggested.

That was the first time she seemed at all hopeful. “Do you think so?” she asked.

“It’s possible. She has a soft spot for birds, and it’s just the two of us, so….”

“I hope you’re right. I’d really be scared here without you,” she confessed.

*****

“There she is,” Sam whispered.

I looked toward the door. There were two women coming into the store.

“Which one?” I asked.

“The smaller one.” He paused. “She’s not as small as she used to be. Must be all that eating out.”

“What should I do?” I asked.

“Nothing, yet,” he said. “She’ll come to you.”

I looked at him, hoping he knew what he was talking about. “You haven’t seen her in eleven years. How can you be so sure?”

He was mildly indignant. “First of all, I’ve seen her every day. She hasn’t seen me. Big difference,” he said. “And second, she’s here to buy a bird for her dad—a big red conure.”

“But he—”

“Was sold two days ago. I know,” Sam said. “But she won’t leave right away. She loves animals. So does her mom there. They’ll look around. When they come back here, make nice.”

“Make nice?”

“Act friendly. Go to her. Treat her like an old friend,” he advised. “She’ll think you’re me.”

I was surprised by that. “Whaaaaaatt?”

“She knows there’s a life after the one you have now. She’ll see you and think you’re me, back from this side.”

“She won’t love me for me?” That worried me.

“Of course she will. But you have to get her to take you home with her. Don’t let pride get in the way of that, dummy.”

He was right. I watched and waited. As she came closer, I stepped up boldly while my roomie cowered at the rear. “Hi, there,” the human said, smiling. She bent down to get a closer look at me. “Aren’t you cute?”

“Of course I am. Take me home with you!”

She turned to the woman with her. “Mom, look—he looks like Sam!”

The other woman came closer, too. “He does,” she agreed.

“Since I can’t get Dad’s bird, maybe I’ll buy him,” she said.

“Maybe?” I asked.

“Patience,” Sam whispered.

“You’d need a cage,” her mother was saying.

“I can get that here—or across the street at Woolworths,” she said. She stopped for a minute. “Remember?”

Her mom nodded. She looked a little worried. When they both walked away, it was my turn to be worried. “It’s okay,” Sam assured me. “She just has to buy a cage. She’ll be back.”

A Childhood Denied

Dad wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot. For years, we’d had a relationship that was difficult at best, combative at its worst. Though we were in a good place when he died, there were still a lot of unresolved issues between us, many things that had been left unsaid. Questions to which I would never have answers.

Dad was, in an odd way, the reason I had succeeded as an author. He, unlike Mom, did not encourage me. He thought a career as a novelist was a long shot at best. He had advised me to get a job that offered some security. He didn’t realize that the “sure thing” didn’t exist. There are no sure things in this world. Every job has its own risks, and nothing lasts forever. He taught me that money was security. Money was power.

Dad 1914Dad loved Mom and me, though he didn’t have an easy time showing it. Whatever shortcomings he had as a father were the result of his lack of a role model to learn from. Unlike Mom, who had two good, loving parents, Dad’s father was a heavy drinker. His mother committed suicide when he was a baby, and his stepmother was abusive.  He didn’t have any warm, happy memories of his childhood, no recollections of Christmas or his birthday–until he had to get his birth certificate to apply for Social Security, he didn’t even know his correct birthdate. He’d always thought it was November 11th. It was actually November 14th.

Dad didn’t know the truth about his mother until he was fourteen. One day, he had remarked to one of his older brothers that their mother sure didn’t act like a mother. “She’s not our mother,” his brother told him. “Our mother’s dead.”

He ran away that same day. He slept in barns, sheds, anywhere he could find a place to lie down and escape the elements. He eventually ended up at his maternal grandmother’s home. When his father showed up to take him back, his grandmother stepped onto her front porch with a shotgun. She made it clear if he opened the gate, she’d shoot. She blamed him for her daughter’s death.

Dad's GrandmotherDad stayed with her until her death. He loved her dearly, and it was mutual. As she took care of him when he was young, he took care of her in her twilight years.

My father was sixteen at the start of the Great Depression. His troubled childhood, combined with the struggle to survive in that time, made him very controlling financially. But he would buy me just about anything I wanted–Mom liked to tell the story of the two of them Christmas shopping when I was five. They couldn’t decide which doll I’d like best, so they bought one of each.

“Your little girls are going to love these,” the woman at the checkout remarked.

“Girls?” Mom laughed. “We only have one.”

She said the woman was amazed. “All of this is for one child?”

I think that was the Christmas they discovered their little girl was a tomboy who loved horses and didn’t really care for dolls.

I was definitely a Daddy’s girl when I was young. He couldn’t leave the house, except to go to work, without me. It was when I grew up that problems arose. Mom said it was because we were so much alike that we always butted heads. While he’d indulged me as a child, as I grew older, I began to feel he was using money to control me…and I resented it. I got tired of hearing “Who paid for it?”

I decided that I would make so much money that the answer to that question would be ME. No one was going to control me. And that, I believe, was the beginning of my journey to my eventual downfall.

 

A Tale of Two Sams

One day, I was sent away with several other birds. I never saw any of them again, except for another grey-cheek like myself. We were sent to a pet shop in St. Louis, where we were housed together.

“I’m scared,” the other bird said, huddling at the back of our cage.

“So am I,” I admitted. “But maybe we’ll get lucky and find good humans.”

“Big maybe,” she said, tucking her head under her wing.

“Have faith,” I told her.

“I can’t,” she cried. “I was taken from my nest! Mama died on the plane coming here—she was fighting to free us. I begged her not to leave me. None of the humans did anything to help her. I hate them—all of them!”

I did what I could to console her, but her fear consumed her. I was afraid, too, but trying hard not to let her see it. Then the spirit bird came….

*****

It was late one night—the pet shop was closed. All of the creatures were asleep in their cages, including my roomie and me. The light woke me—the brightest light I’ve ever seen, even brighter than the sun over Ecuador. “Hey—we’re trying to sleep here,” I grumbled, raising a wing to cover my eyes. “Turn it off!”The Ghosts of Turkeys Past

“Wake up!”

“Go away!”

“Wake up—I have something to tell you!”

“Can’t it wait—until morning, maybe?”

“No, it can’t.” A bird emerged from the light—not a grey-cheek, but a cousin subspecies, a canary-wing. He settled down next to me. That’s when I realized everyone else was still asleep. The canary-wing saw my confusion. “Only you can see me, Sam.”

“Sam? Why do you call me that?” I asked.

“Because that’s going to be your name,” he told me. “My name is Sam, you see—and your new home will be with my humans. They’re going to name you after me.”

“Why?”

“Because my human mother still misses me. I was taken from her. She still thinks about me, after all this time,” he explained. “When she sees you, she’s going to think I’ve come back to her, and she’ll name you Sam.”

“What is she like? Is she a good human?” I wanted to know.

“Yes,” he said. “She’s not perfect by any means. She became my adopted mom when she was still young herself, and had a lot to learn about caring for a bird. She still does, really. But she’ll love you so much, you really won’t mind.”

“How will I know her?” I asked, worried I might suck up to the wrong human.

“I’ll be here when the time comes,” he promised. “I’ll point her out to you.”

“Sam?”

“Yes?”

“You said you were taken from her. How? What happened?” I asked.

He looked up at the light. “When we return to Paradise,” he began, “there’s no pain, no suffering of any kind. We don’t have any memory of unpleasantness. A good thing, actually.”

I wondered if something really bad had happened to Sam, but I didn’t ask. I was relieved to know I was going to a good home. Then I looked over at my cagemate. “What about her?” I asked. “Is she getting a good home, too?”

“I don’t know,” Sam answered. “I was only sent to guide you.”

“Will you still be with me after I go home?” I asked.

“I’ll always be with you.”

From Riches to Rags….

In the autumn of 1990, I had already published four novels—Dance of the Gods, Angels at Midnight, A Time for Legends and Ms. Maxwell and Son. My soon-to-be-released fourth novel, Solitaire, had been featured at the American Booksellers Association convention in Las Vegas that summer. I had three more books under contract to two major publishing houses. My family–my parents, my eleven-year-old son and I–had moved into a new home a few months earlier. Life was perfect.

I was bickering with one of those publishers–Berkley–nonstop. Even though I was writing romantic comedies for Silhouette Books, I was adamant that Berkley not market me as a romance author. I was writing thrillers–how would all of the readers who might like my books find them in the Romance Section?

Mine is a riches to rags story. What can I say? I’ve always had a tendency to do things backwards.

Twenty-seven years ago, I had everything I thought I’d ever wanted. I had a beautiful, healthy, happy little boy. I had the career I’d dreamed of since I was a kid. My agent–the best in the business, as far as I’m concerned–loved my writing so much, she’d sold three of my novels to a major publisher for a six-figure advance before the first was even in print. Life was good. I thought I had it made.

The problem was that I’d been doing it for the wrong reasons. At the start of my career, I was in it for the money.

Don’t get me wrong–I’ve always loved writing. The idea of making a living doing something I loved so much was irresistible. The problem was that I didn’t have my priorities in the proper order, and eventually, it came back to bite me in the butt. I found myself a square peg stuck in a very uncomfortable round hole. My first novel, Alexander’s Empire (later retitled Dance of the Gods by Berkley’s marketing chimps, who were aiming to turn me into a Sidney Sheldon knockoff), had a glamorous international backdrop–because it suited the story I was telling, not because I’d ever intended to make a career of writing what was known as the glitzy women’s fiction genre.

My (Book) Babies...All in One Place!An editor who once rejected a glitzy romance from a good friend of mine gave as one of her reasons for the rejection the reality of my friend’s less than glitzy life. This editor felt authors of such novels needed to have actually lived the lifestyle. Though the editor is not one of my favorite people in the business, I have to agree with her on that one. To go out and do interviews, to publicize your novels, trying to be something you’re not, takes its toll mentally.

I was a jeans and T-shirts kind of woman who knew nothing of high fashion. I didn’t know Donna Karan from Kmart. I found doing research on the lifestyle to be painfully boring. I wasn’t even all that fond of upscale restaurants. I was content with fast food and pizza. I remember going over my editor’s notes on the manuscript for my second novel, Angels at Midnight, counting fifteen times I’d seen “What’s she wearing?” written in the margins. Frustrated, I finally responded, “A smile.”

Then, I was blindsided by an unexpected family tragedy: the death of my father.

Dad had gone into the hospital for surgery in November 1990. He’d been experiencing severe abdominal pain for weeks. Mom had taken him to the emergency room at a local hospital–where he was misdiagnosed and sent home with instructions to take Pepto-Bismol. By the time the real problem–diverticulitis–was discovered, his colon was so inflamed, his surgeon, Dr. Behrens, had to give him a temporary colostomy. He was to have a second surgery in January to reconnect the colon and remove the gall bladder.

His cardiologist, Dr. Johnson, prescribed medication for an irregular heartbeat detected during the first surgery–but Dad had side effects from the drug. Instead of talking to Dr. Johnson about switching meds, Dad just stopped taking it. That was his way. He’d just stop taking the stuff he really needed, but he’d buy antibiotics on the street like addicts buy crack and meth.

My father was a penicillin junkie.

Happy Birthday, Dad!He also foretold his own death. For weeks following the first surgery, he had dreams that were always the same: Mom, Collin and I would arrive at the hospital. We would be met at the ICU entrance by a nurse in green scrubs who would say, “I’m sorry, he didn’t make it.” Dad was convinced he would die after surgery. We tried to tell him it was just a dream. He didn’t believe that.

At first, all seemed to go well. He had the second surgery on a Tuesday morning in late January and was doing well. He was scheduled to come home the following Tuesday. His doctors tried to reassure him, but he still believed he was going to die.

“You made it through the operation, Jake,” Mom pointed out. “It was just a bad dream.”

“Then why am I still having it?” he wanted to know.

On Saturday morning, we got a call from the hospital. Dad was in intensive care. He’d had a heart attack. Mom, Collin and I rushed to the hospital. He was sitting up in bed, eating, watching TV. For a guy who’d just had a heart attack, he seemed fine.

By Sunday night, he was on a respirator.

We saw him alive for the last time on Tuesday morning, January 29th. An ice storm hit on Tuesday evening. Assuming we were in for the night, I went to take a shower. I didn’t hear the phone ring. Mom came to the door. “We have to get to the hospital. Your dad’s dying,” she told me.

Even then, I didn’t really believe it. Because of the ice storm, we took a cab to the hospital. At the ICU entrance, we were met by a nurse–in green scrubs. “I’m sorry,” he said. “He didn’t make it.”

Just like Dad’s dream.

The nurse took us to Dad’s room. He told us that Dad had died before he placed the call to Mom, but he didn’t want to tell her on the phone, especially if she’d be driving on ice.

I don’t remember much else after that. We stayed at the hospital for a while. Mom made some calls, letting people know. I was in a mental fog. I couldn’t think clearly. My father was dead, and it was my fault.

I had trouble sleeping that night. I had trouble going home, getting into my soft, warm bed and sleeping peacefully when my father was lying in a cold, dark hospital morgue. I had trouble accepting the reality that he was never coming home again, that after the funeral, I would never see him again. I wondered where he really was. I’d gone to church as a child, as a teenager, but I never got much out of it. I was angered by the petty squabbles that went on in every congregation. I wondered if people really went to church to worship God, or if churches were just a bunch of nonprofit social clubs.

I believed in God. I didn’t believe in church.

I didn’t have all the answers. I wasn’t even sure I had all the questions. My relationship with God at the time of Dad’s death was at best a casual one. I didn’t call on Him unless I was in trouble, and didn’t expect to hear from him. But now I needed to know: was my dad in Heaven?

The Long Journey Home

Hi! My name is Sam Beishir. I’m a grey-cheeked parakeet…though most people, seeing me for the first time, call me a parrot. Technically, I’m pretty sure parakeets are in the parrot family…aren’t they?

This is my story, though you’ll see my mom’s name on the book cover. I suppose I could have written it all myself—think I couldn’t learn to use a keyboard? Hah! Guess again! Still, why should I do that when I have someone to do it for me? So she gets author credit. I don’t mind. It’s still my story.

How Will I Say Goodbye?I was born—hatched—in South America in 1989. I don’t know exactly when—it’s not as if there was a calendar in the nest—or where. I’m pretty sure it was somewhere in Ecuador. That’s where most of us are from. Then one day, they came—humans, and not good ones. Yes, I know there’s a difference. Of all the creatures God put on this planet, humans are the species that has the most difficulty getting along. They’re also the only species capable of pointless cruelty.

Those humans took many of us that day. I was just a baby and I was scared. I wanted Mommy and Daddy. Did the humans take them, too? I don’t know. I never saw them again.

Because I was just a baby, my memory of that time is kinda sketchy. I remember being taken, I remember a long trip—by plane, I think—and ending up in a place where there were lots of other birds. I heard things…the older birds talked a lot, while we babies huddled together and cried for our parents. One of the big birds said we were in something called Quarantine.

“We’ll be here for a while, then they’ll ship us out to different places,” he declared.

“What other places?” another adult bird asked.

“Places where humans can buy us.”

“Buy us?” Another bird screeched loudly. “For food? They’re going to eat us?”

“No, stupid!” the older bird said, impatient. “They want us for pets.”

“What’s a pet?” a conure asked.

“They take us into their homes, put us in cages, and pretend they can talk to us, that we’re part of their families.”

“Being a pet sounds horrible. I don’t want to be a pet.”

I didn’t want to be a pet, either. I wanted Mommy and Daddy. I started to cry.

“Some of us will get lucky,” the older bird went on. “We’ll find humans who really do love us and will give us good lives—as good as one can have, living in a cage.”

I was already in a cage. I didn’t want another. I wanted to go home…but young as I was, I knew the reality. Home no longer existed.

There was talk of what might happen to those of us who didn’t find the good humans. “We’ll end up moving from home to home, never really loved, sometimes neglected, sometimes worse.”

“What’s worse?”

“Humans who mistreat us.”

That discussion gave the youngest birds nightmares. Some birds couldn’t take the stress, and would die before they could leave quarantine. Every day, birds would be taken away, and those of us who remained would pray those birds would find good humans. We all said our goodbyes with a promise to meet up again one day, but we all knew we wouldn’t see each other again until we crossed the Rainbow Bridge that took us back to our Creator when our lives here came to an end.

I wished I could cross the bridge now. I was homesick and scared and I knew the other side to be far better than this side….