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.