Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ups and downs, illness and sadness

School is still going along.

I quit my job at the hellhole, and started a new job at a place I like much better. It's awesome, I learn so much and feel like I'm actually useful to someone instead of just being a body off the street.

I've had the flu twice since my last post, and went to the hospital once. That one was exciting, and resulted in various things including learning that my liver has a happy face on it, and the loss of a friendship from someone who refuses to understand that talking about other people's bodies and life is not a good choice to make.

And one of the bigger ups and downs at the same time is finally getting the custom made ring with my birds ashes in it. It's a huge up because I have been working towards it since just a couple of months after he died. And a huge down at the same time because I'm still not finished grieving for him and it reminds me every day that he is gone. That this is all I have left of him.

The ring maker asked for the story behind the ring to post on their blog, and I wanted to post it here too. Because this is very special to me.

My parrot was my graduation gift for graduating high school. (trust me, graduation wasn't ever in question, it was more a question of if I would tolerate the other students that long.) I got him when he was just 3 months old and had just gotten his first adult feathers. We bonded immediately and I brought him home just a week after graduation. That was in 1992 and he was my beautiful, funny, little clown bird. He went to college with me, and moved several times between two states with me. He was a troublemaker and a a brat, and I absolutely adored him and he adored me right back. At the end of 2012, in October, he was old at 20. This species only lives about 16-20 years, and I knew he was getting to the end of his lifespan. But he died a little early from cancer. We were at the vet and I was hoping that we could remove the cancer and let him stay with me a little longer, but I told him that if he had to go it was okay. (this was a lie, it's still not okay.) He died 10 minutes later. He was 4 months shy of his 21st birthday.

A couple of months later, when I could start to function again without spiraling into depression and tears, I started looking for something that would be a good memorial for this part of my life that had suddenly vanished from me. I saw it all. I saw diamonds made from ashes, I saw blown glass with the ashes in there, I saw bottles with ashes in them worn as pendants, and so many other things. And at that time, the only thing I could think was that none of them were special and none of them showed how integral this bird had been in my life.

I was doing (yet another) search for pet memorial jewelry on Etsy, because I had come to the realization that I needed this to be jewelry. Something that I would wear and be happy wearing. I saw the same old beads, and bottles, and then stumbled across the Jewelry by Johan store with these beautiful, simple but not plain rings that truly incorporated the ashes, but didn't change the ashes themselves. I saw several antler rings at first and nearly wandered back out. They were pretty, but not quite what I was looking for.

I happened to see a wedding set though. The set was green box elder burl and a line of meteorite. And that was the perfect combination. My parrot had been green, grey, and blue, with a tan beak and dark grey toes. I spent so many years with him cuddled under my ear, chin, or in my hands. I would kiss his head and play with his beak and toes. The colors in the green box elder burl matched the green from his back and head. The lighter sections were close to the colors of his beak, and the grey from the ashes were similar to the grey of his chest and toes.

I contacted Jewelry by Johan to ask if it was possible to make THAT ring as a pet memorial, and the response was fast and friendly, and very positive. What sealed the deal then was the fact that I was able to make payments on the ring. After paying it mostly off, I got the ring sizers which were amazing. I was able to actually FEEL the ring on my finger to make sure that it was the correct diameter and width. We were able to discuss all the particulars and the final design was exactly what I wanted. Just slightly wider in the ashes than the wood, and the ring is perfect. It feels like it has always fit my hand and will always be the perfect ring for that finger.

The kindness of the people at Jewelry by Johan as I struggled through the loss and the grief, while also trying to pay them as I went through the loss of my job, my house, and a bankruptcy, was beyond compare. After finally getting the ring paid off, I struggled more because suddenly I had to actually part with the last remains of my bird. I had to send all of the ashes to make sure there was enough. And that was one of the hardest things I have done since telling him it was okay to leave me.

Every time I had trouble, for whatever reason, everyone at JBJ was kind and patient. There was always understanding of how hard this was for me. I'm sure there was eye rolling and grumbling about me, but that never came across in any of the emails. There was just endless patience, kindness, and understanding of the grief process. There were reassurances that all the ashes would be handled carefully and everything not used for the ring would be returned. There was full communication the entire way, when the ashes arrived, when the ring was made and shipped.

I have nothing but praise for my experience with JBJ. And when it comes time for my last cat to leave me, I may look at another ring with ashes of both of my cats. But the parrot was my love, my heart, and my soul. He needed to be with me even after death, and this ring is perfect. I still work through the grief, even nearly 4 years later. But now I have a bit of him with me and while it isn't the same as having him cuddle up and try to kiss my tears away and make it better. It's better than not having any part of him and the colors remind me of his coy looks as he did something that he knew he wasn't supposed to do, and would fluff his feathers to be cute enough to get away with it.

It doesn't take away the pain, but it helps add a bit of a salve on it to help ease it.

This post is well watered with tears. Because even now, 4 years later, it's still not okay. There is still a huge hole in my life that is the size and shape of his body, his ego, his personality. When I am sick and I cough, there's no sympathetic cough from the cage or my shoulder. There's no excited monkey bird dancing to say hello in the mornings or when I get home from work. There's no obnoxious coy looks right before he puts my computer to sleep in the middle of something I'm working on. There's no excited bird wanting to watch fireworks or opera or action movies with me. There's no sleepy bird fluffing himself under my chin and whispering "Night night" followed by kisses. There's no bird to come over and kiss tears away to try to make it all better and then throw a temper tantrum if I still cry.

I have a ring with his earthly remains, but it can't cuddle back or laugh at a joke (which he never understood, but he laughed anyway.) The ring helps, but the hole is still large and raw.

I still miss you so much birdbrain. You were woven so tightly into my whole life and having you gone has completely destroyed the warp and weft of my life. I still go on, but there are ragged edges and holes. Those will never go away. But I hope that it can eventually smooth back out.

I still have his cage and I still have the hope to find room in my heart for another bird some day. But it isn't fair to get one now when I still look at all the birds and think "Torrii was cuter/funnier/fluffier/more whatever." I'm getting closer to the day when I can find another feathered love. But right now, I still cry too much and that's not fair to a new family member. I'm thinking of looking when I graduate. Maybe looking at a new baby, or see if I can find a bird who needs adopting that I click with. But we'll see when we get there. Because right now, it's still too soon.

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