February 23, 2011
Stewart Is Dead
I want the past back.
Came out to East Hampton for Presidents' Day weekend and it was just me and The Beautiful Judy Licht and our adorable little puppy Shlomo.
The house was suddenly too big and too quiet for me.
Our kids are grown. J.T. is at school at USC; Jessie is on vacation in Palm Beach.
I was feeling a little sad all weekend. Now I know why they call the good old days – the good old days.
I went to feed the birds and remembered Stewart and this column I wrote when he died.
STEWART IS DEAD
Stewart died last Saturday.
One minute he was there big as life, talking a blue streak. The next minute he was gone – teaching us all the lesson that life is short and we must, like Stewart, wake up each day singing a song.
Stewart, as many of you know is . . . er . . . was . . . our bird.
His death hit the other animals in our household very hard. "It c-c-c-c-comes in t-t-t-threes," I heard Mocha, our little untrainable Yorkie, tell Oreo, our miserable mutt.
"If you poop in the living room one more time, it will come in twos," I hissed at him.
Explaining Stewart's death to our children wasn't easy, even though they took three days to figure out he was gone. "How did Stewart die?" they asked. "I don't know," I answered. "But I suspect fowl play."
My kids said in unison, "You're such a jerk."
Not deterred, I said, "I remember the last time I looked in at Stewart. He looked rather depressed – maybe he killed himself. We should look for a suicide note." The kids just rolled their eyes.
"He was always a moody son of a bitch," said Judy. "All you had to do was put a finger near his cage and he would try to peck it off." How sweet, I thought. She's trying to distance herself from her dead bird by pretending she hated him.
It's true, I reasoned, that Stewart was a bit of a grouch and tried to rip our fingers off whenever we came near his cage, but it was only because he was depressed. I think we should have come to grips with his anger and talked to a bird psychiatrist about him. Perhaps we could have scored a prescription for "birdie uppers" for him.
"You're such a jerk," said Judy, now making my jerk status unanimous in my family.
"We all grieve in different ways," I muttered.
Wondering if I could find a bird grief counselor for the family, I considered going to Book Hampton to see if they had a book titled When Your Bird Dies, but gave up on that idea because what category would have such a title?
Stewart was buried illegally in our front yard. For two days his cage sat empty in our living room. In it was a single peacock feather, which we had bought Stewart to keep him company. Rene, our wonderful housekeeper, came in from New York, spotted the peacock feather in the empty cage, and said ominously, "That feather is bad luck."
"It was for Stewart," I said. "He's deader than a doornail." Rene is too kind to say it, but she gave me a look that said, "What a jerk."
Anyway, the peacock feather had been a bad idea from the start. Stewart always seemed confused by the feather, perhaps wondering where the rest of the bird had gone. I know it is not proper to talk about the dead, but Stewart always struck me as being the dumbest-assed bird in all of birddom.
Perhaps that is why Mocha, who still can't tell grass from a rug, or inside the house where you can't poop from outside where the sky's the limit, seemed so inconsolable.
In an attempt to cheer him up, I called to Mocha on Sunday morning while I was stretched out on the sofa, "Come here, Mocha!" Mocha came right up the sofa and stopped. "Come here, Mocha!" I called again. No response.
"Mocha, come here!" I called. Nothing.
Finally, I gave up and closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep. Then an incredible sharp pain in an area where no man ever wants to be hit interrupted my nap. Mocha had finally answered my call and had decided to jump up on my lap. He landed full force with one, maybe two paws striking the tender area.
The pain, the excruciating pain, brought me to the conclusion that I have no luck when it comes to pets. They're either dumb, or ornery, or, as in the case of Stewart, dead.
It was then that Judy wandered by and, mistaking the tears in my eyes, announced that we should immediately get a new bird.
Now you must understand that Judy doesn't buy anything easily. She first reads books, then asks friends, then goes on the Internet. Then she asks everyone's opinion but mine. The other day she had reached the conclusion that what we needed was two lovebirds.
I'm glad I went with her to Pet Hampton in Wainscott because she would have walked out with every bird in the place. There were a hundred ("Isn't he cute?"), but finally we walked out with two lovebirds. Now came the tough part – naming the birds. I wanted to name them Archie and Edith. Judy insisted they should be called Heloise and Abelard from some romantic thing she remembered.
"Judy, your names are the names that someone who never misses one of those incredibly boring Merchant Ivory movies would opt for," I taunted.
My son J.T. wanted to call them Bonnie and Clyde. My daughter Jessie insisted one bird should be called Dot and the other Com, "so when they die people won't be surprised." But it took Andrew Saffir, a family friend, to come up with the winner – Tony and Carmella. What a perfect name for Sunday night "Sopranos" lovers.
I went to bed that night thinking of Tony and Carmella. I must admit that the idea of Tony having a little Russian bird on the side intrigued me. My sleep was interrupted by Judy shaking me and shouting in my ear, "Jerry, I've got some big news! I've been reading this book I bought in the pet shop about lovebirds and I've got some interesting news about our new lovebirds. It turns out they mate very early, and very often they are of the same sex."
"You woke me at 4 a.m. to tell me that our new lovebirds are gay?" I groaned. "Not that there's anything wrong with that," I quickly added, in case our new birds were listening.
"There's a very good chance they're gay," she said. "Read some more and tell me in the morning," I said as I turned over.
I drifted back to sleep. The last thing I remembered was the vision of our two little lovebirds, Tony and Carmella, proudly marching . . . er . . . no, make that proudly flying in next year's Gay Pride Parade.
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