Friday, January 28, 2011


 No account of my widow experience would be complete without a post dedicated to Daassa. (Though I think she needs no introduction-- surely half the people reading this have been nibbled by her).

My last semester at UM-Flint I had three classes with Dr. Matt, finishing up my Francophone Studies minor. When Dr. Matt passed mid-semester, Dr. Daassa took over those courses. A friend of my mom's had a brood of hand-weaned baby lovebirds up for adoption, I had maternal girl-in-love desires to indulge, and I thought Daassa was a nice name: I liked the francophone Arab connection, the personal tribute (we already had two zebra finches: Little Bree, named after a friend, and Danzig, attesting to both Polish history and punk rock pedigree). Daassa was our baby. If you've never encountered a hand-weaned lovebird, they're like tiny flying dogs. They want your attention. They want to play and sit on your lap and be stroked. They're loyal and jealous of anyone they have to share their master's attentions with (thus, all your patiently endured hookbill bites). 

Most of our domestic details were procured to satisfy my aforementioned maternal ends (the houseplants, the birds), but Bryan loved the hell out of Daassa. His dad likes to tell the story of my trip to North Carolina last March to visit the last of my grandfather's nine siblings, Uncle Brian and Aunt Barbara (who passed in November). I neglected to call for a few days, and Bryan nervously called his dad, worried that I'd fallen in love with a southern boy and taken off forever. "You think I can get custody of the birds, don't you?" he asked.

When Bryan died, Daassa grieved. She gave up her favorite hobbies (sitting in the windows of our Thomson St. apartment, yelling at the birds outside), growing quieter, more defensive. At night she'd fly to the back door and squawk, as if waiting for him to come in from work. Her year of napping in the hollow of his collarbone, preening him and flying around the apartment with his cigarettes was over. When we moved back to my mom's, she was harder and harder to coax back into her cage, and I eventually noticed she'd made a project of peeling off the bathroom wallpaper. We shared our grief, widow and semi-orphaned bird. One night she sat on my shoulder as I went through Bryan's things in the closet. After a while I noticed I had a tear-soaked lovebird pressed to me. 

In the months since she's returned to her happy, playful self. I find I worry about her more. Over the summer, Danzig the finch died and I gave his partner away on Craigslist. Bryan's things were given to his family or boxed up for Salvation Army. Daassa is the last relic of my life before April 11th. I have nightmares about her meeting cruel ends with ceiling fans and my sister's cats. I worry over her diet. It's imperative we survive together, bird and I. I worry she'll grieve for me when I'm away 6 weeks. And I'll miss waking up to her chirps and fixing her bowl of corn and peas and almonds while I wait for the kettle to boil.

It'd be lovely if I could show her a map and let her go. "Meet me in Rabat. Tap three times on the window of my hotel room."  Unfortunately the only trick I've ever managed to teach her is "kissing" (I say "Kiss me, Daas!" and pucker my lips, and she presses her beak to them). Map reading and transatlantic flights are still beyond her.


  1. Way to put the pressure on birdsitter/grandma. She will be spoiled and fat and sassy when you return. If anything happens to her, I've decided I'll move far away and change my name before you return.

  2. as a previous bird "owner" (because you never really own animals, it's the other way around!) i was really, really touched and moved by this entry. Thanks for sharing it. -cecilia.

  3. What kind of bird did you have, c? I can only remember Louise and.... ahhh.... your other cat!

  4. i used to have a budgie, or parakeet, i think that's what they are called. this was a long time ago, though!