When I was a freshman in college, I had a terrific roommate who was messy and funny and one of the best friends that I’ve ever had. His name was Wendell, and he was a parakeet. I found him at a pet shop while home for the weekend about a month after school had started. I thought that having a pet might ease my sadness at being away from my family, so I bought the little green bird, along with a small pink cage and some food and toys.
Wendell could say several phrases, including “Here, kitty, kitty” and “Wendell bird.” He could also laugh and ring like the telephone. He would share his own food with me by regurgitating seeds onto my hand, as if to say, “Hey, look how much I love you. I’m feeding you!” Some of the best times that I had with Wendell were when we were driving together. I would buckle his cage into the passenger seat, and we would head home, both singing along to the radio.
Although he was a great companion, Wendell could also entertain himself well, and in the process he entertained others. He had a swing that he’d spend hours on, and he had a favorite toy that he adored. The toy received countless gifts of regurgitated seeds, coy looks, loving chirps, and … um … moments of “tender intimacy.” Wendell’s toy was a family joke, but seeing Wendell court it would take strangers off guard. I often heard the question, “Do you know what your bird is doing to that toy?” I knew, and it always made me laugh.
When Wendell stopped playing as vigorously and tossing seed as dramatically, I took him to see our avian veterinarian. Wendell had an enlarged liver, the result of genetics, and there was nothing that could be done for him. He went downhill pretty quickly. One day I came home to find Wendell in a great deal of pain. But still he came to the door of his cage and lifted it up a little and let it drop several times to let me know that he wanted out. I took him out of his cage, and he snuggled into my palm. That was where he died. I believe that he waited all day for me to get home before he would go. He wanted to say good-bye.
We buried Wendell in our front yard with his favorite toy, and we planted a rose bush over his grave. My parents have since sold the house and retired to North Carolina, but during a recent visit to Florida, they drove by one last time, and the roses were in full bloom.