Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Sunday afternoon, Older Brother's pet bird flew away while his cage was being cleaned. He's a three-year-old African Gray parrot--a bird that can actually be quite charming and snuggly. For a bird. I talked to Older Brother and his wife just an hour or so after this happened, and they had already given the bird up for dead. They wandered the neighborhood looking for it for a while but, given that the bird had never been outside before, and given the prevalence of bird-eating wildlife in the area, they put his overnight chances of survival or finding his way home at approximately zero percent.
Marido and I visited them the following evening for dinner, and the mealtime conversation took their natural turn of Older Brother orating on a variety of "family-friendly" topics like affirmative action, genocide, and organized religion. Whenever this happens, I get vaguely queasy and stop breathing. Not only is it really unpleasant to sit through these pointless stands, but I hate the way he talks to me if I ever try to question his point of view. That said, I get the feeling he saves these specially pleasant conversations for family, the only safe haven where he can say anything he wants without anyone hating him.
After dinner, he asked me if Marido and I wouldn't mind posting some of his Lost Bird signs he'd printed on the mailboxes in the subdivision. I suggested we all take a walk together, seeing as I don't know the exact locations of said mailboxes, and perhaps we could actually take the time to look for the bird once again. The night before, every time I woke up I couldn't help but think of how scared and cold the poor thing must have been, if indeed he were still alive.
Once outside, I realized just how improbable it was that we were going to find the bird. It was completely dark, and with the airplanes passing intermittently overhead, it was difficult to hear much of anything. After emitting his bird whistle every few moments, we would sometimes hear a tiny sound in the distance--but it was hard to tell if the noise was a bird, or what direction it was coming from. We trudged around the neighborhood grimly, coaxing each other along.
Older Brother and his wife aren't doing so well lately. The two of them have no kids, few common interests, and treat each other increasingly poorly. However, they are also incredibly loyal to each other. It's quite unpleasant to be around them, but I am trying to spend more time with them so that maybe I can help them somehow. My sister-in-law specifically asked for my help, and I'm not sure what to do, but I figured just being there would be a start. Trudging around in the darkness, I couldn't help but feel that this was going to be the last fucking straw between them. I began to understand, sort of, what it felt like to be my Older Brother--being pulled around this subdivision in the darkness, grudgingly seeking something that he didn't even believe was still alive. I also began to understand what it was like being my sister-in-law, and constantly dealing Older Brother's negativity. I began to resent him for not being more supportive and hopeful in looking for the lost bird, and I also began to feel like it truly was a lost cause. I was on the edge of giving in to Older Brother's idea of going inside, drinking scotch, and forgetting the bird ever existed.
Then something sort of amazing happened. We were dragging our heels down an alley of garages, and Older Brother would reluctantly call for the bird at my or his wife's insistence, and suddenly we heard a distinctly pet bird-like noise that couldn't be mistaken for some far-off hawk, an electronic blip, or otherwise. He called again, and the bird called back. Or, rather--he meowed, like a cat. That's the kind of bird he is. We surrounded a bush between two houses and found the shivering bird stuck in a pile of branches. It was something like a miracle to find that little guy mewing in that bush in that dark alley.
It just made me think that sometimes we do things that may seem like complete long shots, but we do them for a reason--just to go through the motions of something that we know is right, as futile as the may seem. Also, sometimes all you need to save a relationship--even if it is with a mewing bird--is a little effort and a little faith (of the non-religious kind).