... in which I kill time by the hour ...

Jan 10, 2013

About time I talked about this

My next door neighbours have an African Grey on their balcony and the parrot is driving me nuts.

It sounds too much like Shimpoo...

This June, it will be three years since we lost Shimpoo - or rather, had to give Shimpoo away. I wrote out this long rambling post of absolute word-vomit containing all my feels and tears and 13-year-long history with our old African Grey on my dA journal back then. It's been three years, but I've come to realise that I'm still not over Shimpoo. I don't think I ever will be. 

And this new Grey next door? Not helping at all.

They got it sometime last year. At first, I had no idea my neighbours had brought in a Grey. I was in the shower when I heard a series of screeches and weird yowling noises through the little window in my bathroom, and they sounded almost exactly like the noises Shimpoo used to make. African Greys can be loud and the calls sounded like they were coming from inside my house.

I think my heart skipped a lot of beats that day. I didn't even finish; I just wrapped a towel around me and poked my head out of my bedroom, half-hoping and half-terrified to hope that Shimpoo had somehow escaped its new home and flew back to us and had come in through our open balcony and I would see it in the corridor outside my bedroom door, looking up at me with that mischievous face of its, from the spot where its cage used to be.

Of course, it wasn't so. But this episode repeated a few more times before my mother told me it was just the Grey from next door. I can see the Grey from my balcony. It looks so much like Shimpoo and yet it looks so different. And even Mum commented more than once, with a look of nostalgic awe on her face, just how uncannily like Shimpoo that Grey can sound at times.

It is not our Grey, though. I know this for sure, because despite how similar some of its calls are to Shimpoo's, I can hear the difference between their voices. Some sounds are blatantly different, others just the tiniest bit, but after thirteen years of being with Shimpoo, I can recognise that parrot - appearance and voice - anywhere and this one is certainly not it.

Not that I'd hoped it would be. But there is something that has been bothering me for a long time. I wanted to vent my feelings about it on here earlier, when I first found out, but I was feeling too emotional and upset then and I couldn't do it.

After that day in June 2010, I'd tried so hard to move on. Shimpoo had been family, but I told myself that it was better off in its new home, where it would have the freedom of flight and other birdly-company, instead of being with us - in a cage. I tried so hard to convince myself that Shimpoo was well-adjusted and happy in its new home and I should be, too.
Until sometime last year, when I finally found out from Dad that Shimpoo's new owners had lost it. They had been doing some work where the birds were kept and - perhaps in panic - Shimpoo had managed to find an opening and flew away.

I don't know what I felt then. Dad had kept this bit of news a secret from me for a long time, probably because he knew how it would affect me. It reminded me of the time when we had also once lost Shimpoo like that, quite soon after my brother had first brought it home. Back then, it used to be terrified of my dad - I think the beard had something to do with it - and when Dad was trying to untangle its chain which it had managed to knot up for the thousandth time, Shimpoo took the chance to fly off.
It took us three days to find it, and even within that short time, I kept dreaming of Shimpoo. I was so young then, but that incident really made me realise just how much I loved it and what that Grey meant to me. To all of us, because the entire family tried so hard, day and night, to find it.

What affected me most was the memory of Shimpoo's state when we finally found it. Starved, trembling and terrified. It had been just three days, but Shimpoo didn't stop eating for more than half an hour or so after we brought it back home.
And that led me to wondering, where was Shimpoo now? Was it anywhere even? A home-raised, domesticated, spoilt, picky-eating parrot that couldn't feed itself for even three days ... Was Shimpoo even alive? Had it possibly found food for itself? Had someone found it and returned it to the owners? Or at least, kept Shimpoo for themselves, feeding it and sheltering it and giving it a home?

Or was Shimpoo already ...? 
This question was inevitable, but it pained me so much that I couldn't bring myself to even contemplate it and I just cried.

(Later, much later, I asked my mother - if Shimpoo was out there all alone, with no food, no water, nothing, and ... well, dying ... would it think back to us, and blame us for giving it away? Because I know it remembers us, Greys and their powerful memory, and it had been with us for so long and I like to think it had been happy with us... Mum just smiled and said no, it probably wouldn't. I wonder if she believed her own words; I know how much she adored Shimpoo, too.)

Something that pained me even more-
Several weeks prior to Dad confiding in me that Shimpoo had flown away, my dad and I both had seen a large parrot flying about the roofs of some buildings a little aways from our house. We had both stayed on our balcony for a long time, squinting at it, because even from that distance, we could tell that parrot had been an African Grey - probably one that someone had lost, Dad said. I saw that parrot flying about that area for two or three days since then before it disappeared completely.
And then later after finding out about Shimpoo flying away, I couldn't help wondering if that lost Grey my dad and I both saw could possibly have been Shimpoo? Was it too much to wonder/hope/wish that it had tried to fly back to us, back to the place that had been its home for thirteen long years?
In retrospect, it hurts even more to think about it like that, because if it had been Shimpoo, then it means that Shimpoo couldn't find us again after all. And we didn't see it again in the neighbourhood. So, does it even matter?

What touched me most was when I found out another secret Dad had been keeping.
On the way to Athena Cinema - way before Schwack happened - my cousins and I would always come across a house with a noisy African Grey on the balcony. We always messed around with it, calling and whistling at it, on our way to the movies every time.

I found out that even Dad happened across this Grey once. And he wondered so badly whether it could have been Shimpoo - I knew from one glance that it wasn't, but I guess my dad either didn't or just wanted to make sure - that he went back to that street one time when it was completely empty, and then, standing below the balcony of that house, he began to call out our names and all the other words and phrases Shimpoo used to call and mimic. He kept it up for a long time - and must have looked like a lunatic to any passersby that happened across him - and he only gave up when the Grey did not react to any of his calls. If it had been Shimpoo, there surely would have been a response.

It really touched me that Dad actually tried so hard to find Shimpoo again - or at least, check whether other peoples' Greys were Shimpoo or not - because he is the one person who, from a long time ago, kept making remarks about how we should just kick Shimpoo out of the house (because the bird food cost too much, it's too much hassle looking after a Grey, its feathers give out dust when it ruffles them and other stuff dads love to complain about). 
I know he never meant it, that he only did it because he knew how much those comments would rile me up (and my father is the one from whom I inherited my troll-genes), but finding out about this, this little but meaningful proof of how much my dad also loves Shimpoo (and maybe even wanted it back) - despite the fact we had to give it away two years back - brought tears to my eyes again and I had to look away from him.

To this day, I wonder what happened to it. 

I don't talk about Shimpoo much because it still hurts and I prefer keeping it all in, but I particularly dislike talking about this sometimes because a lot of other people just don't get it. I do understand really, that people outside of my immediate family cannot truly empathise with how much that Grey meant to us. 
But it gets on my nerves so much when, I reminisce about Shimpoo or admit how much I miss it and want it back, people just flippantly suggest,

"Why don't you just get another African Grey?"
"This time, get a chick and raise it! Chicks are easier to tame than adult ones."
"You can buy a more beautiful-looking one than Shimpoo!"
 
I guess this is how the minds work of people who only saw Shimpoo as our cute little pet. In fact, I think only people who have owned and looked after a bird or animal etc for as long as we have or even longer can truly understand how there comes a point when that creature stops being just a pet and becomes family.

Shimpoo was - and I still believe is - a part of my family. Why do people assume it will make everything better if I just get another one? What makes them even think that I would want another one? I loved and miss this Grey so much, do they think I'm just looking to replace it? What makes them think it can even be replaced?

It was Shimpoo that kept me company during my lonely childhood years, when I had to spend the after-school hours all alone at home while my parents were at work and my siblings lived at their own places.
Shimpoo, who whistled along to Fiona's theme from Shrek with me. 
Joined me in howling like a wolf during my Balto phase. 
Competed with me to see who could laugh the loudest/most ridiculously. 
Tried to take a peek whenever anyone went to take a piss. 
Talked to me and amused me with its vocalisations and attention-seeking yells while I did chores around the house. 
The first (and most of the time, only) one to greet me ever so enthusiastically when I came home from school. 
Watched me in silence and kept me company when I sat down beside its cage to cry. 
Offered me its head to scratch and beak to grab every time I wanted to play with it. 
Coughed even louder every time my dad coughed. 
Called out all our names and mimicked all our voices to perfection. 
Mimicked sounds of burps/farts like an epic troll. 
Guessed who was coming into the house by the sounds of jiggling keys alone and screamed their name before they could step foot into the house (and had never guessed wrong). 
Yelled out "Hello" before anyone else can answer the phone. 
First one to call out "Bye bye, see you!" when we got ready to leave. 
Mimicked my whining voice perfectly every time I whined to Mum about something. 
Laughed rambunctiously every time I held a tuition, making my pupils lose their concentration and giggle incessantly while I yelled at the damn parrot to stop showing off.
Took bites out of all the women, but whored up to all the men in the family - because it was either a female or a male that swung the other way (Dad's brilliant theory).

It was Shimpoo that was always there, the one I love, miss and want back. That does not equal the random baby chick or the beautiful glossy-feathered Grey on sale in the nearest pet store.
How would you like it if I suggested you go replace your mother with a stepmum? That is pretty much how I feel when people callously say to go buy something new.
(I mean no offense to stepmothers. They can be great and you can love them deeply, but it will never be the same way you love your own mother - in normal circumstances, if your mother had been loving and kind and took care of you from day one. I can love another Grey or just another pet in general, but they will never be Shimpoo. When I say I miss Shimpoo, this is why I wish people would stop making stupid remarks.)

I don't even know if its alive now. If anybody ever found it. I don't think I'll ever stop wondering and I doubt I'll ever get over the loss. Days when I don't think of Shimpoo do go by, but the memories crop up suddenly out of the blue and they're always a little painful. Lately, thanks to the neighbour's Grey, it's happening even more. Even today I heard its calls when I was in the shower and I wanted Shimpoo back so badly it hurt.

Maybe some would say a parrot is just a parrot in the end, dying and will turn to sand in the afterlife, but all the same, I keep wishing that somehow, by some miracle, Shimpoo is alive,  happy, healthy and safe.