Mates for Life
Parrots mate for life, I’m told. I don’t know how parrots show love, whether they crowd and peck, or groom and chatter with adoration. My parents pecked at each other in a partnership of endurance for most of their forty-five years together. My mother craved order, but my father loved a soiled nest, cluttering the house with newspapers, bus transfers, receipts, notes on napkins, Torah passages, and pamphlets from Jews for Jesus and Mary Baker Eddy. My mother forced him to take it all to a closet in the basement.
When we children had fledged and flown away, my parents sought new shelter. Their overheated one-bedroom in a subsidized high-rise, where the odors of curries and sofritos wafted through the hallways, offered no basement and no room for his clutter. Like a bird gathering twigs and leaves to construct its nest, my father gathered magazines, newspapers and letters along the walls and piled beside the couch. Dust-balls hovered like cumulus clouds around the litter, a noxious environment for two weary birds. My mother, beside herself, screeched, “I can’t keep up. “Why can’t you clean up after yourself?” Order had never been his priority. She exhausted herself tidying their shared space and grooming his toes and finger-nails, those hard sharp pointed claws.…