February 2, 2021

Harvey at the hospital.


“We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.”

-Dean Charles Stanforth, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull


It’s yet another grey day out on the rail-trail.  Even in the early afternoon, the temperature is cold, although not frigid, and the air is mostly still.  Waldo’s up front at the end of the leash, on a mission, trotting along toward some goal I don’t understand.  I’m not at all sure he does either.  This is what a big piece of my life has become in retirement – get up, take the dog out, feed the dog, take the dog out, play with the dog, take the dog for a walk, feed the dog, take the dog out, go to bed.  Christine used to text, me asking me what I was up to, and I inevitably answered WWW, walking with Waldo.  She has since banned me from doing so, saying that’s a given.  Now, I am only to answer what else I might be doing.  One thing that is consuming my attention today is my yellow-naped Amazon parrot, Harvey.

I’ve had Harvey for about 35 years.  I got him when I lived in LA and just moved into an apartment that didn’t allow dogs.  I wanted a pet and birds were okay, so I went to a pet store and became enamored with Harvey.  He has been with me and seen a good deal of my life, about half of it, come and go.  I think he is about 40 years old now and his expected lifespan is around 105 years.  I fully expected to die before he does.  Years ago, I arranged for my younger daughter to take care of him when the time came that I couldn’t.  Things came around full circle and, when I got Waldo, I moved into an apartment that allows dogs, but not exotic pets.  My daughter agreed to take care of Harvey and he now lives with her, about a half an hour away.

I’ve missed Harvey since, being no longer able to have daily nonsense conversations with him.  For example, I’d say, “Hi, Harvey!”

And he’d answer, “Whatcha doin’?  Huh?”

And even crazy adventures, like the time he was in a TV episode of Dragnet (1989-1990), starring Bernard White and Jeff Osterhage.  But that’s a story by itself.

Harvey has had liver problems, something I’m told is not unusual for a bird, for many years.  It now appears that it has caught up with him and he is on the edge of death.  There is still a small chance that he’ll survive, but it doesn’t look good.  We will know in the next few days.

When I was young, my life was expanding.  The number of people I knew and interacted with grew and changed constantly.  Opportunities for work, career, friendship and adventure were legion.  But time was scarce.  Work requirements often made it difficult to find the time to explore life, while at the same time, having the money to make it happen.  Then I got older and my options grew fewer.  Time is now aplenty, but wealth, well, not so much.

In my old age, loss has become a regular event.   After retirement, my life became much simpler.  I don’t regret that at all.  The tight schedules, stress, multifaceted daily schedules, deadlines, life-and-death responsibilities – much of the stuff of which modern life is made, are gone.  It leaves me time to reflect, commune with my soul, my atman, nature and Waldo.  I now have the time and space to swim in the wonder of it all, not with an effort to understand it better, but to relax in it and become absorbed with the magic of human life.  I’ve lost a lot because of age and retirement, but I’ve gained a lot too.  Much of the quantity is gone, but the quality is greatly improved, although, sometimes, it is quite painful.

It is also true that when I was young, most of the people I knew were young and healthy.  Older family members got sick and died, but it was shocking when my peers did.  At my current age, acquaintances are dropping with more regularity.  Most of the people I have known are about my age. The older I get, the more vulnerable I am to disease and death and, therefore, so are many of the people I know.  It comes as no surprise, then, that the more time moves on, the more people I lose to the grim reaper.  More loss.

Now, I have Harvey’s loss of good health and it comes unexpected.  His death, if it happens, will be yet one more loss as I make my own way toward the end of life.  And it will be a hard one.  I have known him for so long, shared so much of life with him.

At least I have Waldo.  Dogs live about 13 – 15 years or so before their life has run its course.  Waldo is still young, at almost two and a half, and we will both grow very old together.  At least, that is my plan.  By the time he is 15, I will be 85 and we will be of about the same age in every real sense.  I would not mind it at all if he outlived me, but I sure hope I don’t outlive him.  That would be hard indeed.

In the meantime, he and I can share our love of walking in the outdoors and being surrounded by nature.  We can give each other company and although the end is somewhere out there in the not-so-distant future, it is not yet in sight.

I take a deep breath.

Come here, Waldo!  Wanna chase a stick?


Waldo and his ubiquitous stick.

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