Whether it was a dog, chickens or a hamster, mom has always loved animals, but for the last eighteen years, it’s been Panchita, the parrot, who has captured her attention and her heart. Mom would often say that she knew parrots lived long lives, so they could grow old together!
But it was her yearning for Panchita to utter actual words and perhaps engage in conversation that drove her. She would spend countless hours talking to Panchita repeating the same lines over and over again – simple statements like “Good Morning” or “Hello, how are you?” “Que Bonita” or “Buenas Noches” – just to make sure she would be bilingual! She would also play cassette tapes by her cage for hours in hopes for some success, but all her efforts only resulted in incredibly loud undistinguishable squawks. At least that’s what they sounded like to the rest of the world, but for mom, she insisted that progress was being made and Panchita was repeating some words. I likened it to parents who spend so much time with their infants and who seem quite capable of understanding all their endearing jargon!
It wasn’t until one summer when mom went to visit my sister for a couple of weeks that I was left in charge of caring for Panchita and I realized that perhaps there was something to the conversations between mom and the parrot. Not being the same lover of animals as my mother, I did perform the necessary chores of feeding her and cleaning out her cage dutifully, but didn’t really spend time talking to her. It took me a while to get accustomed to her screeching sounds, but still could not make out any words. The beginning of the second week I noticed Panchita had a bald spot on her chest and there were feathers strewn all over her cage. By the time mom got back from her visit, Panchita was practically bald all over! Feeling quite concerned, we took her to a veterinarian, who promptly pronounced her in good health physically – but she was probably lonely, bored and just needed someone to TALK to!!! Needless to say, I was reminded that all living creatures, not just humans, have a need for interaction and attention and that even Panchita’s indistinguishable squawking had meaning if only for those who pay attention.
We recently celebrated moms’ 92nd birthday and my niece presented her with a small puppy to add to her menagerie. It had been a while since her last dog died and I had been concerned that caring for another dog in addition to Panchita might be too much to handle. One look at her smiling face and the excitement in her voice told the whole story . . . which will continue to unfold in Chronicles of Caregiving – Caring for My Elderly Mom. So stay tuned for more episodes coming soon.
Are you caring for an older family member or friend with a pet? What are some challenges you face?