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Dean Whitbread 2013

Dean Whitbread 2020

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Written on August 14, 2005, and categorized as Secret and Invisible.
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It was that funny time after the divorce and re-marriage. One dad out, one dad in, and we were supposed to carry on as normal. Dad #1, upon his exit, did encourage the union between Mum and Dad #2 – which despite resentment, grudges and unresolved tensions in the psyche of Mum, Dad #1 was always given credit for so doing.

It has taken me most of the rest of my life to work out how I was supposed to feel about this switch. The man out was loud, charismatic, and more than a little crazy by all accounts. The man in was quiet, hard working, and at that time, emotionally repressed. He didn’t say much, he just joined in with the adult instructions: do that, do this, don’t be rude. I don’t remember Dad #2 ever initiating play with me. He was just the male extension of Mum, she used him as support to reinforce her errant brand of family discipline.

I don’t remember ever asking for a budgerigar – in fact, the very first thing I ever asked for was a dragon, because of the cat that used to sleep on my feet in the pram. I think the budgie was another family addition designed to lift my mood and prove my viability as a functioning human. At nights, I was doped up with adult-strength barbiturates. By day, I was teaching the budgie to talk.

Billy didn’t ever talk, though, he just went “Cheep! Cheep!” and banged his blue beak on the mirror. The cage was criminally small and hung in the kitchen. Between me and the meaningful relationship I yearned to have with anything that would reciprocate were thin, tarnished metal bars. If Billy was feeling particularly friendly, he would cling to the cage wall and bite your finger.

It was much more fun letting him out of the cage and watching him fly into walls and flap about the place. Unused to flight, he was at once thrilled and terrified by his freedom, and one day in a panic, he flew out of the kitchen window.

We chased him as he went, a flash of blue and white, up over the gardens, nothing between them except thin wire fences demarking the line of thin council strips, scuffed grass, swings and coal bunkers, up to the garages at the top of the gentle incline, where some mature trees and shrubs, elder and untrimmed Edwardian privet, offered him sanctuary behind a tall brick wall.

I was convinced that he would not return and would meet the fate of all exotic birds, ending his life pecked to death by suspicious native species for sporting his outrageous blue feather costume.

Dad #2 climbed up onto the wobbly garage roof and perched on top of a wall, offering his finger to Billy, making little tempting noises with his lips, slowly getting closer to him. Every time he got close, the traumatised bird would hop further away. So he would retreat, and entreat from further away, calling and cajoling Billy back into grab range.

He spent more than two hours on that wall. When everyone had given up on the chance of success, watched by a decent-sized audience of children and spotty youths, to everyone’s amazement, Billy made the leap of faith into Dad’s hand. In fact, he hopped meekly onto his finger, and Dad carefully enclosed him and climbed down.

I was astonished, as was everyone. There were cheers. I remember the line of children that accompanied Dad and Billy down the street to our front gate. He was taken back to the kitchen and incarcerated once again to his obvious satisfaction.

Thus at age five dawned the realisation in me that in some people, love and kindness is demonstrated by such deeds, and that heroics can be very subtle, quiet affairs, requiring patience, persistence, and gentleness.

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This thing has 3 Comments

  1. sammy_bunny
    Posted 14 August, 2005 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Great story!

  2. Himself
    Posted 14 August, 2005 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    I have had over 20 different birds and I am always amazed how smart they really are!

  3. The Cuke
    Posted 14 August, 2005 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    budgies are so cute

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