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Monday, May 15, 2017

AJ Died

Corinne came into my office Saturday evening and said, “Your bird is acting weird.”

“He’s always acting weird,” I said, but I came out anyway because obviously she meant weirder than normal.

He (AJ) was at the bottom of his play stand having a hard time keeping his balance.

I picked him up and brought him to his cage so I could evaluate him a little. Gave him some treats (nuts and sunflower seeds). He tried to open a pistachio but couldn’t keep his balance on one foot: that's not good, balancing on one foot is what they do.

He said, “Hi baby,” which is his normal thing to say, but it sounded very off: slightly deeper and a little drawn out. Something was definitely wrong. In fact, the way he said it is what made me realize we were probably going to lose him.

He was panting. I laid down on the couch and put him on my chest; this is his idea of paradise. He loved nothing more than sitting on my chest and making sure I was paying him maximum attention. I rested one hand on his back to help keep him steady, and waited to see if he was going to improve. After a few minutes, Corinne brought me a hand towel to drape over him and help keep him warm (parrots seem to love being covered up anyway).

I was listening to him, reading a little, and talking to him. Soon I realized I was hearing his heart beating. Very arrhythmic, and loud. “thump thump thump pause (a few seconds) thump long-pause thump thump pause” etc. I shouldn’t be able to hear his heart beating at all (and when healthy, the rate is 340-600 beats per minute), and honestly I’m still not 100% sure that’s what it was, but it wasn’t in time with his panting so it wasn’t some kind of lung rattle. I think he had some sort of a heart attack and it was, uh... sputtering?

He was getting worse, and I accepted he was going to die. I started telling him (mostly for my own benefit, I guess... he can talk but he’s not a person) that he should let go, it’s almost over. He grabbed onto my thumb a few times with his beak, but didn’t hurt me. Just held on.

After laying there on my chest for a little less than an hour, getting weaker and weaker, he stretched his neck way out and then tightened all his muscles up for a second, Then he just stopped breathing, and the heartbeat stopped.

I didn't sleep much that night but had to exhort Sunday morning. Ugh.

Sunday afternoon I buried him in a deep hole in the back yard. I miss him.


The closest emergency vet is about a 50 minute drive. (This was a Saturday night.) I hope nobody thinks badly of me for not rushing him over there. I believe it would have been a traumatic and expensive last hour of his life instead of me providing what comfort I could as he died.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

AJ: Two Cockatoos in One

AJ is our 20 year old Cockatoo. He was with friends for about five years but he's been back now for about six months.

There seem to be two different AJs. They look the same. The sound the same. We're going to pretend that they (he) calls me "Daddy." In reality he calls me <screeching sound> but we're just pretending, ok? You with me?

Day One

I come downstairs early in the morning, dressed in a navy blue shirt and denim shorts.

AJ's cage cover is no longer covering the cage. This heavy, denim cover (which outweighs the bird by at least 500%) has been pulled off the back and in through the bars of the cage. Not all of it, but about six inches at a time has been pulled through six or ten successive gaps between bars. It looks like pleating, as it's quite even.

AJ is sitting quietly, pulling more in and chewing on the cover. As I walk toward the cage he releases the cover (it doesn't move) and sits motionless.

I extract the cage cover from the cage bars, while telling AJ how impressed I am with his work. He continues to sit utterly motionless. Obviously I can't see him if he doesn't move.

I reach over to open his cage door and AJ — like a mighty predator — leaps for the front of the cage. He repeatedly bangs his face into the bars trying to bite me, and sticks one claw out as far as he can to grab a finger or, if he's really lucky, my throat.

The door released, I step away. I've barely escaped with my life.

As I round the corner and step out of sight, AJ calls out "Hi Baby! Hi! Heeeey! Hi!!" Over and over.

After I've hunted down a morning coffee at Dave's, he seems more sociable.

“That's my Daddy! I love him. He scratches my neck and under my wings and I will protect him from bad creatures like that woman who also lives here. He shares his food with me but doesn't like it when I try to share mine with him.”

End of day one.

Day Two

I come down wearing a red shirt and denim shorts.

AJ's cage is in exactly the same condition as on Day One.

AJ is doing the same thing as on Day One.

In fact, everything is the same right up until I return from the morning hunt.

He's not more sociable this time. He's neither subtle nor sneaky, either. He starts flapping his wings and screaming at me as soon as he sees me, and doesn't shut up until I close my office door.

I try to calm him down with some neck scratching, but his moment of quiet is just to throw me off my guard: as soon as my hands are in the right position he explodes into action, striking at my fingers with his beak, batting at my face with his wings. In short, he makes a best effort at patricide.

“I don't know who that is. I hate him. He tries to fool me with his soft words and treats but I know better. I will kill him, kill him, kill him until he brings back my daddy or just goes away. You've been warned, little man.

(Me:) I outweigh you about 125 to 1.

Ooh listen to the little man, he can talk! Come over here and say that to my face, small fry!

With a heavy sigh I go back upstairs and change into a dark blue (or green, gray or black) shirt. Then I walk through again on the way to my office.

“Yay! That's my Daddy! I love him! He scratches…”

(Me:) “Oh shut up.”

“Hiii!!! Heeey!! Hi Baby! Hi birdie…”

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

High Speed Chase!

The weather was beautiful today with the sudden drop in humidity, so I went out for a hill ride right after work.

I was headed south on Route 2 in North Stonington, about 3/4 mile north of the intersection with Route 95, when I started hearing sirens. Lots of sirens, and screaming engines. Coming straight at me, from the direction I was headed.

Wanting to return home fully intact, I got off the road and watched. A few seconds later, an ugly, old, beat up racer (like a suped-up datsun, maybe?) cam FLYING over the hill. Literally, all four wheels left the ground for a second. There was then a bang as he bottomed out, and some screaming wheels as he swerved around around the car in front of him (into the oncoming traffic lane which was currently empty).

Right on his tail was a long line of police cars. At least nine of them, I think it was ten but I stopped counting after five. All of them with different sirens screaming their warnings, all of them getting a little air as they crested the hill, all of them coming down with a bang. Even the SUV.

Dramatic!

Dramatic, and stupidly dangerous. There are pedestrians and other cyclists on that road, and the traffic averages about 40mph in that section. Believe me when I say you have to be going a lot more than 40 to actually leave the ground on that little rise.

A little further up, I pulled over and sent Corinne a message, letting her know what I'd just seen. (She tends to worry if I'm on the bike and she hears sirens! I was still miles from home, but wanted to let her know I was ok.)

While I was writing the message, two of the police cars pulled onto the same road and parked next to each other, facing opposite directions as they often do. I saw one of the cops looking at me so I yelled to her, "That was crazy!" She agreed. I asked what it was all about, but she didn't know what to say. (Maybe she honestly didn't know why they were chasing him!?) I said, "You all had to be going at least 90" (mph). She pointed up… repeatedly. As in, "a lot more than 90." :-(

Last thing she told me before I rode off was that they'd been chasing him from Westerly. That's two towns and one state over (Westerly, RI -> Pawcatuck, CT -> North Stonington, CT) from where they flew past me.

Home safe and sound, though.

I wonder if they caught him!?

Friday, December 26, 2014

More Tragedy, Status Update

A lot of Corinne's friends have heard by now that Shane's cousin (same age) was killed on Christmas Eve, down in the Lancaster, PA, area.

A very good friend just called me to see how we were handling things, considering our history with Shane; so it seems like this would be a good time to clear things up as best I can.

Stephanie Kilhefner was Shane's cousin on his Dad's side (his father's brother's daughter). She had two kids. Her husband turned himself in and confessed to everything yesterday. I'm not going to offer any details, or even links to the story, but I've already given enough info that you can google it if you want to be grossed out.

(We hear about stuff like this in the news all the time, but it's grosser when it's closer.)

To answer the main question being asked by the friend that called: we're ok. I knew of this cousin but had never met her. Corinne knew her and was friends with her on Facebook but hadn't seen her since before we met, so it's probably been twenty years.

There's nothing "good" about this. There's no "phew, that's a relief." What we have here is another Kilhefner tragedy, the third big one (that I'm aware of) in the last eleven years.

So we're hurting for them. We know their pain, we're intimately familiar with it, and we're reminded strongly of it. But we're not living it ourselves right now, except vicariously.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What, Now? Wow. Ow.

My brother Jed came back East from BC for two weeks with his new family in tow, two weeks ago. We stayed at Steve Davis's house Tuesday night so I could drive them all to the airport before sunrise, Wednesday morning.

Stop-and-go traffic all the way to the airport, starting at 6am?! That's just wrong.

Jed Dillingham and Family

It was very hard to say goodbye to them all. Alycia is Jed's perfect counterpart, 4yo Michael is nearly his perfect clone (but cuter than he ever was), 4yo Rachel (M's twin) is quiet and sweet and very smart, and Gracie is curious, cuddly and learns to say new things faster than the parrots do. And repeats them more. Except for a very brief visit less than two years ago for Gil Riley's funeral, I haven't seen Jed in seven years, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried on my way back to Steve's house after saying goodbye at Logan.

Steve and I ate breakfast on their front porch and then dressed for the ride. It was to be surprisingly warm, and had rained a bit the night before so we were expecting more humidity. Before we left, we swapped my tires for the new ones I'd brought with me, then we were off.

3.7 miles into the ride, I was pulling and we were making a right. I remember thinking that it was nice of Steve to have the roads re-surfaced for our ride, and was going to say something like that to him eventaully. No, really, that's the last thing I remember about the ride. The next thing I remember is a very brief flash of the inside of an ambulance. "Huh, what's that now? Did I ride right into the back of an ambulance?" Then some jumbled stuff, and people repeatedly asking me stupid questions like, "What's your birthday?" and, "Who's the president?" over and over again. As if the president knows my birthday. Silly.

Corinne was there, somehow. It was like magic! She was ninety minutes away, at home. Probably cooking something delicious, hopefully thinking about me, definitely missing me! Then suddenly people are asking me too-repetitive questions and she's there in the room, in the background. Not sure how that happened.

I remember being put in a CT scanner. Then suddenly I was out of it again. Pretty sure there are two meanings there! I remember asking for water, and being told NO. Then being given water in the form of ice. Whatever, it's water. Why'd you say no? Now your pants are on fire!

I told them they wouldn't find anything looking my head with that thing. Clearly I was right.

Shots and other violations? Plenty. They put an IV in my left arm. "Just for fluids." At some point I pointed out something pointedly obvious, and they agreed with me and detached it because I'm a genius, and they let me have more not-water-because-it's-ice. And a tetanus shot in my right arm that I barely felt. The local anesthetic shot in the skin next to my eye so skinny doctor could put stitches in my eyelid? Most painful part of the day and I still haven't forgiven her. Not sure how injecting a cocktail of lemon juice and burning gasoline into my skin is supposed to numb the pain, but I was Mr. Tough Guy and didn't let on that my inner child was now hiding behind the headboard in his room and moaning in delirious, tortured agony. Bad doctor.

She said she liked me, though, because I was… something. Funny? Sassy? Steve, help me out here, I can't remember. Probably not funny, nobody thinks I'm funny.

What, Now?

Oh, I called this "tally," so here's my tally of momentos (keepsakes, even) from my shortest ride of the year:

  • Road rash all over the right side of my face: next to my eye, on my nose, my cheekbone, my lip and my chin.

  • Four or five stitches on my right eyelid. Skinny doctor was soooo confident that I won't have scars like I got from the other stitches in my childhood. Yeah, I'm going to be disfigured for life.

  • Black right eye.

  • My ears are so small and tucked in close to my head that the road just couldn't reach them. Undamaged! You missed a spot, so maybe next time, suckah! Nyah nyah!

  • Bruise and road rash on my right shoulder and right forearm just below the elbow. The bruise on my right shoulder is deep, moving that arm generates funny noises from my mouth. Odd, huh?

  • Scraped all the primary knuckles on my right hand.

  • Matching holes at the middle knuckles of both thumbs. Nobody can figure that one out, so I'm guessing I was sliding along the ground with both thumbs up like the Fonz (as he jumped the shark).

  • What feels like a watermelon stuck to my right leg just below the hip. It's not actually a watermelon, it's just a giant bag of hurt. The hospital was fresh out of real watermelon.

  • Road rash on my right knee.

  • A bruised and dislocated rib on — wait, can you guess? — the right side. Bruised as in "huh, that hurts to touch it, but not like it's broken. I know broken!" Dislocated as in, "I don't think it's supposed stick out from my sternum like that. And when I cough it hurts worse than the watermelon!" No external bruising there, though. Ellyn says it's because of all my rolls of fat. (I got those from the almost 3,000 miles of cycling this year.)

How did it happen?

How does anything happen, really? Forces interacted with masses at surfaces, and effects were generated.

In this case, I went around a corner, slid on a new crosswalk wet with rain, and the bike hit the ground. Me, too!

Steve went down behind me, even though he "strongly affirms" (he never swears) that it's not possible for him to lose traction with his diamond-spiked, sticky-as-bug-trapping-spider-silk tires. Which means he saw me go down and did what any friend would do and ran me over, then fell halfway across and kicked me in the eye with his cleats. He got a booboo on his right knee and right elbow. The poor guy.

Note that I have no memory whatsoever of the crash as it actually happened, so I'm trusting Steve's recounting of the story… which conveniently did not include anything about running me over and kicking me, nor him getting a ride home with the very pretty police officer that was directing traffic just up the road. So I probably made that all up.

So, congratulations! Now you understand what happened yesterday at least as well as I do.


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