In retrospect, I should have gone with my intuition and declined her request for a special favor. Grandma Milburn was a sweet little lady in the church and it was always difficult for me to refuse her. Of course, Grandma knew that.
Grandma had a green parakeet named Frosty. He was an arrogant bird, prattling on incessantly, and reciting most everything short of the Gettysburg Address. I didn’t much care for him. But, my opinion aside, he had become her dear companion since Grandpa Milburn had passed away a year before. I often found myself wondering how he might have felt had he known he’d been replaced by a bird.
Grandma was planning a week-long trip to visit family in Iowa, and no surprise to me, Frosty had not been invited. Grandma also knew I was easy, so Frosty moved into our spare bedroom for the week. He seemed pleased with his accommodations, and I made every effort to make him feel comfortable – even going so far as to make the customary “bird noises” that they are usually inclined to enjoy. However, Frosty started blankly. I was sure he was mocking me.
The following morning, I strolled into the spare bedroom to check on Frosty, only to discover his feathered carcass on the bottom of the cage floor. Lord have mercy! Once I had pronounced Frosty officially deceased, I called Grandma’s oldest daughter in a near state of panic. She laughed heartily and assured me it was no real loss. Well, I begged to differ. This bird had replaced Grandpa. It was obvious that I would have to take matters into my own hands.
Wrapping Frosty in a tissue and placing him in my purse, I headed for a local shopping area. There had to be a bird somewhere that shared his green likeness. After a lengthy and exhausting search, I discovered Frosty II at a small pet shop on the outskirts of a neighboring town. I gratefully purchased the parakeet and promptly delivered him to his new home in the spare bedroom. I called Grandma’s daughter once again, this time to inform her of my providential find and inquire as to what it would cost me for her silence. She laughed again – this time hysterically. Never mind her. The other Frosty was laid to rest among the blackberry bushes – never to talk again.
Aware that I only had a few days remaining to bring Frosty II up to speed with a couple of his predecessor’s favorite words, I went to work immediately. After two days of repeating, “pretty bird,” I realized what I was dealing with. This new bird had absolutely no intention of speaking – ever. The only thing he was even remotely interested in was the mirror at the end of his perch. It was obvious that Frosty II was not playing with a full cup of seed. I would simply have to tell Grandma what had happened. That’s all there was to it.
Grandma arrived back home in fine spirits, and called me the next morning to arrange the retrieval of Frosty. I have never been closer to cardiac arrest. She rang the doorbell a few minutes later and promptly headed for the spare bedroom. I lingered in the hallway, holding my breath, while Grandma stood in front of the cage.
“Oh, look at you! How’s Grandma’s precious little birdie?” No answer. My breath caught in my throat. “Don’t you have anything to say to Grandma?” Silence. I choked. “Well, let’s get you back home, precious.” I felt the air in my lungs slowly seep out. Grandma offered to pay me.
“Heavens no, Grandma. The pleasure was all mine,” I replied weakly.
A month or so later, I dared for the first time to mention Frosty and feign some level of interest in his well-being.
“Oh, he’s just fine, dear. A little quiet, but otherwise just fine.” Grandma would live many more happy years with her beloved Frosty. He never once uttered a word – and neither did I.