Travels Without Charlie – In Memorium II

This is Charlie.

Let’s get this party started.

He passed away a year ago. We miss him a lot.

At one time, we were thinking of naming this blog ‘Travels without Charlie’, as an hommage to John Steinbeck’s ‘Travels with Charley‘. We decide that might be too Charlie-centric.

Charlie belonged to my brother and his family. We bird-sat him a few times. Before one particular summer vacation, he came to us looking like this.


A cat that our niece had brought home attacks and nearly kills Charlie. Stress and trauma cause him to pluck out his own feathers.

We decide to keep him for a while. Among his accoutrements  is an old Barbie doll mirror. This is Charlie’s absolutely essential item. Disturb it and he squawks loud enough to wake the dead.

Barbie mirror dependency

In short order, he makes himself at home.

Fruit cockatiel

Charlie’s cage in the kitchen lets him investigate whenever he spies something interesting that we happen to be eating. Maybe we can be convinced to share.

Are you struggling with that naan bread?

Because he’s so sociable, we take Charlie wherever we go. BBQ on the verandah? We take Charlie in his cage.

BBQs mean buns. Yum.

We soon learn that he loves rice. Whenever we make rice, he gets his own serving in a porcelain bowl.

Actually, it’s the top of a ginger jar

We bring him to the cottage every weekend.

Charlie enjoys a sunset with us on the dock

This is a rare photo of both Blackie and Charlie at the cottage, having dinner.

Seeds n’ Salad

Disregard my usual Saturday-morning-at-the-cottage state of dishevelment: Charlie has a thing about climbing onto your chest for a cuddle and a headscratch.

A little to the left…

From the cottage, Maria sends this to me at work, for ‘moral support’.

Three stooges

Charlie checks out the hammock in the screened-in porch.

Too big for this kid

He’s never shy about demanding a sample of whatever it is you’re eating.

Give me this day my daily bread…

He’s always fun at home, too.

Maria and Charlie dance in the kitchen

He likes to help when you’re working from home.

‘I think you missed a comma there…’

Especially after we stop working at the end of January, 2017. From February to May, we prepare our house for sale: decluttering, painting, refinishing floors. But only in the afternoon – we reserve the mornings for drinking coffee and leisurely reading of the news in the living room. Of course, Charlie wants to be where the people are. So it becomes routine to bring him into the living room with us. He has his own living room perch and mirror.

Hello, handsome
Charlie helps with the paperwork
Charlie gets a nuzzling

This is the end – Charlie

In May 2017, we head to the cottage for a long weekend. Friends and family visit. On Monday, after all the guests have left, I’m lying on the couch reading. Maria is down by the lake. Charlie is in his cage in the living room.

I hear Charlie sneeze. (We’ve heard him sneeze before – a tiny, cockatiel-sized ‘ker-chew‘.) But I notice his ‘sneezing’ doesn’t stop. I get up to look. Charlie is on the floor of his cage, unable to fly, obviously in some distress. I take him out and place him in my lap. His eyes slowly close – and he’s gone.

I sit there and cry like a baby.

The saddest sight

Hard to believe that minutes before, this less-than-100-grams creature had a unique personality, habits, preferences, moods. In an instant, without the vital spark of life, there’s nothing now but a tiny, inert bundle of feathers.

Maria comes up from the lake to find me wailing and inconsolable. After a while, we recover enough to say our goodbyes and make a little shroud out of a tea-towel.  (A weekend guest brought the gerberas.)

Charlie, we hardly knew ye

We bury him in the back yard of the cottage. With his Barbie mirror, of course.

It’s sad driving back to Ottawa that week: on the way to the cottage, it was a glorious sunny day, Charlie whistling away in the back of the car. When we depart, it’s cool, gray, damp, drizzling rain, and we’re leaving Charlie behind, alone in the cold ground. The car is silent. Not one of our happier days.

Charlie wasn’t sick. He was completely normal until the end. We think he was around 15-16  years old: not terribly old for a cockatiel, but not young either. Maybe it was just his time to go. We had him for not quite two years.

One silver lining in this mournful cloud – we no longer had to worry about saying goodbye to Charlie when we sold the house and left on our trip. At any rate, it would’ve been hard to let him go.

We make a little memorial for him in tribute.

See you in another life, Charlie.

The text is very apt:

  • Covering his cage at the end of the day, we’d say ‘Goodnight, Charlie. You be a good bird.’
  • He was popular with our friends in a way that Blackie never was. Probably, as a friend said, because he was ‘always at eye level’. Blackie was a creature of the ground.
  • Maria always called Charlie ‘little one’.