I was on the phone with a friend yesterday and in the midst of my poison ivy story, I was horribly distracted by the obnoxiously loud bird squawking in the background.
“Is that Maggie making all that noise?” I ask. “It sounds like a full rainforest. Does she say words?”
“No, she copies sounds, but doesn’t really say any English words.”
“How old is she?” I wondered if she was a young bird who hadn’t learned to speak yet or if she was an old bird, forever destined to obnoxious non-verbal sounds.
“I don’t know how old she is; we rescued her. Some guy put her in a cardboard box and threw her out on the side of the highway and I rescued her from the vet who found her. The vet had no way of knowing how old the bird was other than it was an adult.”
“That would drive me crazy, not knowing how old the bird was. It means you have no idea if the bird is five years old or 25 years old? How long do they typically live?”
“No idea; Senegal parrots usually live about 30 years.”
“You have no warning if she’s at the end of her life; she could die tomorrow.”
I thought about what it would be like to live without knowing how old I was.
“It’s so poignant, don’t you think?” I say to my friend. “Your relationship with her is symbolic of life; you never know when the last day will be.”
The bird was ageless and it didn’t matter because age has become irrelevant in regards to mortality in our complicated world anyway. Too many children dying of terrorizing cancer; too many dying from wrong bullets; too many dying before an age we feel is “fair.”
Old age isn’t an entitlement, it’s a privilege. The bird could die tomorrow even if she is 5 and not 30. Life is not linear at all; we only know we’ve come full circle when we’ve reached the end.