Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word?

Nope. Goodbye is.

But I’m getting way ahead of myself.

As the story goes, my father’s eyes lit up. “I’ve got it!,” he proclaimed. And then my mother didn’t see him for two days. You see, the “it” was my college graduation gift. He had the perfect idea.

As it turned out, he was right – their gift was perfect. To this day, I still laugh when I tell people that my parents gave me the bird when I graduated. Yes. The bird. An African Grey Parrot, to be exact. A parrot my dad spent two days to find.

I met my bird in August 1992, and was smitten. I loved every bit of him from the white mask around his eyes to his cherry-red tail. I called him my little man in the grey flannel suit; my Macbeth. Mac for short.

In no time, Macbeth mastered the wolf-whistle, a dripping faucet, a burp (thanks, Brian!), and his vocabulary soon rivaled that of a two-year-old. Among his favorite phrases: “I love you”, “Hi”, “Oh, shit”, “Wanna go to bed?”, and “Hey Mar.” He quickly put two and two together and made smart associations. As I’d open the door to leave every day, he’d chime: “Alright. See you later.” He was indeed the perfect gift.

Thanks to my father, I discovered my love for birds at an early age. They’ve always been a part of my life. I remember with fondness:

Family pets – a green-headed Conure Lucky and Casey the Cockatiel
A Blue Jay with a broken wing we nursed back to health and subsequently released
The beautiful winged creature my dad scooped up from a Downtown Cleveland sidewalk after it flew into a building. It perched on his passenger seat the entire way home, and sadly expired as he pulled into the driveway
My beloved Macbeth.

On June 6, 2006, I saw his sweet face for the last time. I heard his lyrical voice for the last time as I reached for my hallway door. The door I was frantically trying to escape through as a fire was raging in the condominium unit two doors down.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I tried to peel an upside-down Macbeth from the bars of the top of his cage, but he would not release.

Tick. Tock.
Smoke was curling down the hall.

My Eclectus Romeo, in the cage next to Mac’s, jumped into the towel I was holding in my arms.

Tick. Tock.
The air was becoming harder
and harder
to breathe.

I tried Macbeth again.
And he just

I had no choice
but to leave him behind
if I wanted to live.

I turned my back on his cage, and took the most excruciating steps of my life away from my grey sidekick of fourteen years. As I reached the door, he called to me: “Alright. See you later.”

I froze.

He thought he was going to see me later, but I knew differently.
There would be no later.
“Goodbye, Mac.”, I choked.

By the grace of God, Romeo and I made it out of that hellish inferno alive. I lost everything in that fire. Everything but the t-shirt and jeans I was wearing.
And a petrified green parrot.


Why am I telling you this? I’m telling you this because I often hear people talk about what they would save if their house were on fire. Well, I’m here to tell you that the only “things” worth saving are yourself and your family.

Fire spreads fast.

There’s nothing, and I mean no material possession worth losing your life trying to save. Believe me, I lost many irreplaceable things, including:

My great aunt’s high school ring stamped 1927


Vinyl albums


A favorite sweater

My Macbeth – the most perfect gift I’ve ever received.

But I’m still here, and that’s what matters most. I realize that saving Romeo is counter to what I’ve said here, so I’ll tell you that to this day it chills me to the bone to know had I spent just one second longer trying to save either bird, I would not be here to write this post.

So, the next time someone asks you what you’d save if your house were ever on fire, please say yourself – and your family. And god forbid you find yourself in that situation, act on those words. YOU are irreplaceable.
Never forget that.

I’m forever and deeply indebted to all of my family and friends who have lifted me to my feet when my wings have forgotten how to fly these past eight years. The road has been long, but I remain strong because of you. A very special thanks to my Aunt Cathy, who memorialized Macbeth in a most touching way.


Rest in peace, my dear Macbeth. April 1, 1992 – June 6, 2006.

Until next time, be kind to yourself. And each other.



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