by Linda Greeson

Grandma was nearing the age of ninety eight when we introduced her to Squeeker. He was a little Grey Cheeked Parakeet, one of my own hand fed babies. We gave him the name Squeeker because even at a few weeks of age he was standing on his tip toes, begging for food, in a strange shrill voice. He was the smallest of the clutch, but had such an endearing personality that I couldn't bear to part with him. I added him to our already too large collection of pets.

Grandma had always been a bright, interesting little lady. For years she had gotten around only with difficulty but kept busy with crocheting and reading. She was interested in everyone who came to the house. For the past month or more she had changed drastically. She sat in her usual corner of the patio but her fragile old hands rested idly amidst her crocheting and books were unread on the table beside her.

She ate little and took no interest in the activity around her. All of our efforts to arouse her from her lethargy were fruitless until I tried wheeling Squeeker's cage over next to her chair.

Theirs was an instant love affair. He delighted her by whistling Dixie and performing on his swing. She became interested in teaching him to talk and he was an apt pupil. His voice remained high and shrill but he pronounced his words quite distinctly and the high pitch was just right for her defective hearing.

Squeeker learned to say "Good Morning" when Grandma first settled in her chair. He accepted tid bits from her meals with many "Thank yous". He seemed to adapt his activity to her pattern. When she napped with her head resting back against the cushions, he either sat quietly or napped too.

As soon as she awakened he became active again in entertaining her. He did not settle down to sleep in the evenings until Grandma was taken off to her room for bed. They were completely devoted. She did not resume her crocheting or reading but spent more waking time enjoying the little Grey Cheek in his cage close by.

The day came when Grandma was not longer able to leave her bed. The Doctor said that her old heart had just given out and that there was just nothing left to do to help her.

At about the same time we noticed a scratch on Squeeker's leg that seemed to be infected, and he too seemed very sick. The Vet treated him with antibiotics and an ointment for the injured area, but he did not seem to improve. The infected area was healing over but he still sat quietly on his perch all day, with no whistling or talking. He ate very little and soon lost his plump, round look. His shiny plumage became drab.

Thinking that it might do them both good, one afternoon I wheeled Squeeker's cage in next to Grandma's sick bed. She was too ill to give him more than a weak smile before she dropped back into the deep sleep that soon she would never awaken from. When first brought into her room Squeeker brightened up, calling out "Good Morning" several times. After that he sat silently watching her for some time but seemed so sad I quietly wheeled him out to his usual place beside her chair.

Soon that chair was empty for good, and shortly afterwards there was an empty cage next to it. The Vet said that the infection had responded nicely to the antibiotic and he could not understand why Squeeker had died. I understood; I knew that with the loss of his devoted companion his heart too had just given out. It was Squeeker's companionship that gave Grandma some extra time in this world. I will always be grateful to him for the pleasure he brought to the last months of an old lady's life.



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