My Pop: The Bird Whisperer and his Little Angels (updated) 11/11/09- By M. Asinoff
I teased my- pop about “suing” Hollywood for “royalties”: he “inspired” the movie “Grumpy Old Men”. He was grumpy “long” before he was old. I suspect he was “born grumpy”. Despite that he had a philosophy on the “joys” of children: “pity” our neighbor & others like them…they’re childless.
His “heart went out” to them, or so he said. I didn't believe him. He “pities” them because they looked so young & happy. They had no clue what they “missed” not having kids. There’s no “joy” like waiting for me to stroll- in…at 3 A.M.
Who needs a tan, or-vacation when you can spend your money & time on your kids, pop- half -jokingly, asked our neighbor. The “selfishness” of never having to sacrifice for the sake of the kids can be “heartbreak”. He had “no –clue” how they “endured” the “agony” of not having to worry about what the kids are doing to the house when they’re away. To him everyone deserves kids (I’ve -no- doubt misery -loves -company). They “must” experience the fights over disciplining, not to mention the “fun” of waiting for a baby sitter…who- never showed.
The early years were “pure joy”, he said. Being awoken at 2 a.m. by a crying baby or having to run to the E.R. is surely “Divine Retribution”. They’ll never know the “glimmering, glistening”-smile of me wearing two grand in braces. He “didn't really want “a new car. Walking is good for your health & the environment. Plus there’s nothing like-the sound of little "monsters" running & screaming at a party. “No” one should miss it.
Ma’s evening updates were “dinner conservation”. Indigestion: a “bonus.” I “saved him $ & calories on desert, helping earn my keep”. These are the “little joys” of parenthood. You’ve “no-clue” what you’re “missing”, pop told the young, happy, neighbor.
You should’ve seen the “tear well up in the corner of his eye & slowly run down his- cheek” as he told- them- the- ”joy” he felt when my evil, dense, brother, “Guido” married a childish, “cement head.” They were dumb & dumber. One- day they & pop were discussing her marriage troubles & he said “something's rotten in Denmark.” Guido responded with a blank stare, then- asked, "What’s Denmark have- to- do with- this?" I–nearly wet myself & LOL so hard I sobbed! You cannot make this stuff up. Truth’s funnier than fiction in both meanings!
Pop said with three boys, & a girl, the most joy by far he got was from beloved “Chickens” (Parakeets)! They’re his pals. He truly, loved them for a generation & often said they don’t open big mouths, like “Guido”& I.
His love for animals was innate: as a kid, Spot, the family dog instinctively knew pop would care for him. Pop said he awoke extra early to walk Spot, cut & washed Spot’s hair. After four years away in Europe & Africa in WW II, pop returned- home. Spot instantly recalled & greeted pop with love & affection.
When ma was dating pop Spot put his head on her knee @ dinner seeking food. She feared him, unfortunately.
Pop’s love of birds began in Sept, 1976 when our neighbor & family, friend, Danny moved to Florida & gave us his parakeet, Birdie. We called him Mr. Pitzy (Yiddish for little one). After a few months we got him a wife & named her Mrs. Pitzy. She soon became pop’s favorite “daughter / grand” bird & regularly got tummy rubs in exchange for a chirp. He loved it as much as her. The rest as they say is history.
Interestingly, opposites really do attract: ma disliked & feared animals. Yet in a rare moment she was talking to Little-Cousin when she jumped up on ma’s head & looked around, as if on top of the world. I ran for a camera and took a picture. It vanished. Luckily, it surfaced…after- ma passed. It’s a memory I’ll cherish for life. It, along-with–several-photos- are-on- Face book as it just “begs” to be shared with the world.
Pop loved them enough for him & ma. They brought out a softer side no-one-knew of. If one of the- family called pop he’d usually grumble what do you want? Don’t bother me. I mimic him for them & ask them can you say too?
A chirpy from his little angels was nature’s music & “magically and miraculously transformed” him from “Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekyll”. He was shy & quiet out of the house, aside from our best friends & next door neighbor, Al, RIP & his son, Mike (the fourth son my folks always wanted, but never had). Mike had me OTFLOL by recalling pop as a gentle, giant. Sharon, a dearly, departed, cousin & neighbor said pop was soft on the inside. I asked if she’s sane.
I “had to occasionally remind” - pop I'm his “favorite” son, but he still “forgot”. Every time I asked him who's- your- favorite son, his first response was always Fritzky. He was pop’s #1, favorite “son” partially because he was blue & a gift from Rob, a colleague who joined the Army. He truly loved & trained Fritzky. So ensuring he had a loving home was vital. I had no clue I’d have to “reminded” pop… daily…for years that I'm his “favorite” son, not Fritzky as I’m the youngest & he saved the “best“- for –last…
I told my eldest brother, Howard this & pop’s getting “Alzheimer’s”: I “must remind” him Fritzky’s gone. And I'm his “favorite son”. Howard griped, "What do I say? I'm on the bottom of the “totem –pole:” I compete with Fritzky, our evil, brother, “Guido”, a not so merry ex mailman & you. Be glad you're only third on the list. Don't complain until you had the very ‘distinct & unique pleasure of being last!” It just goes to show you, just when you think your life stinks, there is always someone just a bit worse –off.
Most birds are caged 24/7. That’s cruel: God gave them wings to fly. A cage’s a house, not a jail cell. Their house’s a Parrot Cage my sister, Adrienne gave us her with three birds, years ago. That made five. Pop had room in his heart for a dozen They-flew all over the level, called each other from various rooms & figured out to sneak-out between the bars on day one. He said they line up @ attention, little heads high & chests out waiting for him & breakfast like school kids. So I joked, Pitzy “Kindergarten 101”, with “Mr”. Pop. They looked & chirped as I said time for school: get dressed, wash your face, brush your teeth, comb your hair, tie-your shoes & take out your H.W. If you-didn’t- do-it you get a dunce cap. Save excuses like you lack arms, teeth, clothes, shoes, can’t read or write, etc. I added, today’s spelling word is pop & spelled it. Say it & you’ll be promoted, I whispered. They-looked, tilted their little, heads & chirped as if comprehending.
As usual pop grumbled: I’m wasting- my- breath, they’ll- never- say it. I replied you taught my evil, brother, “Guido”. Miracles happen. “Lightning- can- strike– twice”. I debated if Guido can read the letters, or sign his check. Everyone, except my folks, lol because blue was royal to them.
I meet many Born Again Christians who try me to “flip” me, say Jesus loves me & my pets. I suspect He just likes me a lot, tell all my birds He-loves them & they “…have a friend in Jesus…. “(Norm Rosenbaum) That’s - why- they have a long, “Life- of -Reilly.” On Fridays & Saturdays I say Shabbat Shalom (Hebrew for peaceful Sabbath). I also placed a Jewish calendar next to their coupe for fun to “teach” them the day, date & holidays. I review & spell the month, day & date for them daily. They chirp & watch me shave. I tell them they’re too young to. When they grow up I’ll teach them.
During a blizzard I teased pop they want to be snow birds & play in the snow. He laughed & said, “That’ll-be the end of them.” I told them put on a coat, hat & boots if they want to go out. They looked @ me & chirped as they did no matter what we said to them because they know they are absolutely, adored
Adrienne felt exempt because she’s the only gal and Fritzky was a boy. So since we were bird less one father’s day I got pop a girl and named her Little Buddy. I thought she was sleeping at first. For weeks she just ate and slept. Returning- her meant death. At first pop grumbled she’s sickly. Then God and pop’s love rejuvenated her to exceptional, energy and a great appetite. Soon she was pop’s sole joy. He adored her. She was his new “daughter / grand” bird and profoundly, pampered, parakeet like all the others before and after.
Buddy was smart too: gave the cage the “evil eye” & called us to open it. So she can eat, drink & kiss the-mirror. What lungs! We heard her loud & clear across the level & downstairs. If that didn’t wake me she grabbed banged a wood towel rack against the wall. She knew my room was next door & I’d open her coupe. So she often woke me.
They sat on pop’s finger as he lovingly spoke Yinglish. He swore they understood when they tilted- their heads & looked him in the eye. They were tucked in every night. When sick, they got a heat lamp & medicine. Blue Bell had the runs stuck to his feathers. So we cleaned him. Pop gave them fresh water & food daily. I joked- they & the seeds are “Kosher”. When- they passed we buried them in back. I still talk to them in Yinglish. Unfortunately they can’t chirp anymore.
Fritzky and Whitey had a summer and winter home. Pop made Buddy a “wading pool” (car wax cover) because they were his favorite “daughters/grand” birds, too. He’d remove his glasses & asked them if they know him. They looked intently because they know his voice, yet he was different. Fritzky flew to pop, climbed down his arm, looked up, tilted his head & chirped as pop talked to him. One time pop had coins in his hand & Fritzky began tossing them. It became a regular trick. He was nicknamed the “barber” because he sat on pop’s shoulder & pulled hair. When watching TV pop asked if he liked the show or, wanted a different channel, one- chirp- for- yes & two for- no. They looked @ pop & chirped because they knew he was lovingly, talking to them.
Feeding- them was joy for pop: he was greeted by a chorus of chirps …in stereo. They looked at him, he smiled & said, “Hi sweetie, yes- honey. Hello. Are-you- talking to me? Yes. What -are u trying to tell me? Ooh, you’re all excited. Yes, honey, talk-to-me, sweetheart.” Pop retired, and loved to talk to his “pals” a few times a day, every day. They were the only thing that made him smile.
Buddy kissed pop’s nose & “trained” him: heard him coming, chirped & flew to the hall like a child seeking dad’s attention. It worked every time! She relished pop’s love. To swim she looked at pop, chirped & flew to the counter. He filled her “wading pool”. She sat on the inner shower door, chirping for the echo, made us laugh by poking her head around the corner when pop called & enjoyed his door rides. She looked all around. One winter he heated a three story house for her. In summer she got cold, water 3X a day. He put fresh seeds atop a bed of shells. Buddy lived & played in a big, bathroom with a “see saw” (dr.’s scale). Pop asked how much she weighed. She chirped & flew to him for attention. One night Buddy wouldn’t go to bed. I told her in Yiddish I’d get-pop, he’d yell & spank her. She looked me in the eye, like a defiant kid. I called pop. She went in. We-LOL -the-next-day. He told her in Yinglish go to bed or else. His tone said he’s mad. She knew, chirped & flew-to his shoulder like a little girl “wrapping daddy around her- little-finger”, to avoid scolding. Buddy also laid many eggs. Despite begging in Yiddish to sit on them she would not sit on them. She- just chirped & flew to me. Adrienne joked, use French. It’s the language of love. Pop & I would’ve learned a few words if it would’ve helped.
Adrienne gave us a widower I named Sunny Boy. Pop hoped for “grand” birds for his and Buddy’s birthdays. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any because he was neurotic from a “traumatic childhood”. It took years to get him from fear to indifference because no one ever loved him. All he got was food and water. Every living thing needs love.
Seeing pop, a grumpy, old, truck mechanic melt over a little bird was comical and cinematic. He was a bird “whisperer.” “Grand” birds would’ve done “mission impossible”: made pop truly, happy. He liked watching them play because they have personalities: Mr. & Mrs. Pitzy used to watch TV in the living room in the evening with pop. When they wanted to go to bed they flew to the bottom of the stairs, hovered and called for pop to put on the light. When he did, they flew up and hung on a door ledge till pop came up and put on a light in their room. Then they flew into their house. Since they’re small you often can’t see them when you pop in to check on them. Pop joked, a pet he must look for. I say calling all angels. In- summer: screens permit them to hear & “talk” to birds out side. Sometimes they hang on the screen & “chat” with “pals’ on the window ledge.
They- hang upside down, like Bats. Buddy crawled in the shower door track to peck @ reflections for hours and turned her body around. She was double jointed. When I called her she turned and looked @ me as if to say yes. Some sit on the edge of their house and look out like it’s a “front porch”, play, run and “Kamikaze” dive. They love the sound of running water. When I shower they run across the track chirping “up a storm”, looking at & talking to me.
Pop laughed when Houdini would swing because he poked Little Cousin in the head with his tail. I sing rock a bye (whichever angel we had @ the time)… They climbed, jumped & slid (sometimes involuntarily & slowly while looking around in bewilderment) like firemen, gymnasts & acrobats. Fritzky flew to and from the mirror on ma’s dresser to his room, next door & called his reflection. He thought it was another bird. It was always there, yet didn’t follow him. We lol when they run because it’s sideways.
We couldn’t think of a name for one bird. So we called her No Name. Her room was next to mine. So if I was on the computer or phone she’d hear me and chirp. If I called her she’d come in and sit on top of the computer, look @ me and chirp while I spoke to her in Yinglish. She loved the attention. If pop came in and called her she’d call him to let him know her local and go to him if he was in her room or walked into mine. He’d talk to her and she chirped away quite loudly and happily
Like Whitey, RIP, Sunny’s meek, whereas- Buddy’s- a- bully. They had a ritual: fly to opposite ends of the room and call each other. She chased / cornered him, he squawked and they kissed. It was like a movie. When she bullied him I exclaimed, Little Buddy Asinoff! She halted and looked at me. I added, I’m watching- u! So is pop! We love you. And want-you to behave or you’ll get potch in tuchas (spanking). Then I use the peace sign and motion from my eyes to her or wag my finger. Her look said she knew she must “chill” Sometimes I made her bust for biting: grounded: put in a small cage she can’t escape for a day. She lived and loved to run, jump and play, all day, every day. They all do to varying degrees.
The parts about Fritzky, Buddy and my kin are true. Pop said, “If-u knew Fritzky like I did you’d understand me.” I say if you knew pop like I did, you’d understand me. Sometimes pop and I were-watching TV and the public service announcement came on: it’s-10 pm. Do you know where your children are? I’d joke: we’ll do u know where your chickens are? He’d do something very rare: smile. Then say “fashlufen in huse” (asleep in their house).
Adrienne said they look like little angels. That’s when I suddenly realized what I’ve known for a generation: they’re –pop’s angels! I told Sunny in Yinglish, daily. I also tell them they’re angels because they have wings & “sing” nature’s music. And performed a miracle equal to Moses’: made pop happy…for a generation. If I wasn’t an eye & ear witness I’d never believe- it.
For music appreciation class I sing to them in English, The Beatles I love-you eight days a week, Love me too & Shake it up, baby, now. Twist & shout. & Good Day, Sunshine. We do The Penguins’ Earth Angel, Curtis Lee’s Pretty-Little-Angel-Eyes, Taveres’ Heaven must be missing an Angel cause- you’re here with me right now. When they zoom out of the coupe I say Meatloaf’s bat out of hell. They like …you’re once, twice, three times a lady… by The Commodores. Charlie Prides Did u see the most beautiful girl in the world...evokes chirps. When they move to music I say you should be dancing… (The Bee- Gees). If one’s scared I do War’s Why can’t we be friends. Sometimes I do Sister Sledge: We are family. Sing it to me… When they run I sing K.C & The Sunshine Band: Get down. Get down. Get down, tonight, baby… We appreciate The Partridge Family’s Oh, I think I love you. The Archies’ Sugar, Sugar is- good too. Debbie Boone’s a hit with U light up my life. We sing -The Doors’ Hello, I love you. Won’t -you tell me your name. When they chirp I-ask,-”Oh, who can it be now?... (Men @ Work. Since Jews are all about guilt if they misbehave I say don’t go breaking by Neil Sedaka. If they won’t sit on my finger I say don’t make a grown, man cry…by the Stones. If that’s futile I sing “Don’t you want me, baby?” by Human League. Sometimes I parody Mike Myers’ Saturday Night Live Coffee Talk & tell them talk amongst your selves. I’m all farclempt (choked up). G. Harrison’s good too: “Here comes the sun...” John Denver’s “Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy…” is a good way to start the day. If they’re chirping up a storm with the birds out side I sing the Pointer Sisters: “I’m so excited! I just can’t hide it! I’m about to lose control! And I think I like it...!” For religious instruction we sing The Byrds: “To everything there is a season. To everything there’s a purpose, a time to be born, a time to die. A time to laugh, a time to- cry. A time to love…” I like Kojak. So I ask who loves u, baby? Sometimes I bark, meow or chirp for them. They love it & chirp away.
Every - morning I open the coupe & say Juice Newton said u -are an Angel in the morning. Then I ring the “school” bell, say pledge allegiance to the flag & “sing” God bless America with Kate Smith, & I’m proud to be an American with Lee Greenwood. I do my Mr. Rogers’ impression too: “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood….”
At Christmas we “sing” carols because we’re Jewish for kicks & to help them be multi cultural. So they know our culture we also do The Broflovski’s “Dreidel Dreidel, Dreidel. Stand -tall by Burton Cummings is well liked too. Since they- don’t have- hands. I say if you are happy & you know it make a chirpy. If you are happy & you know it & you really want to show it make a chirpy.
For cultural influence I play ma’s Jewish music: The Bowery Sisters, Mickey Kat’s (Joel Grey’s dad) parodies, hava nakela hava & My Yiddisha Mama, etc. It’s the only way they can get to know her a bit. I won’t tell them she didn’t love their ancestors as pop did.
When I called pop from work to check on him I always asked nu, vus halsta mit da pitzlah? (Well, how are the birds)? I could hear the joy in his voice when he said, good. After CSI became a hit I’d ask them who are you? When the phone rang pop joked, phone call for (whatever bird we had). Crazy little thing called love by Queen is good for dance class. Stevie Wonder said it all: “I just called to say I love you. They’re the 3 most beautiful words you’ll ever hear. And I mean it from the bottom of my heart… ” We also do Isn’t she lovely, by him. I‘d tell them that. They stare intently @ me when I do Brady Bunch Parodies. They chirp, joyfully…in stereo to John Mayer: Say what you need- to say. Luckily, they’re tone deaf & “sing” along. I tell them pop & all the Pitzy lovers in Heaven are listening & if they make pop a zati (grandpa) we’ll name it for him. They look at me & chirp, as usual.
Doubt anything? Want more detail or humor? Ask pop- yourself…when -you get -to Heaven. He’ll be in the animal lovers’ section. People say there’s no such thing. When I ask who told them they hush. Pop, his angels and all the pitzy lovers are smiling down upon me because I gave pop years of joy by bringing Fritzky & Little Buddy into his life & took such good care of pop & his little angels.
When you find it ask for Mr. Pop. Do not be surprised if he’s grumpy & says what do you want? Don’t bother me! Say you heard he’s Fritzky’s pop. That’ll flip his mood instantly & make him smile wider than the Jericho Mile (7 x 7).
I often asked him to ensure his coherence & give him joy. His response was always, instantly, Fritzky! We didn’t know @ the- time it was his last night, & his last words to me were Fritzky was his favorite son. He was grouchy in my dreams when he was here & hasn’t changed since leaving.
After pop went Buddy ran away. After searching the house & calling her she chirped. I found her sitting on pop’s desk, in the dark, staring at his chair, as if awaiting his return. She sensed the loss on some level as they were so close.
I put her to bed, & very sweetly, said pop loves you from Heaven, wants- you- to- behave & go-to-bed where it’s safe. She looked as if she understood, went to bed & stopped running away. I put his photo by the coupe for fun & said pop wants you to be gootinga clana madlle (good little gal) & is watching you from Heaven & earth, ok? She looked at me & chirped.
Some people say they talk. I never saw it. They’re messy. I told pop clana pitzlah, graca shmutz. (small, birds, big mess). He agreed, but didn’t mind because they were his little angels. And he really loved them from the bottom of his heart. I suggested getting a hunt (dog). Pop said he wouldn’t pick up after a dog. He changed diapers for four kids. That was it. He’s gone, but his legacy lives. I put an earlier copy of this & bird pictures on his heart as that’s where- his angels “live” forever. And swear he smiled when I said their names & tell Fritzky I said hi. If he could’ve pop would’ve made his angels heirs. Although we never discussed it I promised him I’d take good care of them because he loved them so.
So I tuck them in every night, say pop loves & you spend- a fortune keeping them warm in winter. After the last heating bill I lined their coupe with the help wanted ads. When a week passed it was apparent they didn’t get the message. So I said it’s time to start earning your keep. Seek a job acting or modeling. If you don’t find anything apply for unemployment. If denied apply for disability: you re too small to be a carrier pigeon. I asked my accountant about deducting them as dependents on my taxes. He -lol. My –reward for caring for them? Every day: they greet me with chirps…in stereo. I’ll name my next birds Prince, and Princess cause they they’re pampered like royalty.
Unfortunately shortly after pop went Buddy followed from complications due to a difficulty pregnancy. Sunny was very depressed for weeks. He wouldn’t come out, much less chirp. I talked to him daily to comfort. He just sat & looked at me. He was a widower twice.
So I adopted a young, girl & “sang” Cupid, draw back your bow with Sam Cooke. I then followed the Eastern, European, Jewish tradition of naming after dearly, departed. So I call her Baby Ida for my pop, Isidore & his ma, my beloved, Buby Ida. I was her favorite. And talk to her & pop’s photos & the birds whenever I’m on the computer. I took over pop’s desk & moved my computer down the hall to it. But still talk to the birds day & night…in Yinglish I like Groucho Marx, RIP. & “You Bet Your Life.” So- I say the secret word & split a treat. The word’s pop. They chirp.
Sunny is happy although Ida bullies him, as Buddy, RIP did. I beg & plead with them in Yinglish to say pop & make an old, grouch in Heaven happy with a baby Fritzky & 17 others, including a baby Isie. (18 = luck to Jews) They look as if they understand & chirp, but haven’t made any babies.
She chirps up a storm daily & Sunny Boy joins in. He’s so happy with his third wife & back to his old self. Unfortunately, she bullies him too. If I catch her I say Baby Ida Asinoff! I’m watching you! So is pop! Then I motion with my fingers to & from my eyes & add behave or you’ll get gahockta sorus (big trouble)! She halts & looks at me. She knows she’s bad & must “cool it.” Unfortunately, she caught some of Sunny Boy’s neurosis. I try easing her fears with love, daily although it seems futile.
Unfortunately, Sunny Boy passed unexpectedly & Baby Ida was depressed. I put pictures of pop & buby by her house for fun. Then told her who they are, I adopted & named her for them. She was sad so I adopted a boy. Howard & I named him Little Joe for pop’s dad. They’re more in love than any birds I had & cuddle all the time. Unfortunately, they’re also the dumbest & most neurotic. They don’t know how to sneak out between the bars & won’t give me a drop of attention or affection. I told them they must ga shlufen in huse when finsta, nit vana or cokteple (go home not the tub or bathroom when dark) & grounded them for a weekend. They got that message. I praise them for it every night when I tuck then in.
Joe sits on my finger for a second @ best, looks @ Ida & runs to her. They kiss, run, play, run, groom each other, stretch their wings, etc. daily. When they have lovers’ quarrel Ida sits @ opposite ends of the room & squawks. So- I “sing” “Oh, you’ve lost that loving feeling. Oh, it’s gone, gone, gone… ” I wink @ Ida & ask is Donna Summer’s right: Bad Girls….Then add The Star Land Vocal Band’s right: “Why wait until the middle of a cold, dark, night? Have some afternoon delight…” That’s compounded by The Carpenters: “”Rainy days a Monday always get me down… I ask Joe if Elvis is right: “She’s a hunk a hunk a burning love…” Chirping’s tiring. So they “nap” every afternoon like small kids.
I told him I want to be a fetta (uncle) to a baby Fritzky and Buddy. He just looks @ me. Every morning I greet & ask them to make pop a zati (grandpa) & bubby a great bubby in Heaven. Then I say school’s- in with Professor Mitch, your #1, favorite, brother & ask them to say / spell bubby, Heaven, Fritzky, Little Buddy, Houdini, Mr. & Mrs. Pitzie, pop, Little Cousin, Mitch, Blue Bell, Baby Ida, cloud, brother, bird, Life of Reilly, racketeer, earth, aristocrat, royalty, wings, America & love. When they sit on the scale I ask each how much they weigh. Then ask how much they are combined? How many ounces are in a pound? Then say deduct their individual & combined weight from a pound. On Tuesday they get a spelling pretest. Friday’s the exam. Pop’s always a word. They chirp & look me in the eye if they get it & are answering. Every mLook at Israel Exchange Traded Funds:orning I say get out your homework. I want to see it. If you didn’t do it you get a dunce cap. Every afternoon I say school’s- out, do your homework. I also talk to all my birds in Yinglish daily because I’m trying to make them truly multicultural, & I’m a bird “whisperer” too.