Thursday, April 9, 2015


There are many parts of my youth that I'm not proud of.  There were loose threads... untidy parts of me that I would like to remove.  But when I pulled on one of those threads... it unraveled the tapestry of my life.
- Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek:  The Next Generation, "Tapestry", Season 6 Episode 15, Original Air Date:  15 February 1993

If it is OK for other software developers to rant publicly, I have decided that the world may be a better place if I share this...

It has been a very difficult time for my wife and I as we are struggling to come to terms with the sudden, and as yet and maybe never explained loss of a recently adopted rescue budgie that only in the couple of weeks before her loss, told us her name was Jade and wanted to be a heavily interactive member of what would have been a four member (or six if you count the humans) flock.

Even more devastating, after three pretty big scares, our beloved eighteen year old cockatiel was diagnosed Monday with cancer that is, with a high degree of probability, testicular cancer.  Cindy and I do not have children, for reasons that I may or may not discuss some other time.  All of our birds have been much loved and our children, however, there will never be another Sassy.  He chose us in a pet store by crawling up my arm, going to sleep on my shoulder, and refusing any attempt to return to his cage until it was clear to him he was going home with us. Based on knowledge we received from a vet we took him to at the time, pet stores were supposed to only have and sell fully weaned birds, which if memory serves, for cockatiels is around nine weeks.  The vet told us he was closer to six weeks old.  He was named Sassy before that initial trip to the vet after the cat from the movie "Homeward Bound", as his baby appearance made us believe that he was a she.  The name stuck, because it does fit his personality.

To avoid this particular post becoming uncontrollably, unreadably long, Sassy has been with us and a constant source of comfort and joy in good times and bad, over many miles, states, and many types of moves (too many) that he is beyond special.  As I have said on Facebook, he has been the center of our universe for eighteen years.

Our vet has told us that there are pretty much four options:
  1. Surgery.   My first budgie, Angel, around his (another he that we originally thought was a she) third birthday developed a tumor so rapidly, that we went the surgery route because he truly would have died the same day, surgery or not.  The tumor was found to be massive lymphoma.  I find myself marveling at, particularly within the best veterinarians out there, how far things have progressed since Angel's time, however, surgery is still considered very high risk and mortality for birds under 200 grams, which clearly includes cockatiels and budgies.  All of it is getting better, and quickly, but, unfortunately, it is just not there yet.
  2. Radiation treatment.  Considered experimental but promising, but, again, very high risk.  Another something that is just not there yet.  I can't let Sassy be a science experiment.
  3. Hormone treatment.  Without going into details that I am not even sure I fully understand, the treatment is unlikely to harm him, while showing promise in slowing the growth of the cancer.  This appears to give us the best chance to reinforce to him how much we love him for as many days as possible.  This is the path we have chosen. 
  4. Do nothing.  The vet said the prognosis based on her experience with budgies was to expect about three months even doing nothing.
Every vet we have asked about this says Sassy, in human terms, is about 70 years old.  The "official" oldest cockatiel on record, as stands out in my memory was 32.  "Internet anecdotally" there is a 36 year old living cockatiel.  Given that Sassy behaved vibrantly as a young adult cockatiel as recently as the first week of December, we privately thought it possible Sassy might some day become something more than an internet anecdote, as we would be the ones that know.  Intellectually, though, we both accept, even before this has all happened, that at minimum Sassy had more days behind him than he did ahead of him, much as we, ourselves, do.  We clearly did not expect something like this this soon though.  Short of discovering that treatment works even better than expected, that somehow it might be something other that what it appears to be and is more effectively treatable, or a divine intervention scale miracle, we are doing everything in our power to make the most of his far too few remaining days, both for us and for him.

What does this have to do with the introductory quote?

In what could best be described as irony, particularly regarding my reference, my life has taken a course to this point completely similar to the glimpse of the life of Lieutenant Jean-Luc Picard, rather than that of Captain Jean-Luc Picard.  It is very hard to believe that this is not the case for most everyone.  I suppose that to inject inspirational points to entertainment, an effort is made to make the extraordinary seem more commonplace, to make you feel that it is possible for YOU to be whichever hero you choose.  There is nothing wrong with that.

But, again, without getting into too much detail, there are plenty of loose threads to my life where I may have ended up more outwardly successful right now.  Would I be a better person?

It wasn't long ago that one of my friends, who has just as much or more reason to be proud of his life and career as anyone, told me "I think you have a pretty cool life".  Even though we are going through a pretty rough patch right now, I can't disagree.

I really can't state it enough times, but I adore my wife, Cindy.  She is beautiful, intelligent, talented and has the most outstanding heart I could possibly imagine.  To me, it is truly a crime that she is not more outwardly successful than she is.  Simply put though, her influence makes me a much better person.

We have been transitioning vegan over the last several years.  This discussion alone is a topic for a very long blog post as well.  Cindy's transformation is considerably more complete than mine though.

It is generally considered taboo to discuss faith, but in this instance it is germane to the overall topic.  Not only because it is considered taboo, but because I feel that many of the problems of the world are a result of exploitation of religious intolerance, this is probably the only time I ever talk about it.

My faith has never been stronger in the creator and his son,  Religion, as it is practiced far too often, greatly overestimates man, and greatly underestimates God and all of the rest of his creation that is not man.  All of our birds, but, of course, especially Sassy, have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to me that they have all have a soul.  It is perhaps the primary reason why I am transitioning vegan.

It also means that much greater effort needs to be placed on, for lack of a better definition, balance, understanding and empathy on a universal scale.  My faith even tells me that even if I am wrong, I am forgiven through the son.

Ultimately, what that means is that I know Sassy will be flying as fast as he can to be the first one to greet me in the next life.

View life through a different lens...