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Zephyr and My Father

In the morning, after we’ve cleaned her cage, after she’s had her out-of-cage time and her bath, after she’s gorged herself on cheese and seeds and veggies and has settled back in her sunny room for the day, our Congo African Grey parrot Zephyr begins her morning serenade. Sometimes it’s the staccato rings of the telephone that she imitates. Occasionally, it’s the chirping of the outside birds that she emulates.

More often than not, and more pleasantly, Zephyr launches into a most melodious trilling, creative and free-flowing sounds like no tunes she’s ever heard on the radio — her own compositions performed in the style of that wonderful whistler of yesteryear, Bing Crosby, near the end of “White Christmas.”

My father would have liked Zephyr. As part of “The Greatest Generation” immersed in the music of record, radio and movie star Crosby, Fred Sprick was also an excellent whistler, and he would have improvised right along with the bird whose songs are as gentle and breezy as befitting her name.

When I hear our avian composer at play, I smile and think of my father.

I think of my father, too, when I massage. The last time I saw him before he died in March 1988, he softly kneaded my shoulders. It was quite an unusual gesture for a man who, though genial and caring, was not one for hugs or touching. Yet to a son who was years away from considering massage therapy as a second career, it was quite a parting gift from a father who, six months into his illness, knew on some level that he was dying.