Conversations with a Parrot

Jako cannot talk much. He could call Zorba the dog, and utter a guttural “hello”, otherwise he just sat in his cage, watching the world go by.

My brother received this blue and golden Macaw parrot in 1974 from my father as a gift. At first he stayed in a a standard parrot cage in the playroom. This later became the TV room when television arrived 2 years later. He migrated to a bigger cage that was custom made of stainless steel braai grids, commissioned by my father’s cousin, Peter Manelis. Finally, and to this day, he stays in a standard Alberton Construction facebrick custom made cage building, complete with French doors, which stands in the garden under a willow tree.

A few years later when my brother completed his MBA Cum Laude my father bought him a Lancia Beta Coupe. From T.A.K. Motors in downtown Johannesburg. Occasionally when we went to movies we would detour past the shop just to drool at the cars. That was the era of the Dino, Tony Curtiss’s car in “The Persuaders”. It was a work of art. As was the Lancia Monte Carlo, and later the Integrale. What legendary cars all of them. Unlike the parrot, the car did not last and was sold.

They were both gifts.

My father was good at giving. Like most of us, he could not receive easily. He never got the right mileage out of giving. He never engineered the fanfare or newspaper articles in recognition. But he treasured the thank you. That is what kept him going, as much as the joy or relief on the face of the recipient. Relief as many of his gifts were in the business world, in the form of loans that were never repaid, in order to keep a friend or compatriot alive in his chosen business. The thank you’s still arrive, when I meet people who say thank you to me for what my father did for them.

As children we never wanted for anything, even the tough years when the business was close to liquidation and was kept afloat by the credit of numerous credit cards. I was jealous as a child of the parrot and later the Lancia. But I was different. My gift from my father was his tolerance for my difference. Instead of completing my degree in Engineering he signed my application for medicine without questioning, relishing the story later.

When I was in hospital for 4 months he visited me every day. Just to be there, asking about progress, never judging. The he often left after the late afternoon visit to attend a business or community or school meeting and arrive late at home.

His gift to me in fact was total acceptance. Even when I bought my own Alfa Romeo and dreamed of owning a Ferrari car.

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