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Lovely Loretta

It was not my intention to be rude when I first met her, but I did totally ignore her presence in the room for a couple of hours. Finally, patiently, she tried to break the ice. “You seem like a nice girl,” she said to me. I was startled to say the least.

Loretta was a beautiful bright red and green parrot. She belonged to Father Gottschall, an Episcopalian priest in Oakland. Loretta resided in his large kitchen in Piedmont where there was always much activity and conversation. She had come to the Reverend complete with a cage, engraved with her name. It claimed on the tag that she had belonged to the captain of a California sailing ship, and she was over a hundred years old.

Loretta had a flair for the dramatic.

Loretta had a flair for the dramatic.

While she was capable of producing some very salty sailor language, she seemed to spare the ladies from this vocabulary. From thirty years living with Father Gottschall, she developed the ability to sing operatic arias. She was a soprano. She could also lie at the bottom of her cage, head bent, crying and sobbing in great despair as if she were a grieving woman learning of the loss of a loved one.

She loved to sit on the Reverend’s shoulders while he typed away producing his Sunday sermons. One day, she was deeply engrossed in what he was doing and fell off onto the table. “DAMN!” she exclaimed. Once, when the pastor received a gift of a lovely gold cross with a diamond in it, he asked Loretta what he should do with it. “Put it in Wells Fargo,” she advised him. They had a very special bond and she would tell him how much she “loved Papa” as he rocked her in his arms.

Once, there was a kitchen fire at Father’s home, but, fortunately, people were around and moved Loretta and her cage outside. When I pulled up to the house, Loretta excitedly assured me, “I’m okay, I’m okay.” I had the opportunity to interact with her when I would house sit. While on the phone once to PG&E, the representative asked me if I would quiet my children so she could hear me better. I indignantly told her that was not my child; that was a parrot!

The English housekeeper was a favorite companion of Loretta’s. The housekeeper loved to tend to the rose garden wearing her sunbonnet. The first time Loretta saw her in the bonnet, she blurted out, “WHERE did you get THAT hat?” When Loretta saw the housekeeper practicing some aerobic exercises, she laughed derisively.

For some reason, Father Gottschall moved Loretta from the busy kitchen to his living room. Loretta was not happy with this new arrangement. Putting her to bed one night, the housekeeper asked Loretta how she was doing. “I’m fed up!!” she responded without hesitation. She passed away that night, having lived over the better part of two centuries.

—Bernice Kruger and Deirdre Terleski

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