Like a giant amoeba that had lost its way of knowing how and when to divide, sixteen of us slowly made our way through our local zoo yesterday. Blessed with blue skies, fluffy white clouds, an occasional gentle breeze and springtime temperatures hovering in the low eighties, who, in their right mind, could ask for better?
Everyone but Amy was there. My oldest son’s girlfriend had wisely stayed home to study for finals (not knowing Bryan had run off with her study materials when he borrowed her car.) Looking back on it, I wonder if disconnections such as this were simply metaphors of our day.
Three steps forward. Two back. Inching along, exhibit by exhibit, we took turns waiting for one another, as one would temporarily break free to buy a cool drink or check out the local flora and creatures. Three hours later, all out of steam in spite of covering only a fourth of the exhibits, we began breaking apart in earnest. We decided to call it a day, to go home to our individual caves.
Were we just going through the motions yesterday? It sort of felt that way. My son Kyle called it boring. It’s there, in black and white, on his Facebook wall. And if I’m being honest, Kyle was right — even the animals looked a little sleepy and bored.
It has been three years since we last gathered for our annual zoo date. The last two were preempted by rain and Mother’s death. So maybe yesterday — come hell or high water or family death — we were bound and determined to pick up the remnants of life and get on with it. And though the weather was grand, some of us (like me) were not quite there.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t fool anyone. Nor was I trying to. About the time we were closing in on the sea-lion show — which in tune with our day, we missed by mere minutes — I overheard Kate telling step-daughter Tayler something about Nana.
“”Nana who?,” asked Tayler. While Kate reminded Tayler that I was the only Nana in residence, I thought maybe Tayler was more right than Kate. Though not quite a zombie, I was walking around in slow motion, a lost soul in search of the next bench to park my tired body.
It has been a long week, with Dad’s death and funeral. Sleep has been scarce and fitful. As my mind wandered back to the events of last Sunday, I kept thinking: Has it only been a week and a lifetime ago that I held Daddy’s hand? He was here. And now he’s not.
Someday it will be me. I will be here. And in the blink of an eye — or in the space of three sneezes, like it was with Dad — I will vanish from the face of the earth.
“Who am I anyway?” “And why am I here?” These merry-go-round questions separate us from those other creatures of the animal kingdom who call the zoo home. And until I find new and fresh answers, they have served to sever my spirit from my body.
Sometimes the repetition of ritual can be comforting. And, sometimes, it simply is repetition. For years I went on producing the large Thanksgiving Day dinners that had been family traditions for decades. Generally, there were only Mom and I and a friend or two at those dinners.
One year, we looked at one another and said, “No more.” Not only was the effort and expense beyond all reason, we discoverred in the process of talking about it neither of us like turkey.
That was The Year of the Herb-crusted Pork Loin, also known as The Year of the Deep Sigh of Relief. Life had moved on, but we hadn’t kept up with it. Now, we’re back to enjoying Thanksgiving dinner.
Your words made me think of a teaching in the church — about how it takes empty hands to receive a gift — that if we cling to what we have, we’re too full to receive what will come.
Perhaps it was like this with your Thanksgiving tradition. As for the zoo, I think it was just tiredness on my part — weariness — of body and spirit.
These will pass and God willing, the zoo will still be there.
Sorry, Kyle was bored. I had a good time. I’m nevery bored when I’m with people I care about and we have fried chicken.
I see you found me again.
I wonder if it wasn’t expectations that caused your satisfaction and Kyle’s boredom of the same event. You came to be with family and see the zoo and Kyle came to see the zoo and see family. At least it wasn’t ‘one-stop’ shopping in that seeing the family wasn’t seeing the zoo. At least this time.