Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hello Old Friend

Hi Folks!

Thanks for stopping by! I hope that spring is in full swing where you are!

I came across an interesting quote recently. It might've been said by Dr. Suess himself, Theodor Geilsel, but I can't be certain of that. In any case, it goes like this: "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." As with anything else in life, that's easier said than done.

I was at my local Meijer store the other week, where I found a 'Best Of Eric Clapton' CD. I'm a huge Clapton fan, and the CD had a number of songs on it that I love. One of those is a tune that gets virtually no air play whatsoever; I came across it years ago tucked away on another album. But this 'Best Of' included that song, "Hello Old Friend."

"Hello Old Friend" is about running into people you haven't seen in a long while, and how agreeable it is to see them again. It's an upbeat song whose chorus goes, "Hello, old friend, it's really good to see you once again." It never occurred to me that that song would make me think of Pretty Boy Duck, but when I popped the recently-purchased CD in the player, and listened to the song I hadn't heard in years, Pretty Boy sprang immediately to mind. The tears followed soon after.

It's easy to become complacent when things run smoothly. And the longer things run smoothly, the more complacent one can become. After years of looking after the ducks without incident, I guess I just assumed that incident-free was the norm, rather than the exception. How foolish I was! After all, I know firsthand how many predators lurk in the area: the hawks and snapping turtles who always make such quick work of the ducklings in spring; the raccoons that keep Animal Control Officer Jeff so busy; the dogs that people bring to the pond and allow to run free - in spite of Whoville's leash law. In retropspect, there were many painful possibilities that I turned a blind eye to.

I suppose we all second-guess ourselves after some preventable tragedy takes place. How easy it is to beat yourself up over things that can't be changed! I've tried very hard not to do that, but the sadness remains nonetheless, so that every time I hear certain songs that remind me of Pretty Boy, the tears welled up in my eyes. I wonder if he ever knew how loved he was.

While I find the aforementioned quote by Dr. Suess interesting, I think that it's much more suited to optimists. For someone like me - for whom loss has been a recurring theme (loss of innocence, loss of childhood, loss of trust), it's hard to smile about the fact of Pretty Boy's life, and my experiences with him, when the loss of him is so devastating. An optimist would say, "But Pretty Boy made your life special!" while I say, "But Pretty Boy is gone!"

So I listen to "Hello Old Friend" and think about all those days/months/years that I took feeding the ducks for granted. Without fail, Pretty Boy - simply by being his alpha duck self - would brighten my mood, often made me laugh, and always made me smile. Who knew a duck could do all that? Who knew it would come to a screeching halt, out of nowhere, without warning?

This, I think, is the lesson to be learned: that it's important to appreciate the great things in your life as an on-going effort, rather than only on special occasions, and not assume that they will still be in your life for years to come. Change can happen in the blink of an eye, and when it does, there's often no time for I-love-you's, or good-bye's. Such was the case with Pretty Boy.

If I seem melancholy, it's because I am. Pretty Boy was a strong presence in my life. He helped define my identity. He was the reason newspapers wrote stories about me. It's hard to know who to be, without him. Of all the remaining ducks at the pond, not one can hold a candle to Pretty Boy; their personalities seem barely formed by comparison. I will, of course, continue to care for those remaining ducks. But there is a painful void, a screaming quiet, where Pretty Boy used to be. That glaring absence is the reason why I cannot "smile because it happened." The loss is simply too great.

There will no doubt be another strong presence at the pond one day, just as there are now special cats in my life where there used to be other special cats before them. The new special cats in no way take the place of the old ones; they merely add more great memories to the collection. But make no mistake: those previous special cats all took pieces of my heart with them when they left, and there is no replacing those missing pieces.

Time is the only cure for a grieving heart, and even time is no guarantee. Every now and then, I still cry over an amazing cat I knew who died ten years ago. Phil Collins' "You'll Be In My Heart" is the song that goes with those special cat memories, and when the local radio station plays it, I take the time to miss Macavity, and grieve anew. I bet you have certain songs that get to you, too.

I've known people who were so devastated by the loss of their pet that they vowed never to get another. I don't agree with that thinking. Just imagine all the wonderful critter characters you'd miss out on if you closed your heart to anything new! As painful as the loss of Pretty Boy - and Macavity before him - is, my heart will go on (another song that makes me cry for a lost critter!) and savor the next phase of life. But right now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go shed a few more tears.

That's all for now, folks! Until next time, please be kind to all the critters!

p.s. There's another old friend I want to give a nod to: Tammy Shealey! You know who you are! It's been a long time, my friend. Please shoot me an email, let me know how your life is going.

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