Finally, summer! Time for us boomers to vacation – good food, lazy exploration, gathering with friends. And occasionally, we do good works in our leisure time. Some people get carried away with that, volunteering in underprivileged countries and making the rest of us look bad for sitting on our flabby backsides at the beach, eating chips and hoping for reasonably clean restrooms. For me and my late husband Ted, there was a stretch of time when the worlds of leisure and philanthropy collided in a weirdly predictable way. Nearly every vacation seemed to involve an animal rescue of some sort.
Our first adventure: Key West. We had just gotten to the water’s edge.
“Oh, no,” Ted said, pointing. “Look. That gull? It’s caught up in plastic netting.”
I watched Mr. Nature and a Mr. Passerby do their testosterone thing, untangling the wiggling, squawking bird until he was freed. Maybe I laid on the “my hero” stuff too thick (or thickly, for you boomer scholars), but let’s say it was good for several days of fancy dinners, from which I became thicker.
Next came a common-murre sighting in northern California, which was not so common to us, as it seemed to be covered in something un-oceanlike. We reported it, and had a story to tell to anyone whom we cornered. We boomers like to tell stories that make us feel heroic. Then we don’t feel so inferior when we see twenty-somethings playing Frisbee. Physical prowess is so overrated.
Then there was the time we spotted a single moose (I presume he was single) in the middle of a road in Vermont. OK, I realize it’s not difficult to “spot” a moose, since they are the size of a small apartment building. The poor thing was stymied by passing cars. Superman got out and stopped traffic until Mickey Moose made it safely back into the woods. All those rescues went pretty well. Ted did the active work while I supported him by searching my pocketbook for lip gloss and examining the leg hairs I’d missed during my semi-annual shaving. We were a good team.
So on another trip, I wasn’t too surprised when another mission presented itself. We were driving along on a back road somewhere between upstate New York and Maine (they blend when you’re digging around in the snack bag) when we came ‘round a curve and nearly ran over a very large turtle in our path. Ted swerved and pulled over onto the soft shoulder. I helped by gasping and shouting in fear when other drivers whizzed by quickly. Ted got out to study the situation. The turtle was heading away from the lake – the water source he needed.
“Not good,” was Ted’s assessment. “He needs to get back to the water.”
I started to move toward the turtle, remembering the tiny little turtle I’d had growing up, the one that got lost and turned up a year later in the back of the hall closet. Alive.
“No,” shouted Ted. “Don’t touch it. You’ll lose your hand.”
He immediately opened the trunk of the car, looking for tools and anything else that might help. I was starting to feel affectionate for our new little clawed friend, until I witnessed it try to snap off every tool Ted used. Finally, after much effort and nearly getting run over in the process, we (and by “we,” I mean “Ted”) got the turtle back near the lake.
The memory of that rescue will live forever. The high-fives, the “We did it again,” the gleeful, smugly victorious and obnoxiously over-the-top complimenting of ourselves as a rescue team, as we slowly drove off the soft shoulder and back onto the road to head home. And as we did, I looked back, in the side view mirror, proud we’d accomplished yet another good deed.
Yes, I looked back, smiling and once again sipping my now-barely-cold iced drink, watching the road slowly fade away, when I got just the slightest glimpse of the turtle … hmm, back at the road’s edge … now stepping out onto the pavement from whence he’d been rescued … picking up speed, glaring at the other side with determination.
Friends, it may be that objects in the mirror appear larger than they really are, and I can’t be certain, but I believe that when I caught the last glimpse of the turtle before we took the next curve?
He was flipping us the bird.