How do I show my gratitude?
Memorial Day. I wake up after a night of tossing, my body turned sideways across my bed. The room looks odd until I blink a few times and realize how far I’ve roamed from my normal orientation. The FitBit on my wrist will confirm that it was not a restful night, even as it sends me a gleeful message that I’ve walked a marathon in six days’ time. I’ll ponder the implications of my every step logged somewhere in the cloud later, I tell myself, right now it’s time to get up and see if I can’t get things squared away after the weekend’s graduation festivities.
The new graduate, Seventeen, is up and ready to mow before he goes to work. The ruffling of his summer is behind him—in reverse order: graduation, graduation party, honors convocation, and wisdom teeth removal—he looks ahead now to a summer of working to save money for college. He’s so excited to launch his next chapter.
I elect to start with pitting the over-purchase of cherries I have left from his party. It’s a messy process, but the Internet has taught me that fitting the cherries over the end of a funnel is a great way to pit them. I’m sitting there awash in cherry pits and splattered in the sticky juice, when Seventeen arrives back inside, the mower ominously quiet.
“There’s a large, dead, bloody creature in the front yard,” he informs me.
We go to the window to see. Sure enough, on the grass in front of the house there’s a opossum, its feet in the air.
“Are you sure it’s dead?” I ask him.
“It has a big gash on its side and there are flies buzzing in and out,” he tells me.
We stand there looking out, regard the equally dead branches in one of the trees in the front yard, and I look back at the opossum.
“It’s not dead,” I tell him.
Together we watch the wounded animal. It’s righted itself and is lifting its head and then dropping its nose into the grass. It must be in severe pain.
A flurry of wondering what to do later, I have the number for off-hours animal control and a dispatcher is telling me he’ll send someone soon. Meanwhile, the opossum is struggling to move and I’m wondering how to corral it until help arrives. In short order a policeman drives up the street in a marked SUV. To my “Good Morning” he replies:
“Are you sure it’s alive?”
“Yes. Barely. But it just moved about two feet.”
He’s in full uniform, a gun and more on his hip, a communication device strapped across his chest. He begins conferring on this, walking away from me and up and down my neighbor’s driveway. Alternately my daughter and son stand on the driveway with me watching. My mother has pulled a chair to the dining room window.
Ultimately, the man gets a pole out of his truck with a loop on the end. I suggest to Thirteen that she go inside and not watch. The opossum snarls weakly as the officer works the loop around it. I turn away, knowing the end will be swift. When it’s over the officer asks me for a garbage bag and I bring three. He asks if my trash will be picked up tomorrow and when I tell him it’ll be Friday, I am relieved when he allows that he’ll take care of the body.
Throughout, he’s shown no emotion, not even in greeting. As I thank him seven more times he says simply, “I hope your day gets better.”
“Yours too,” I reply, thinking he probably became a policeman to encourage law-abiding behavior, not deal with dying opossums. I immediately wish there was more I could do to fully express my gratitude.
And the thing is, as I stood in my drive watching, I was profoundly aware this was the second time in just a few weeks I’d had to call for help. The first time was an outright 911 call when we needed an ambulance to help care for Ninety-One after a fall. The lieutenant of the first-response team, who came in a fire truck from their station little more than half a mile away, remembered that they’d been to my house a couple of years before before, under similar circumstances. Both fire truck and ambulance personnel were professional, courteous and efficient. In a short time my mother and I were headed for the emergency room in their capable care. Fortunately, she was not irreparably harmed in her fall.
It’s Memorial Day, a day when shopping and picnics and outings launch the unofficial start of summer. It’s a day when we remember those who have served our country and lost their lives doing so. And this Memorial Day is a day when I feel gratitude for the women and men who serve today, who come at the behest of an alarmed phone call and who offer their services with honed skills, with comforting words, and without apology. It is so little, but my words are the gift I have to offer in return.
Thank you, Rxo