Monday, August 24, 2015
By Louise Kinross
A very wise person—Julie Keon, who wrote What I would Tell You: One Mother's Adventure with Medical Fragility—told me that you can’t grieve something you haven’t lost.
So, you can’t choose to preemptively grieve an event, so that you can avoid mourning the loss when it actually happens. It seems like a very human thing to do—to imagine that there’s something we can do to avoid pain. But it’s not possible.
This may explain why when I was speaking with someone this morning about my son and his dreams, I started crying when I remembered that for so many years he wanted to be a zookeeper. I thought I'd pushed that memory right out of my mind.
But this morning I recalled how a number of years ago I’d contacted a few zoos and farms to find out about volunteer opportunities, and been told that volunteers have no contact with animals at any of these places. So it was a non-starter in terms of getting experience.
And then I’d googled to see what kind of education you had to have to become a zookeeper and realized that it typically required a university degree (which my son wouldn’t get) and skills like public speaking for giving talks about the animals (and my son doesn’t speak).
So after a number of years of asking my son what he wanted to do, and him signing that he wanted to be a zookeeper, I stopped asking. Because I didn’t know how to tell him that it wasn’t on the table.
The topic of zoos came up recently because he was part of a camp program that involved visiting local zoos and farms. He was ecstatic. One day he and his worker showed me the sign they’d devised for tapir (see above), his favourite animal: tapping your nose with the letter “T” because of the short trunk it uses to snatch fruit and leaves.
Maybe, now that he's left the school system and we're looking at “realistic” volunteer jobs, it was that reminder of his love of the tapir that caused me to voice the ludicrous “zookeeper” dream.
And my chest stung and for a moment I thought I was hungry, till I realized my heart was hurting and my cheeks were wet.