Donna Tavano: Loss Leaders

I was getting ready for bed when I reached up and realized I was one earring short of the two I had suspended on my ears 12 hours before. It was a sparkly snowflake, its disappearance indicating it was as fleeting as the ice crystals descending from the winter sky just outside my window. Was it hiding in the kitchen, having leaped off my lobe while I was making tacos for dinner? Had it escaped into the audio book section of the library, where I had been a few hours earlier, or was it stuck in the Bermuda Triangle of my car between my seat and the console?

These are questions which will probably remain unanswered. Sure, if I was lucky I might spot it being slurped up by the vacuum three months later while cleaning my car. More likely it would live forever Somewhere Out There, trampled into oblivion by boots or tires, or suffer a silent catch basin drowning, basically irretrievably lost. The land of lost earrings most certainly abuts the world of lost socks, hubcaps and class rings. 

Experiencing loss is ubiquitous, striking both young and old in both intangible and tangible ways. It begins at the beginning, with birth. There we are, all cozy and comfy, floating about the womb without a care in the world when whomp – the trap door snaps open and we’re thrust into that cold, noisy, exposed place we call life. Our moms do their best, nursing or bottle feeding us for a year or so, which we gratefully accept as the next-best-thing, then, that too, is lost to us as we’re weaned. To help us self soothe, our parents give us “lovies” we drag around like mini Linuses from the Peanuts gang. Knowing how attached little tykes are to their special friends, our hearts break when Facebook issues a sorrowful plea for Baby Maisy’s “Baa-Baa,” gone missing on a cross country trek to San Francisco. Remarkably, those scraggly scraps of critters are often found and returned by compassionate parents or other ex-children who know how important little comforts can be to their inconsolable tiny masters. They’ve been there themselves.

Our grandson holds dear his “Po.” Nine short years ago it was a lovely pastel blue baby gift, a tiny hippo head attached to a soft square of blanket, made just for loving. Today, to all but Chase, it is untouchable, a grey bacteria-ridden biohazard scrap of unrecognizable nature. I have sewn and resewn its every rip, tear and decapitation. As he pleaded again for emergency intervention, I pronounced the end was in sight. In a few minutes he produced a pile of “Po” backups purchased years ago by crisis averting parents, in the event of an unforeseen calamity. Identical, only two of the group had been named and used – barely. Like an old hound dog only wanting its favorite bone, Chase used “Twisty” and “Other Po” in dire emergencies when “Po” was undergoing surgery or the annual laundering. I advised that with judicious use, the two could take him through college, his first born and maybe even to his grave. He accused me of being morbid. Such words at only nine, yet! Feeling like the Walrus from “Through the Looking Glass,” I said the time had come to talk of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax – of cabbages and kings…and…discussing compromises we have to make in life as we deal with our losses, be they earrings or “Po's.” 

Two days later we engaged in deeper conversation. They were adopting a rabbit. They already have a dog, are getting another dog, etc., etc. Upon hearing the plan, I grumbled and fretted, cautioned and wagged my finger. We had endured many rabbit adventures back in the day, ranging from my Muff I, electrocuted by munching on a lamp cord, then, when the kids were small, a rogue male who had only been treated kindly and with love yet who aggressively attacked anyone who came three feet near its hutch. Finally, the mini lop who gave up the ghost after a heinous neighborhood dog execution, necessitating a creative explanation as to the mysterious, sudden disappearance of Fluffy IV. Chase cajoled, “But Mormor, why are you so negative, you know you will love the bunny.” I sighed and looked deeply into his innocence, not quite believing the words which slipped from my lips, making me feel 96, not 66. 

“By the time you get to my age, you’ve suffered a lot of losses: family, friends, relationships and a host of soft, furry things. Sometimes you’re so tired of losing things, you just don’t want to bring more things into your life you might lose.” Unrelenting, Chase urged, “But, Mormor, feel how soft she is, just hold her, you won’t want to let her go.” “That’s right, Chase,” I responded, as I took her into my lap and sighed deeply, “I won’t want to let her go...”