Until I was 10 years old, I was convinced that my grandfather, Harvey, was a zookeeper.
He lived in Bethesda, Maryland, and about twice a year he would come out to Los Angeles to visit. He would usually bring me and my older sisters a gift or two, but he would always bring his tape recorder.
From as early on as I can remember, he would insist on telling my sisters and me a story or two, and he would always record them. All the stories were about the zoo back in Brooklyn that he worked at for many years. In these stories all the animals would talk and more often than not, they would be troublemakers that my grandfather had to set straight. He had a lion (Leo) and an eagle (Eddie) and even a giraffe.
I wanted to grow up to be a zookeeper, just like him. I wanted to have great stories to tell my kids, just like him, and eventually carry around a tape recorder and tell stories to my grandchildren as well.
And then I got a little bit older and I started asking a lot of questions and I found out that he was never really a zookeeper.
A part of me always knew that, but for a long enough time I really wanted to believe him, and I wanted to believe that the animals could talk and that he could talk back to them, and that they would listen.
But then I got a little bit older and it wasn’t cool to believe, so I didn’t.
And then, when he was 85, he came to live with us because he was very sick, and he could tell that I didn’t believe him anymore, so he stopped telling the stories.
Until one day when he asked me, as a favor, if he could just tell me another one. It wasn’t about a rambunctious animal who’d gotten loose. It was about a buffalo that was sick and was dying and was lost. And the only happy part was that the buffalo got to say goodbye to his kids before he closed his eyes for the last time.
A few weeks later, my grandfather died in our home and I walked in and said goodbye. And that was the only happy part of that night.
If I could change anything, I’d probably go back and convince myself to believe for a little bit longer. Maybe I’d have a few more tapes to share with my kids.
I’ll try to play every one of those tapes for them, but I’m not going to play the one about the buffalo until I am very old, and if they ever ask me what my grandfather was like, I’m going to tell them that he was the world’s finest zookeeper.
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- ltlmonkey said: Loved this. <3 This made me cry.
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- shiraselko said: Lovely
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