Our turtle Spot died. Spot was a painted turtle who was 32+ years old. I say "+" because that was when he was found and God knows how old he already was.
My first memories of Spot are of when we lived in a little bungalow-type house in Pleasant Lake. Jutting out of my parent's bedroom window was a terrarium that my father built out of 2x4's and glass; it held Spot and transitory lizards and other turtles whose lifespans fell far short of Spot's. We'd watch Spot from the window inside my parent's bedroom, which served as a viewing pane. The terrarium even held, at one time, a small Cayman alligator Alfonse that bit my dad's fingers bloody when he tried to pick it up, but that's another story for another time.
My parents' friend Allen told me recently my father knew more about box turtles than a certified nature dude, or conservationist, or someone who studies them and writes books or holds nature walks or any "official" turtle expert. He could have been a great conservationist, Allen said.
I had this maybe foolish belief that my father continued to live through Spot. In our current house, my dad had converted a random sink on the second floor into a natural looking habitat. He painted the walls to look like a forest, lined the sink with plastic and filled it with water and driftwood and rocks, and laid down turf along the sink's outer edge to look like grass. Spot spent his days swimming in his "pond" and making his presence known through the sounds of him scratching the plastic, living through our childhoods and my father's death and my brother's wedding.
Spot would poke his head up to the glass to spy on the passersby: my brother and I bickering as we watched TV, me slamming my door in indignation as a bitchy teen, my sister-in-law's bridesmaids getting ready for the big day. He'd stretch his extendable head as far as it would go, so curious, his brown eyes meeting mine as I'd catch him staring. I'd be brushing my hair in the hallway mirror, checking my clothes before I went out - and there he was, just watching. I'd step towards him and he'd spring his head back into his turtleneck, caught. I'd tell myself: that's my dad just taking a peek, saying hi.
Although no one believes us, my little brother and I both witnessed--on separate occasions--Spot inexplicably escaping the high, glassed-in sink. We'd find him in the middle of the rug far from his 'habitat," on his feet. If he'd fallen there's the bigger chance he'd have tumbled down the stairs, and his location, unhurt--in the middle of the floor--defied logic. Zak and I truly believe he was a magic turtle.
After he died my mother did no more than tell me he passed away - and that she was very, very upset for a couple of days. And that was all; I didn't need to know more, or why, or what that meant, because I knew. He contained a little piece of my dad and now he is gone.
7/29/2013 12:10:36 pm
Nikki: So beautifully written and a wonderful tribute to, not only Spot, but your Dad. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt memories. Now Spot is back with your Dad.
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