July 7, 2012
Buddy and the Way of Change
Just ask Buddy. If you can find him.
When we first moved to Plano almost seven years ago (it seems so strange to me to even say that, so impossible that we've been here that long), one of the first things we discovered was that living next to a duckpond and a city greenbelt meant a steady parade of interesting wildlife, like coyotes and a bobcat (named Bob, of course) and herons and even a snapping turtle that looked a little like something from Loch Ness. But our happiest discovery was a toad living just outside our apartment. We named him Buddy, for reasons that have long since escaped me.
Buddy would make a regular appearance right outside our door, and even in the beginning, he showed little fear. Being a twelve year-old boy at heart, I was never able to resist the urge to pick him up in those early years, and he expressed his displeasure in the way that all toads and frogs do. I believe they drink water all day just in case some manchild insists on picking them up.
But as the years passed, Buddy stopped peeing when I picked him up. He would simply hang there while I held him and showed him to Schuyler, who adored him from the beginning. He stood still while I took his photo. One night, I went outside and sat on the little stone wall next to our apartment and watched Buddy hunting for bugs. He had grown so accustomed to my presence by then that he went about his business without paying me any attention. I sat maybe two feet from him while he stalked his prey. As far as animal experiences go, it was pretty amazing.
And then, shortly after the gruesome gecko incident, Buddy disappeared. It has been weeks since I've seen him. Did he move away, following a shift in his food supply? Did his new chicky friend want a bigger place? Did one of the herons that lurk near the pond make a snack of him? Or even the snake whose shed skin we discovered in the grass last week? Did Buddy meet with tragedy, or did he simply ease on down the road?
The way of the world is the way of change. We say our goodbyes and we move on, and we do so with hearts that are heavy or with souls that are electrified with possibility, and we take pieces of all the homes and lives that we've led before. Those pieces become part of the complex tapestry of ourselves. Some are bittersweet and even tinged with regret, but they're all part of who we are, and who we are to become.
When we moved here, we did so powered by hope. Hope for this place, hope for Schuyler, hope that we'd found a place that could be home. And here's the thing. It was. Plano was a good fit for us for a long time before it soured. I don't regret moving here, not one bit. It was the right thing to do, and it saved Schuyler as much as any other choice we ever made.
Now that things have stagnated and now that Schuyler's future and whatever independence it might contain loom larger and more immediate, we could have stayed longer. Perhaps we should. And given the precarious job situation, perhaps we will be forced to do so a bit longer. But it's time to go. The way of the world, and the nature of change, is that it is rarely convenient. Change involves the breaking of things, not just building but rebuilding.
It's not easy. If it was, we'd all embrace change the way Schuyler does. She lives for change; she thrives on it in a way that runs counter to almost everything you've ever read about kids with disabilities. For Schuyler, their are no routines, only ruts. And so in her mind, the idea of moving to Chicago and starting at a new school and having new friends and expanding her family, it all makes perfect sense. She admitted to me again recently that she doesn't like her school now and doesn't have any real friends. If you're not a parent, I'm not sure I can explain to you how horrible and helpless that makes me feel. If you are, no explanation is required.
For Schuyler, change involves possibilities that are a little heartbreaking to me. She is eager to leave some things behind, and her ever-present optimism and belief in the future remains one of the more poignant aspects of her life to me. There's a lot that Chicago represents to us all, in ways that will become much more clear to everyone soon enough. We all have our personal as well as family reasons. But to Schuyler most of all, I think there's a persistent hope, possibly naive yet very real, that this time, she will find her place and her people.
I don't know what happened to Buddy, or if he'll return. If he does, one day in the hopefully imminent future I'll go pick him up one last time (from above, of course; pee on me once, shame on you...) and say goodbye to the only neighbor I ever really cared about. If Buddy has truly moved on, however, I can only say that I wish him well in his uncertain future. I wish the same for us all.
Update, 7/17: Buddy has returned! He let me pick him up last night without pissage, although he declined to have his photo taken. When I asked where he's been, he said he didn't want to talk about it. I'm guessing Vegas.