The Gerbil

We got this black Gerbil for the kids with a few lighter markings here and there kindof mimicking the traditional Gerbil markings but taken down to the dimmer end of the monochrome spectrum. He was a transitional pet as we would later learn, who taught us many things in his short life, like the fish that followed and the dog.

When you begin a family, all you have are your own internal models, formed out of your own experience. There are a few who are able to build and embellish on these models, something greater than their own experience. There are many who are left somehow bound by the models they harbor, with sometimes a hidden desire to tear down those models and start from scratch, or adhere so tightly to specifications as to be somewhat inattentive to experience in the present or to try and warp experience in the present to fit the plan. Deviations that seem to catch one unawares, one who still sees the tree standing, long after it has been uprooted. The fountain after the drought. Wishful, magical thinking. Wanting it to be so, as it is not so, and can not be made so, at least according to the overlay of two separate sets of specifications. Creativity and flexibility with a minimum of negative emotion is what is called for. An ability to see a big picture and “roll with it”, and have faith or a back of the mind wishful belief that somehow things will turn out alright no matter what. If they don’t, well, it ain’t the end of the world and we’ll just keep on trying and not take it like a grand piano on the back, just walk away with what we still got. But keep the important things, like caring for each other, and seeing each other as fully as possible, being able to accept what may clash with our predeterminations. A bond is necessary.

One day my son and I watched this Gerbil take his last breath, dying of old age. My son noticed that Mr. Gerbil was acting strangely, moving very slowly with jerky motions.  And as I came up to the cage with my son, the Gerbil appeared out of a nest of cedar shavings and stretched out his arms and legs as if he were reaching for the four directions, touching the ends of the earth.  And then there was a profound relaxation/contraction into motionlessness as his limbs ratcheted back.

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