My wife, Donna, and I live in a somewhat rural area, which means that we share our space with the descendants of some of the creatures Noah managed to salvage from the deluge. Interacting with and observing these animals is an endless joy. One summer morning, we watched as a young fox, fresh out of the den with its mother, skipped and leaped after a butterfly. A coyote and his mate strolled past us as we worked in the yard a few years back. And we have more photos of turkeys, hummingbirds, hawks, herons, vultures, eagles, and other things with wings than the Audubon Society.
This year we were treated to a visit from a young buck, with his antlers still in velvet; he was nibbling on our mulberry tree. A doe and her twin fawns soon followed and visited from time to time throughout the summer. One of us would call the other to report a sighting of the buck, doe, or fawns.
Early one recent Saturday morning, I was driving to the park with our dog when I spotted the buck lying on the grass near the road. He must have darted in front of a car and been struck and killed sometime during the night. I didn’t want to say anything to Donna about it since we had been so particularly fond of seeing it around.
My plan was to avoid driving past that part of the street until the road crew could remove the carcass. This was going to be a challenge since we are usually in and out frequently over the weekend. Our first drive together was to the local farmers’ market. As I remembered the dead buck to the right, I turned left and mumbled something about “a drive through the neighborhood for a change.” So far so good, now I just had to get back home after the market the same way. Mission accomplished.
Our next drive was to get dinner, so once again I was struck by the spirit of spontaneity and suggested we turn left into the neighborhood and take a look at the progress they were making on a neighbor’s new pond. We returned safely home by the same route. I had successfully protected Donna for one day.
Sunday morning dawned and we were on our way to Mass. As I got to the end of the driveway this time, Donna suggested that we go left and look again at that fascinating new pond. Deus ex machina! I drove contentedly on toward church, but even as dense as I usually am, I started to wonder if something was up.
I turned to Donna and asked her if there was anything wrong with going our usual way to Mass. She smiled and said she had taken the dog for a walk that morning and saw that our favorite buck had been hit by a car at the end of our street. She didn’t want me to be upset by it, so she wanted to keep me from going that way until the road crew could come on Monday morning!
There we were, re-enacting (in a way) the story by O. Henry (The Gift of the Magi). Both Donna and I thought we were protecting the other from pain, but, we could have been giving and receiving comfort from each other instead. There is a wonderful sense of consolation which comes from giving. But, there is also great generosity in allowing others to give to us. I’m certainly glad she didn’t cut off her hair and sell it to buy a watch fob for the watch that I sold to buy her a new hair comb.