July 7, 2012

Buddy and the Way of Change

The way of the world is 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.

Over the years, Buddy has remained a constant summertime companion. We watched him as he relocated from the wall to a gap next to a manhole cover about ten feet away, and we saw him take on a lady friend. A few weeks ago, I watched him eat a not-small gecko, which was a disturbing reminder that in the world of small animals, toads and frogs are actually relentless killers. I was amazed that Buddy had been with us for so long until I looked up toad lifespans and found that toads can live up to forty years. Can you imagine that?

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.


MFA Mama said...

This comment is less poignant than your post deserves, but thank you for that factoid about toad life-spans! We have a toad that lives on and about our front porch and stalks me. No, really. See, I'm not exactly AFRAID of toads, but I AM easily startled, and this one seems to take delight in placing himself in a potted plant or behind a downspout so as to jump out at me with a mighty peep of "GOTCHA AGAIN, SUCKER!" I named him The Undertoad. He has been after me for years now and my husband tried to convince me that toads don't live that long and we clearly just live in a toad-rich environment. BUT NOW I KNOW BETTER!

Christine said...

Wonderful post! I wish you could bottle Schuyler's enthusiasm and optimistic attitude about change...I'd be first in line to buy some:-) Continued good luck to all of you on your new journey!

Anonymous said...

Making life changing decisions like that can be hard. But so can staying somewhere you feel helpless. Ive been there. Hope it all works out for you!

Loves Pickles said...

All I can say is I never, ever tire of your writing!! So eloquent, true, beautiful, painful, brutal. Cheers, and good luck on the next phase! *Clinks glass*

Unknown said...

I stumbled upon your blog and totally connected to this post. Love the connection that was made with Buddy.

Unknown said...

As much as we'll miss having you here in DFW, I'm genuinely excited for you and Schuyler. But it also sounds like you're leaving the blog, too; I hope that's not the case. I suppose we'll still be able to read your Monday column at SFSN, but I would miss reading about Schuyler specifically. But then, I suppose she's getting to that age now when personal privacy becomes more important to her. We've learned that teenage girls WITH "special needs" are NOOOOOOOO different from teenage girls WITHOUT them! Best to her and you and Julie wherever you go!

-- karhill54 (in Garland)

Robert Hudson said...

I have no intention of leaving the blog. I'm just kind of busy these days. (There's also a lot less to write about when Schuyler's out of school for the summer. She mostly swims, which is great for her but light on writing material.)

I anticipate doing a lot more writing here in the very near future.