Oscar the Turtle

I once lived in Indiana and worked for a weekly newspaper north of the city of Fort Wayne. Each year this small town had a weekly celebration called Turtle Days. It honored Oscar the turtle which lived in a local body of water.
The story goes that Oscar was once a pet that had been released into the lake around 1903. For some unknown reason he had continued to grow and grow, maybe it was the fertilizer runoff from the farms or maybe Oscar was a genetic throw back. It was only when cats and dogs started to disappear did people look out onto waters of the lake and wondered if Oscar had grown tired of the taste of fish.
The city elders in 1953 decided that the lake should be dredged and if Oscar existed it was decided he would be captured and placed back into captivity, but when they started dredging in the spring there was an above average rainfall and the task could not be completed. Every once and a while a cow will go missing but nobody looks to hard to find it.


As a middle aged heterosexual male I have no interest in going to a butterfly farm. Why would you even farm butterflies? My standard answer if asked, is “I am sorry I cannot go, as much as I would love to, but I am allergic to butterflies.”

So somehow, whether I am in Thailand or Costa Rica, I find myself walking through a butterfly farm. The time I remember most was the Costa Rica trip because I was traveling with my wife and her mother and uncle. We drove up to tour the farm. I try to do one selfless act a day. Actually this is not true, I am honestly so self-centered that as we are walking through the farm and my uncle is dragging himself around because he had just had a stroke, all I am thinking is that I must be getting major karma points for this act. And that in an hour I know we will be back in the hotel where I can get a cool drink and take a swim in the pool.
I know this is shallow when surrounded by so much beauty and I should have felt ashamed, but it did not stop me from obsessing about cocktails and floating on my back. There is some depth to my shallowness!

Years later when I am back in the States, I can’t remember what I drank or what I ate that night, or even what the pool looked like. I do remember my uncle-in-law dragging his one bad leg behind him as he slowly propelled himself forward. He was grabbing life by the throat and not letting go. He knew he would not return here again.

A couple of weeks ago I was back in my hometown with my wife visiting longtime friends, Joy and Mike. Joy has cancer and has lost all her hair. She was wearing a very cute scarf and it wrapped elegantly around her head. We were all curious what bald Joy looked like and asked if she would take if off. There is a vulnerability to a bald head and all I could think about when looking at it was, I wish I had spent more time appreciating the butterflies.