A few years ago I booked a show for a man [John] we'll call him. He loved animals & so did his daughters.
I've done hundreds of shows through the years... met lots of nice people, but this show always stood out in my mind. John was so enthusiastic & excited to share his love of animals with his daughters. He sat on the grass with the kids, as the other adults stood chatting in the back with their beers. He took each animal into his lap pointing out all its characteristics with joy to his girls. After the show, he took the alligator- -his favorite animal- and carried it around or sat with it the entire time. It had been his favorite animal as a boy & he was so excited about this special opportunity.
The following year they booked me again & I witnessed everything all over again. The daughters even donated their 2 tree frogs to the program one year, they loved it that much. I loved coming to Johns shows. I felt watching him with his girls renewed my own enthusiasm for what I do & it made me dream of having my own kids someday & how I could share my own enthusiasm with them.
Johns shows brought me lots of business to their neighborhood the following months. Although I had lost touch with Johns family, I always wondered how they were doing. I did dozens of shows at his neighbors parties over the last few summers & I would always ask about how his family was doing.
One of the times I asked, a dad pulled me aside after the show & quietly asked me, "had I heard what happened to John?" I nodded no, "he was in a horrible car accident," he said, "He's paralyzed from the neck down."
I felt like I had been hit by a truck.
I was immediately heart broken for him and his family.
I would ask for updates at each friends parties because his girls would be noticeably absent. The dads would just hang their heads. "We don't know how he is. He won't see anyone, any of us even."They'd say, "he used to be on bowling & poker & basketball teams with all of us dads, but he never comes anymore, not even to watch & he won't return anyone's calls & he won't accept visitors."
It was so upsetting to hear this news.
I wanted to reach out to him, but I didn't know how to. After all, I was just the animal show lady--would he even know who I was or would it even be appropriate?
Sadly I didn't have the courage to do anything at first. But weeks later at another show near his home, I mustered up the courage to ring their doorbell. I pulled up the drive only to notice that the house was empty & vacant, and there was a for sale sign out front.
I had missed my chance. I had no way to contact them now. I was so mad at myself.
That was 2 summers ago & I've never forgotten about John & his family.
A few weeks ago I got s call. A call from John. I almost missed it too as it got buried in voice mails that I had avoided submitting to my own depression & lack of enthusiasm about life & shows since loosing so much of myself in that tragic fire. My heart just hasn't been into it.
I returned his call & held back tears as he talked. I could feel the exhaustion & effort that went into his end of the conversation. It was his same voice, but less energetic blocked by long pauses & deep breaths.
He explained of his accident & that they had moved but he never forgot my show. His girls loved it. He loved it.
He was having another party for his girls & wanted me back again. I was so overjoyed. Not that he was booking me again, but that he was coming out of the depression I had known about for years. That he was trying to be normal & do the things that he loved to again. I couldn't contain my excitement & for weeks I had been anxiously awaiting his Sept 14th show. I was going to get to see John & his family again.
It was a busy Saturday... I had 4 bookings, Lisa had 2, Sara had 1.
We were maxed out on all animals. No creature had the day off. I wanted to give Johns family a great show & even pulled some retirees out for the day.
I was pleased to see that he looked better than I had assumed he would. He could sit up & hold his head up & even move his hands slightly.
John was rolled out onto the grass with the kids because he wanted to be part of the action. His girls were my helpers & the bravest & most ambitious of the lot. They took animals over to dad & sprawled snakes & lizards over his lap helping him touch them. They showed off their knowledge of the creatures to the guests & dad quizzed them along the way. His smile & pride was intense & enlightening. I had to force myself into "the zone" to keep myself together.
At the end it was time for the Alligator & John lit up & the first place it went was his lap. All the kids were excited & grandmas got out of their chairs to come get a close up of John & his beloved gator & his huge smile. :)
After the show we talked in his office where colorful artwork hung all over the walls. I asked who the artist was, and he told me that before his accident he had been a muralist, that's how he made a living. A fresh painting on an easel caught my eye & he said it was his. It was an assortment of colorful skull paintings, as he pointed out that he was going more retro & modern now with a chuckle. I smiled but smiled in awe at how difficult it must be for him to do. These fine details & fine lines placed with precision and perfection. When his hands tremble of twitch or don't respond the way ours do.
I had complete admiration for him, his struggle, his talents, & his strength to get through.
We've had many conversations since then that have opened my eyes even more.
Just seeing what John has went through - the highs & lows - has given me inspiration. Although his pain & depression had to run its course , he came back stronger.
He has the strength to struggle every day & he gets through it.
"I'll never understand why such terrible things happen to good people. I wake up every morning in extreme physical and emotional pain. My once independent body is now a burden to others.... I'll never forget that Alligator. It was love at first sight. I have always loved creatures so much and I'm blessed to share that with my girls. You are a special person. I could only hope that Mary grows up like you. " --John...
I feel so blessed to have crossed paths with John & learned so many life lessons from him. I hope to continue our friendship an shis enthusiasm.... as he has so unknowingly rekindled mine.