Dead animal by the side of the road

Driving to work today, a painter’s palette of autumn colors on all the trees around me and the symphony of traffic up and down the boulevard, I noticed an animal tucked into the side of the road.

It was a groundhog, on its back, stiff in rigor mortis, and all of us en route to some place important passed it quickly, driving at 50 or more miles per hour, me veering into the turn-around lane to go south toward my office. It lay there, probably unnoticed, I have no idea for how long, and its life had reached its conclusion, perhaps in the dark of night, perhaps during a misguided attempt to cross through manmade madness.

The result was, an animal in the curve of the road, while all life around us goes on as usual.

This morning, as the kids ate breakfast and we emptied the dishwasher so we could fill it once again with the dirty dishes, I boiled some eggs and used the new egg slicer I bought at Target yesterday.

It’s a tool we don’t really need but which makes it easier to chop up foods in even fashion, and for me, it’s a reminder of the way Grandpa Artie made the salad for dinner at my grandparents’ apartment, with little square dices of hard-boiled egg he had carefully and precisely chopped with this plastic kitchen tool.

Little did I know, the egg slicer had memorable connotations for my husband, too. He tucked it, used, into the top rack of the dishwasher and looked up with a smile.

“You know, when I saw you bought this, I thought, awwww, this reminds me of so many things from childhood,” he said. “We used to argue over who got to use it in my house. It’s funny that such an insignificant item can have fond memories for both of us.”

It’s the little details of life that make it so worthwhile, isn’t it? The poor animal at the side of the road; wasn’t his existence worth something on this planet? I am so glad I noticed him this morning, if only to give a nod in the direction of the meaning of its life.

So, too, an obscure egg slicer. Ah, the issues we first-world folks have. Like any of this is necessary.

But it carries meaning and for that, I am grateful. All weekend, I’ve felt that Grandpa Artie were here with me, not in the ghoulish sense, but I’ve felt his presence heavily, comfortingly, like a blanket or a soft firm hand on my shoulder. I could see him nodding, see him approving, feel his loving gaze over my entire family.

And so the purchase of an instrument that takes me back to those important connections, those memories of Friday night dinners with my grandparents over the small bistro table in their apartment kitchen.

That’s what we’re here for. The meaning and the contribution and the higher purpose. It’s get lost so easily in the workaday busy-ness we all fall prey to.

It’s not our fault. We are conditioned to strive and achieve and worry and want.

But when the mask lifts and we can see clearly for a moment, see the meaning in the cloud formations or feel the heartstrings of a dead creature lying anonymous in the road, that’s when it becomes better than we could ever have imagined.

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