Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Philosophy of Crikey

When writing these little blogs, I try to stick to the amusing stuff. I mean, with all of the crap in the world (and certainly on the Internet) to make folks sad, scared, angry (even if it's righteous indignation) - why not stick to subjects that incite laughter instead?

However.

This morning, Crikey and I had a brief, yet profound, exchange (the beauty of it, naturally, is that he has no idea it was profound).

When I first heard of Steve Irwin, I was in college. Which essentially meant that I recognized the new catchphrases of "oh isn't she a BEAUTY" and "CRIKEY!" - but had neither the time nor the inclination to watch his show (or any others - didn't even watch "Friends" until around it's 3rd or 4th season). So while I found the man endearing (if insane!), he wasn't a big part of my life.

In 2006, Crikey started kindergarten. I remember being both shocked and grateful when I learned of Steve Irwin's death. Shocked, since he seemed invincible and grateful because he passed quickly and not as a result of a crocodile run-in.

When his memorial service aired, Mena and I had just sat down with some wine. At the time, neither she nor I were fans, per se, and really stumbled onto the program almost by accident. We watched because we liked him and to pay our respects. I'm not sure if Mena had any idea of how important this moment was - I certainly didn't. It really is a beautiful thing when Life hands us accidents like these.

As we watched, I remember being deeply moved - though not neccessarily by how sad everyone was at the loss. What I found so much more amazing was the fact that these people were showing their love and appreciation for the man by showing, of all things, a blooper reel. That stuck with me - that in the middle of this tragedy, there was laughter, genuine laughter. Also, that this humor didn't feel out of place at all, and I couldn't help but think that this guy must have been Something Else for this to be his memorial.

After that, watching the Croc Hunter re-runs became a nightly ritual at our home - after dinner, we'd all sit down and watch Stevo. It was great fun for us (no matter how stressful our day had been, we could lose ourselves in the energy, adventure and sheer enthusiasm of this lovable nutjob) and if the kids got something out of watching it, more the better. As neither of my boys had yet shown a real interest in live action entertainment (animation, Muppets and CGI still reigned supreme), my expectations on that front were quite low. Was I in for a shock.

Looking back, I find it interesting that within mere weeks of the service, we were referring to the man as "Steve" or "Stevo" - as though he was a person we knew (rather than a celebrity - those folks who require more specific one word names, like JimHenson, JoaquinPhoenix and IngridBergman). That Kermit, despite his inherent shyness (to say nothing of the autism) was saying "crikey!" when expressing surprise. Now that I think of it, it wasn't just Steve - the boy would talk about Terri, Bindi, Brian and Wes as though they were part of his social circle - and Mena and I fell right into that practice along with him.

It took us several months to work up the nerve to tell Crikey that Stevo had died. He's a pretty sensitive guy; I was genuinely worried that he'd be so sad about the news that he'd no longer be able to enjoy Steve's work and I didn't want to ruin that source of joy for him.

I remember how sad the little guy was - though not for the reasons I expected. Most 7 year olds, I think, would have been sad that his hero was gone or that there would be no more shows or movies to watch. Now, Crikey was aware of that - but to him, that wasn't the point. He wasn't even worried about the crocs, since "Brian-o and Wes'll take care of them". What he found heartbreaking was thinking about the folks left at Austrailia Zoo - especially Bindi (to whom he could most relate) and Bob Irwin, Steve's father, since "it's much worse for a dad to lose his son."

Every parent knows (or should know) how wonderful his/her child is. One of the perks of parenthood is the occassional glimpse of the adult that is developing from the little monkey s/he is raising. Sometimes it's how the sense of humor is developing, or what talents s/he possesses (math, baseball, art). For me, by FAR, the best part of parenthood is when I get an inkling of something beyond the gifts - when what is sensed is how the gifts are going to be used.

Crikey recently had a school project that required him to write a page on what change he wants to make in the world. At first he was stuck. So I pointed out that many people make a difference with their careers - what kind of career did he want? Still stuck - it hit me then how little he thinks of the future, being quite content in the present, thank you very much (more good advice from him!) - so....

ME: Well, would you like to be, maybe, like Stevo?
CRIKEY: (blinking in surprise) What?
ME: You could choose to work with wildlife - you love animals, and your personality is a lot like Stevo's. You'd probably like having a job like his.
CRIKEY: (eyes widening) I could be like STEVO?
ME: Sure you could.
CRIKEY: I could save animals like HIM?

I sat there, waiting for him to process that.

CRIKEY: So, if I work like Stevo, then I'll be helping the animals like he did, so even though he's gone, he's not?

While shopping for stocking stuffers, I found the Steve Irwin Memorial Tribute. I didn't really think Crikey would want to watch it - but he'd like that the money went to the Wildlife Warriors, so I bought it for him. He and I discussed what was on it, and while he liked having it, he agreed that it would be too sad to watch.

When we get up unusually early, we watch DVDs in the morning before school - usually something easy to turn off (like a concert). Today, Crikey brought me the Memorial Tribute.

CRIKEY: Could we watch this?
ME: Are you sure? It's pretty sad.
CRIKEY: Only parts, mom. The rest is happy, like Stevo likes it.

I think it's quite possible that without ever watching it, Crikey got the point of that memorial, and of course Steve Irwin, better than I did.