Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Lion, the Zoo, and My Father

It was a warm, sunny, summer day in Northeast Indiana. The factory where my dad worked was having a company-wide picnic in the city park next to the zoo.

Part of the festivities was free admission to the zoo, and we gladly took advantage of the situation; strolling past exhibits of spider monkeys, prairie dogs, and venomous snakes.

In one cage, all by itself, was a mountain lion. In front of the small group of people gathered at the cage, a teenaged boy was locking eyes with the cat and quickly moving back and forth, with the mountain lion jumping side to side to keep up with him.

I turned to my father and said, "That's sad. He shouldn't be teasing the lion like that."

My dad said "Nah, he likes it. That cat's having fun."

Fast forward 20 minutes or so. I was walking through the zoo on my own, having convinced my parents that animal-watching was far more beneficial than having seconds of now-warm potato salad.

I found myself in front of the mountain lion's cage and decided it looked bored and needed some of that chase-the-boy-back-and-forth action.

Less than 60 seconds later, I was being firmly reprimanded by a zoo employee for teasing the big cat.

"But my dad said -," I choked out before quickly walking out of the zoo with tears on my cheeks, feeling embarrassed and ashamed and somehow betrayed.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...there comes a time in most folks' lives when they realize their parent is only human, after all. It's shocking and disappointing, but it's also part of growing up and a step toward appreciating that parent in a new way.

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