Sunday, November 22, 2009

Planting Pablo’s Oak

Pablo is gone now. But before he died, he planted an acorn that has since grown into a small tree. Last weekend, Steve and I took Pablo’s oak up the lake as a memorial to a fondly remembered friend.

So who was Pablo? Here he is:

No, not the person; that’s Ben, a great guy who gave up part of his 2005 Christmas vacation to come down from Kentucky and help us rebuild after Katrina. Pablo is the squirrel. He brightened our lives through all the dark, heartbreaking months we were struggling to recover from the hurricane.

Katrina’s combination of wind and flood decimated the neighborhood’s squirrel population. The sole survivor was Pablo, a rather small male with the scraggliest tail I’ve ever seen on a squirrel. He was so lonely—and hungry—that he adopted us. Every morning when I’d pull into the driveway to begin another day’s work on our devastated house, he’d come pelting down the walk, chattering happily. There you are, there you are. Launching into a flying leap, he’d land on my shoulder. (He did that once to the UPS guy, who freaked out.)

We kept Pablo supplied with nuts, and in return he made us laugh and helped us to remember what is important in life and what isn’t. After about eight months, a new squirrel appeared, young and plump and female. Together, she and Pablo set to work rebuilding the neighborhood squirrel population. Yet even after he had his own kind again, Pablo stayed our friend.

By the time we moved back into our house, we could tell he was aging. He could no longer make the great leap from the pavement to our shoulders, but would have to climb the brick posts or a tree and chatter for us to come close enough that he could jump. And then one day he came no more, and we knew Pablo was gone.

But he left my yard seeded with lots of little nut trees—pecans and oaks and walnuts. The little oak I found growing in my hanging bougainvillea—one of Pablo’s favorite spots—made me laugh so much that I carefully separated it out and potted it up. I’ve nursed it along for several years now. We selected a spot down by the back fence of our lake house, and last weekend we planted it.

There are lots of squirrels up at the lake. Hopefully, in time, their descendents will enjoy the acorns from Pablo’s oak. And every time we see it, we’ll be reminded of the little friend who helped us through one of the darkest periods of our lives.

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