There were three things I wanted to get done before I left Kansas City for twelve weeks in New York for work at First Things. I wanted my sixteen-year-old daughter, Joanie, to get her driver’s license. That would be a help to her mother in my absence and insure getting the younger girl picked up from school. I wanted the bedroom toilet to flush and refill in one smooth mechanical action. And I wanted that lizard dead.
None of it got done. Joanie failed her first examination. “By the time we count thirty points off for driving errors,” the examiner explained, “it’s pretty much a wash.” She’ll try again, soon, after a bit more instruction from her mother.
I am not a plumbing shaman. Leaning over my wife, still abed, as I departed for my 5 a.m. flight three days ago, she dreamily murmured, “I love you. I’ll miss you. Does the toilet work?”
The lizard disappointed me, too. That would be my younger daughter’s green anole. Hattie’s had several of these small and undemanding animals in the past and she and I can always detect the signs of impending mors.
So on this, my second morning in New York, the girl sent a text message—which arrived buzzing on my cell phone some while before my alarm clock went off. Liz—named for her eldest sister; the lizards are all named for her eldest sister—is gone. I feel quite sad I wasn’t there to say anything. She replies saying nothing of my absence but does say the lizard died happily green. Green, for anoles and other things, is good.
I walked to work with a small prayer of thanks for the small lives that enrich the bonds between fathers and daughters.