Pushing Seth on the swing at the park I hear squawking behind me. When I turn around to find the noise, I see a little baby squirrel on the ground, making his way toward us in slow uneven steps. He isn't visibly injured, but he isn't right.
Riley, is thrilled. She's never been so close to a real live squirrel. I cringe as the the germ-o-phobe girl who is afraid of her own shadow, squats down and scoops the thing up, like it's no big deal. Like it's her kitten.
In full mommy panic, but not wanting to imprint my fear upon her, I say sweetly,
"Riley let's not handle him, okay? He's probably sick or something. Healthy squirrels don't just let you pick them up. Put the little guy down okay?"
Oh my God! I don't have any hand sanitizer!
She puts him down, but stays close by. Gives him a piece of bread we brought for the ducks, which he grabs from her hand and greedily scarfs down.
Rinsing her hands with drinking water from a bottle we brought, Riley is smiling, marveling about how a squirrel, no bigger than her hand, let her hold him!
Just then, a guy we'll call Dumb Ass, enters the park with his two boys. He sizes up the squirrel and says, "He's not long for this world."
I try to change the subject.
Dumb Ass adds, "Yep. Probably get eaten by a raccoon or a owl."
Riley looks up at me as if asking, "Is this true?"
I try to change the subject again, but the guy just can't take a hint. There's a reason they call him Dumb Ass.
Dumb Ass says, "He's not going to make it though the night."
Mercifully, DA and his kids run off to another area of the park.
"Mommy, is the squirrel going to die?" Riley asks.
"He probably is Dolly. Something isn't right with him. He's probably sick, or injured. He's getting ready to make his transition."
Seth jumps in, "He can't die! He's a baby!"
"Seth, babies die sometimes too. Everybody goes when it's their time to go, and some lives are just shorter than others."
We sit there, the three of us, silently thinking.
Riley goes over to the baby squirrel, squats down again, and begins to talk softly.
"It's okay little guy. It's okay if you die, 'cause you just go straight back to God. Don't worry, okay? Everybody dies."
She comes back over to us.
"Everybody dies," she says again.
"Yes, Riley. Everybody does."
We start heading for home, walking out of the park.
Seth grabs my hand,and looks up at me, "But you're not going to die for a really long time."
I smile at him. Squeeze his thick little hand tighter.
Then he adds, "And I'm going to live to be two thousand trillion billion."