Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"Requiem For A Tree"

It was Anna who had the strongest attachment to it.  So it was Anna who was the saddest when we had to cut it down.

If the following were structured as a movie – a short, arboreal-themed movie – we might OPEN with a “Father and Daughter Tableau”, Dad’s arm resting comfortingly around his little girl’s shoulders as they stand together at the window, watching branch after branch topple lifelessly to the ground, victims to the uncaring whirr of the electric saw.  

Then, with appropriate musical accompaniment, we would FLASH BACK


Anna is about ten.  We had this pet cockatiel she’d named “Cheeky.”  Nobody much liked Cheeky.  The bird nipped at our fingers, and excreted green stuff onto the furniture. 

But Cheeky was our pet.  And we fed him (her), and got his (her) nails clipped – more for our benefit that for Cheeky’s.  Cheeky was family.  The annoying part you had to clean up after.  And apply Neosporin to the disfiguring scratches they inflicted.  Also, cockatiels are supposed to talk.  Cheeky just squawked.  But still…

Cheeky was our bird. 

Over time, the hinges on Cheeky’s cage door got rusty.  If you were not vigilant, it would only slide halfway down.  As a result, one day, when the cage was left alone on our back porch for cleaning, Cheeky slipped out through the defective cage door…

And disappeared.

Anna was devastated.  Cheeky had flown away!  We hated the thing, but now it was gone!  Our combing the yard was accompanied by desperate calls of


As if the bird actually knew his (her) name.  Expanding the perimeter, we explored the adjacent sidewalk and the nearby park.

No Cheeky. 

There was talk of working up a “Have You Seen This Bird?” poster, accompanied by a ten year-old’s, from memory, hand-drawn rendering.  But in our hearts, we knew it was hopeless, and it was over. 

Cheeky had unceremoniously

Left the building.

Later that day, I peered outside, heartsick as Anna moped Cheeky’s loss.  And then I moved on.  I mean, how much daughter-moping can you endure?

Minutes later, Anna came racing into the house, as ebullient as she had just recently been down.

“Dad!  I found Cheeky!”

Her improbable yet apparently true story was this: 

Ready to give up the search, Anna made one last last-ditch, determined effort.  What she did was – and these are her words – she asked another bird in the back yard if it had seen Cheeky, and that bird gestured in the certain direction.  Anna checked out the area.  And there was Cheeky!

He (she) was sitting in that tree.



It is Anna and Colby’s wedding, celebrated with elegance and invention in the family backyard.  Anna wanted a specific photographer.  They had sympatico sensibilities. 

It was time for the traditional “Family Pictures”, taken immediately before the celebration.  The photographer scanned the terrain for the ideal background. 

We were gathered in front of that tree.



The roots of the tree which was supposed to be an Italian Stone Pine but wasn’t though it nonetheless provided us with privacy and shade for nearly twenty-five years had grown to the point that they were causing the bricks on the deck surrounding our pool to buckle and rise up, triggering concerns that as they continued to grow, the roots would break through the wall of the swimming pool itself, rendering serious, costly and debilitating damage.

Landscaping experts were consulted.  Alternative strategies were considered, but ultimately abandoned.  There was no way around it.

The tree would have to come down.



Anna and I stand side by side.  After stages of outrage and distress, she has made peace with the reality.  It was not entirely “Good bye.”  A section of the trunk would be retained for her to remake into a personalized end table.  Still, that was merely a “Consolation Prize.”

The buzz saw was doing its work.

The creases under Anna’s eyes pooled with tears.  I did what Dads do for their children, even when they’re 30.

I leaned over, and I kissed them away. 

A book I am listening to includes the phrase,

“Sunt lacrimae rerum.”

Which is Latin for, “These are the tears for things.”

A tree is just a thing. 

But when it has a quarter-century history,

You cry. 

And it’s right.

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